Monday, 10 September 2012

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Otherwise known as Chicken, Hunter Style. What those hunters were doing hunting chickens, I don't know. Maybe they were Elmer Fudd chasing after Bugs Bunny, and had to settle for something a little more bird-brained. (Although if you do better at getting hold of a rabbit, there is no reason not to make Coniglio alla Cacciatora with it.)

This is the kind of thing I love. Simple food, cooked pretty simply, but damn, it's good.

You could get all refined and purée the vegetables (or at least everything but the peppers) but that doesn't seem very hunter-like. I used Jimmy Nardellos for the peppers, by the way - a classic Italian frying pepper - but any thin-walled frying pepper will do. Cubanelles would have been my next choice, especially if they were ripe enough to be blushed with colour.

If you don't want polenta, serve it with rice or tagliatelle.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time

1 1.5 kilo (3 pound) chicken or equivalent in chicken pieces
500 grams (1 pound, 4 to 6 medium) frying peppers
1 stalk celery
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
4 to 6 cloves of garlic
500 grams (1 pound, 2 or 3 large) fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup good olive oil

3 2" sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 to 8 large fresh sage leaves

1 cup white or red wine
salt & pepper to taste

Cut the chicken into joints, removing the breasts from the carcass and cutting each side piece into about 3 even pieces. Use the carcass and any excess skin to make chicken stock - which will be used in some other recipe, not this one. Put a pot of water on to boil as well, for the tomatoes.

Set the chicken pieces aside, and chop the peppers, discarding stems and seeds, into large bite-sized pieces. Chop the celery finely, and peel and chop the onion and carrot finely as well. Peel the garlic and press the pieces until smashed but still whole.

When the water is boiling, blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute, then transfer them to the sink, where run cold water over them  until they are cool enough to handle. Slip off the skins, and cut the tomatoes into large dice or small chunks. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the rosemary and sage leaves, and cook gently until stiff and slightly coloured. Add the garlic when they are about half done. Remove them all, draining them well to keep as much oil as possible in the pan. Set them aside.

Add the peppers, and cook them for 5 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until they are soft and browned in spots. Lift them out of the pan and set them aside. Repeat with the celery, onion and carrot (as one batch). When they too are softened and slightly browned, add them to the peppers.

Next brown the chicken pieces - they should be quite dry as they are put into the pan, and go in in a single layer. Cook them for about 15 minutes, turning and moving them as necessary, until they are well browned on both sides. Hopefully you have kept most of the oil in the pan by careful removal of the vegetables, and don't need to add any more - but if you do need to add more, then you will need to add more. The chicken should be in no danger whatever of sticking.

Add the sautéed vegetables back into the pan, along with the tomatoes and wine. Add the garlic, and the herbs back as well, although I think it is best if you can put the sage and rosemary into a spice ball to keep them from disintegrating into the dish. Otherwise you will need to fish them out as best you can just before serving. Let the chicken simmer for another 15 minutes or so, turning the pieces regularly to be sure they cook through. The sauce should cook down, but still be moist and a little juicy/chunky rather than thick. You can add a spoonful of water or two if necessary, but better to keep the temperature well regulated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. We served ours over oven baked polenta without any cheese and swooned.

Last year at this time I made Miso Broiled Vegetables. If I had had a puffball this week, I would likely have used it in place of the peppers. Or in addition, maybe.


Anonymous said...

Just made this last night - quite good!

Ferdzy said...

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.