Chicken cacciatore was recently featured here at Al Dente, along with the revelation that true, authentic Italian hunter’s chicken is not served in a red sauce. It turns out that true chicken cacciatore is made with the herbs and wild growing vegetables available while out on the hunt.
Wanting that recipe, I went out on my own venture and found Mario Batali. Friend of Gwyneth Paltrow. Purveyor of all things from the Motherland. My ginger sibling and fellow fat guy. Wearer of Crocs. Paesan! Certainly, he would have the real deal. And, from the photo on his recipe page, he did. Look at that blackened, crusty chicken with all of those vegetables. Beautiful, I thought.
Until I started cooking. Fifth from the bottom in the ingredient list was basic tomato sauce? Where the hell does the chicken on this page have any hint of red? Seriously. I know color-blindness is inherited (my father is totally color blind), but as I write this I’m wearing a red hoodie. I can identify it as red. THERE IS NO RED SAUCE IN THAT PHOTO.
So, the Crocs-wearing ginger lets me down. And we have chicken cacciatore in red sauce again for dinner. Sigh. I’d say this evens things out, the yang to his Birrera yin.
And, the hunt continues.
WHAT WORKED: Sage is not my favorite herb, but it put a really nice, fragrant flavor in the chicken.
WHAT DIDN’T: BATAAAAAAAAAAAAAALI!!!!!! (I have to keep remembering Eataly so as not to blame him too much.)
EASE OF PREPARATION: Medium. There’s a lot of prep work and side stuff going on while making this. Plus, you have the challenge of frying the chicken without starting a grease fire, scalding yourself or making a colossal mess.
BEST FOR: A cold fall or winter evening, or entertaining friends.
SERVE WITH: A full bodied Italian red. Definitely not an IPA, as I had.
Adapted from the original by Mario Batali
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves of one sprig minced
- 6 sage leaves, minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 3 lbs. bone-in chicken pieces (I used all thighs. It worked out to about 8.)
- 2 medium to large yellow onions, chopped coarsely
- 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 4 oz. pancetta, diced
- 4 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-to 1 (cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1 cup dry white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- Pinch of sugar
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
Combine the garlic, rosemary, sage, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil and whisk together into a paste. Rub the chicken with the paste and set in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Heat the remaining oil over high heat in a Dutch oven until it shimmers. Add the chicken to the pan (cooking in batches and taking care not to crowd the meat in the pan) until browned on all sides. Transfer cooked pieces to a plate and repeat until all of the meat is cooked.
Add the pancetta, onions, mushrooms, and celery to the pan. Cook until the fat from the pancetta is rendered and the onions brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Pour off any standing oil in the pan, and add the wine. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned-on bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.
Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Pour in the broth, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, then return the chicken to the pan.
Submerge a rosemary sprig in the sauce, cover the pan, and cook for 30 minutes on the high side of medium-high. Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving bowl, reserving some of the sauce to mix with pasta to serve on the side.