A traditional recipe from the Italian countryside
Every Italian region – but it would be appropriate to say every household – has its own version of chicken cacciatore, all equally authentic.
What makes a dish “alla cacciatora”? The meat of choice is that of a farmyard animal – not only chicken but often also rabbit or guinea fowl -, braised in a pan on the stovetop. It has a robust flavour, given especially by the thick sauce cloaking the meat. This rustic sauce calls for polenta, a crusty country loaf, or even a bowl of homemade egg noodles.
We have a new post dedicated to pollo alla cacciatora on the blog.
You can jump there and find the recipe, some memories related to my favourite chicken cacciatore (hint: a strong, no-nonsense, smiling Tuscan aunt is involved) and a wine pairing. Here in the newsletter, instead, I’m also sharing some glimpses from my favourite cookbooks of Italian cuisine, all about chicken cacciatore.
Pollo alla cacciatora – Chicken cacciatore
Recipe developed in collaboration with Cecchi.
Chicken cacciatore can be cooked with tomato sauce, or without it – in this case, it would be called in bianco -, with white wine, red wine, vinegar or stock. It is a recipe born in the countryside, and as such takes advantage of the few seasonal ingredients that are easily available. Aromatic herbs, garlic or onion to give the basic aromas, sometimes accompanied by carrots and celery, as in the most classic Italian soffritto. Depending on the region, extra virgin olive oil, butter or lard will be used to brown the chicken. The season instead would influence the other ingredients, such as ripe tomatoes in late summer, foraged mushrooms, or preserved olives.
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Chicken cacciatore in my favourite Italian cookbooks
In the wholesome family cooking, there is nothing more appetizing than a so-called pollo alla cacciatora: chicken braised in a pan with various seasonings, the prototype of which is represented by the famous pollo in padella of Roman cuisine.
Ada Boni, Il Talismano della Felicità
Ada Boni, in her Il Talismano della Felicità, has three recipes for chicken cacciatora.
In the first one, pollo alla cacciatora alla salvia, the chicken is browned with oil and butter, cooked with a glass of dry white wine, with the addition of a few sage leaves and some fat and lean ham.
In the second dish, Maddalena's chicken cacciatore, Ada Boni introduces a mixture of chopped onion, parsley, garlic and celery, adds bay leaves to give a subtle aroma to the meat and douses it with half a glass of dry white wine.
In the third recipe, chicken cacciatore with olives, the chicken is browned in olive oil and garlic. The recipe then takes a different turn, as the chicken is seasoned with half a glass of dry white wine and two tablespoons of vinegar, twenty whole Gaeta olives and as many chopped, and finally two melted oil-packed anchovies.
Paolo Petroni, in his Il libro della vera cucina toscana, writes on pollo alla cacciatora:
It is a classic recipe spread all over Tuscany, with many variants. Do not overdo the flavours. Some opt for onion, carrot, and celery, while others prefer to replace them with garlic, rosemary, and sage.
In his recipe, Petroni browns the chicken in a mixture of chopped onion, garlic, and sage, pours in a glass of white wine, and then cooks it with peeled tomatoes until the sauce has thickened.
Remaining in Tuscany, Giovanni Righi Parenti in La cucina Toscana says:
There was no one who could make pollo alla cacciatora as good as Fusi: all the actors who worked in the nearby Teatro Verdi flocked to his restaurant, in Via Condotta in Florence. When Fusi performed in "Pollo alla cacciatora", there was no lack of applause.
His recipe is quite traditional: a generous soffritto made minced celery, carrot, garlic and onion, good olive oil, white wine, and peeled tomatoes.
This is how Lodi and De Giacomo, in their book of recipes from the Langhe region, Nonna Genia, describe chicken cacciatora:
It is a characteristic autumn dish, when the last tomatoes ripen in the garden and the cockerels from the first spring broods are well grown, tender, and lean. You fish the chosen chicken out of the fluttering pile, kill and clean it, cut it into pieces and, when it is nicely browned, drown it in tomato sauce for the final cooking. While chatting about the progress of the year, sipping a glass of good wine, and while the diligent farmer’s wife prepares some tagliatelle, always welcome in any case, the chicken is ready, inviting, tasty, delicious.
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