I call this recipe Family Chicken Cacciatore because it makes enough to feed the whole family plus extra and it’s one of those meals that can be made and served in the same pot. That means whoever’s doing kitchen clean-up gets a break too!
It’s delicious on its own but is also very good served with rice, pasta, polenta or potatoes with a side salad and hunks of crusty bread which makes the dish go even further.
Cacciatore means hunter in Italian and it’s believed that hunters first made and ate this stew during the Renaissance period. Rabbit or other wild game most likely was used instead of chicken in those early times but whatever the protein, it was a hearty stew that could be made outdoors over a fire and be seasoned with whatever herbs and vegetables that were readily available.
There’s a similar French dish called poulet chasseur which typically includes mushrooms and white wine and is seasoned with tarragon and perhaps thyme. So feel free to riff on this basic cacciatore recipe, replacing the white wine for red or exchanging the turmeric for tarragon or parsley or basil or whatever you prefer.
My meat of choice is chicken thighs because I love their juiciness and flavor. They’re great in this dish and are often mistaken for breast meat by those members of my family who prefer white over dark poultry meat. Browning the chicken is the trickiest part of the recipe but even that is not hard; you just have to be prepared to stand there and pay attention to what’s happening in the pot.
Don’t be afraid to adjust the heat if it seems like the chicken is browning too fast or burning. And if the flame is too low and it’s taking forever for the chicken to brown, turn the heat up a little at a time. The meat will tell you when it’s browned and ready to turn over. It does that by naturally loosening once it’s browned. If you can easily lift it up from the skillet without it trying to hold on, it’s time to turn it. Remember you’re not trying to get the chicken cooked completely through (that will happen while it’s stewing in the oven), you’re just trying to get some flavor ‘browned’ into it.
Family Chicken Cacciatore
-6-8 chicken pieces, your choice – boneless or bone-in, skinless or skin-on – I typically use boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
-Salt, as desired
-Black pepper, as desired
-½ cup all-purpose or gluten-free flour
-4 tablespoons olive oil
-2 tablespoons butter
-1 onion, thickly sliced
-3-4 bell peppers, any color, thickly sliced (seeds removed)
-4-5 garlic cloves, diced
-1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms, fresh or canned, optional
-½ teaspoon ground thyme
-¼ teaspoon turmeric
-½ teaspoon salt
-Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
-¾ cup white wine or broth or water
-1 x 28-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes with juice
-Fresh parsley & grated parmesan, for serving
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Salt and pepper chicken pieces. Dredge chicken pieces lightly in flour. Heat oil and butter on medium-high in large, heavy, oven-proof deep skillet or pot. I usually use my enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
Brown chicken on both sides (in batches if necessary so as not to crowd in pan). Adjust heat as necessary to keep oil hot enough to brown the chicken but not too hot as to burn it. Set browned chicken aside. Add onion, peppers, garlic and mushrooms to same pot. Reduce heat to medium and stir a few times. Add spices to pot, stir again. Add wine to pot and heat until bubbling. Stir in canned tomatoes and finally add chicken pieces to pot. Cover pot and place in oven for 45 minutes. Remove lid and cook another 15 minutes in oven uncovered.