On one of the remote shoots for the "Going Home For Good Italian Food" series, I visited my mother, who made one of my very favorite dishes, Pollo alla Cacciatora, a country-style dish in which chicken pieces are simmered together with tomatoes and sweet bell peppers.
No one knows why this dish is called hunter-style, except perhaps that in the Renaissance those who could afford to enjoy poultry were the well-to-do, who also enjoyed the sport of hunting. This dish developed in central Italy and has many variations.
I often receive letters from viewers asking for the recipe. Use free-range chickens, which are grain-fed, and chemical free; they cost a little more but are readily available in grocery stores. And if possible, use a heavy cast-iron skillet for even browning and cooking.
4 pounds chicken, cut-up
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
6 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow), cored, seeded, and cut into strips
1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
Wash and dry the chicken pieces. Rub the pieces with the salt and pepper and set them aside.
In a large heavy-duty skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until they are soft but not browned. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic softens. Add the chicken pieces and brown them evenly on all sides. Add the bay leaf. Add the tomatoes, squeezing them slightly with your hands, and also add any tomato juice. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and cook the chicken for 1/2 hour. Uncover the pot, stir in the peppers, cover the pot, and cook until the peppers are soft and the chicken is fork-tender. Stir in the mushrooms, cover the pot, and cook about 5 minutes, or just until the mushrooms are soft.
Serve immediately with good crusty bread, or with rice or potatoes.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.
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