Chicken cacciatore is an Italian dish of chicken braised in a tomato-based sauce and often includes wild mushrooms. It is frequently referred to as "hunter style" as the word cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian.
Why "hunter" style? One story is that if a hunter came home empty-handed, his wife would kill a chicken for the meal instead.
When I first experimented with this recipe, I made it without mushrooms or bell peppers, which are often included in chicken cacciatore. Since then, I've come to enjoy the dish with mushrooms and bell peppers so have updated the recipe to reflect those additions.
If you prefer it without one or both of these ingredients, please feel free to leave them out. Many people also add green olives or capers which would be great additions as well.
Chicken Cacciatore (Hunter Style Chicken)
- One 4 pound chicken, cut into serving pieces, trimmed of excess fat (or 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of chicken thighs, bone in, skin on)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced root to tip, about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 red or green bell pepper, seeded, sliced into 1/4-inch wide slices
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup white or red wine
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups peeled and chopped, firm ripe tomatoes, with their juices, or 1 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes in their juice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped)
Brown the chicken:
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season the chicken pieces on all sides with salt. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
Working in batches so that you don't crowd the pan, place the chicken pieces skin side down in the pan. Cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes, then turn over and lightly brown the other side.
Remove chicken to a bowl, set aside. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat. If you have less than 2 Tbsp of fat in the pan, add more olive oil until you have about that much oil coating the pan.
Sauté the onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic:
Add the sliced onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms to the pan. Increase the heat to medium high.
Cook until the onions are translucent, and the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic to the pan and cook a minute more.
Deglaze pan with wine, add tomatoes, spices:
Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes.
Stir in the pepper, thyme, oregano, and about a teaspoon of salt. Test and taste to adjust. Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes.
Add chicken back to pan, partially cover, cook until tender:
Place the chicken pieces on top of the tomatoes and onions, skin side up. Lower the heat and cover the skillet with the lid slightly ajar.
Cook the chicken on a low simmer, turning and basting from time to time. Cook until the thighs are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.