Wednesday, January 20, 2016

CHICKEN CACCIATORE WITH POLENTA

This hearty dish was introduced to me by my mother-in-law, Marie Noviello Casazza.
Pollo alla Cacciatora in Italy actually means “chicken of the hunter's wife”. When the hunter came home his wife had a backyard chicken stew waiting for him but he would have hunted for a rabbit, if he were successful. Cacciatore means “Hunter”. 
Chicken Cacciatore (with an e on the end), as it is called in North America, is standard of Italian-American home cooking.




2 (28 oz/796 ml) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
¼ cup (60 ml) extra-light olive oil or grape seed oil
2 T (30 ml) unsalted butter
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, bones and skin left intact
1 ½ cups (375 ml) white or cremini mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced 2 medium onions, cut in half and sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t (5 ml) red pepper flakes

½ cup (125 ml) dry red wine
3 T (45 ml) tomato paste
1 t (5 ml) freeze-dried or chopped fresh oregano 2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T (15 ml) chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese



Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and hand-crush them, removing the hard center cores. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.
Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them on both sides in two batches. 
Transfer to a platter and set aside.
Add the mushrooms and onions; cook for 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another minute.

Add the wine, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 15 minutes.
Stir in the reserved chicken, cover and slowly simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender but not falling off the bones.
While the chicken is cooking, make the polenta.


Polenta
4 cups (1 litre) water
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
2 t (10 ml) sea salt
2 cups (500 ml) polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal
3 T (45 ml) unsalted butter
¼ cup (60 ml) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, bring the water and chicken stock to a boil, then add the sea salt.
Add the polenta to the saucepan in a gentle stream, whisking as you pour.
Reduce the heat and let the polenta simmer, whisking constantly for about one minute.
Reduce heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent it from sticking.
Remove from stove, add the butter and grated Parmigiano cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Set aside to keep warm.


To Serve
Add the fresh basil to the sauce. Spoon some polenta on plates, place 1 to 2 pieces of chicken on top and spoon on some sauce. Serve with grated Parmigiano cheese at the table.


Serves 4 to 6 

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