While it may look complicated or daunting, a nice, braised dish is in fact one of my weeknight staples. I love the layered flavors that come from searing and the subsequent low simmer. It also means you can throw everything in a braising pot, set a timer and forget about it. Investing in a nice, cast-iron braiser also means that you can serve it directly to the table.
This recipe is a definite crowd pleaser, rich and umami-filled with that delicious, caramelized onion and tomato, fork-tender chicken legs that are falling off the bone, a little sweetness from roasted peppers and hearty saltiness from the olives.
Chicken alla Cacciatore translates to “hunter’s chicken,” with its origins rooted in Renaissance Italy, where hunters would seek out wild game and braise it on the spot with some wine over a fire.
Originally, the recipe would have most likely been done with pheasant or rabbit and had no tomatoes, as they only came after the New World was discovered. The tomatoes add a nice liveliness and depth to the dish.
A French version of the dish, Poulet Chasseur, skips the olives, peppers, and parsley and replaces them with mushrooms and tarragon, then adds a little bit of brandy, a lot more butter and a smidgen of cream. Either version is delightful, the key is to be patient with the browning process to build up all that delicious flavor at the bottom of the pan. Serve with fluffy basmati, some fresh pasta, or mashed potatoes to soak up all that lovely sauce.
Easy Chicken Cacciatore
4-6 leg quarters
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup assorted olives (black and green)
1-2 roasted bell peppers (peeled, seeded, and sliced, or if you prefer, canned is fine, it can also be omitted if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon Italian herbs
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or adjust to your spice level
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup white wine or red wine
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish
- In a deep pan or braising dish, heat some olive oil and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove from pan and add the onions and garlic, allow to turn golden.
- Add the canned tomatoes, the Italian herbs and cayenne. Allow to cook on high for about five minutes to thicken.
- Add about 1/4 cup wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the juice. Throw in the butter. Put back the chicken and cover. Don’t cover completely; leave a very small space to allow some steam to escape. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.
- Toss in the olives and the roasted peppers. Season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat your grill to high and place the braising dish in the oven for about 5-10 minutes to crisp up the chicken a little more if you wish. Just make sure the sauce does not dry out.
- Serve topped with some fresh parsley.