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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Andrea's Chicken Cacciatore

My father, Andrea Casolaro (The photo is of his passport when he arrived in America circa 1962), told me that this was the first dish he prepared for my Mom in America. He was missing his mother's cooking back home in Naples, Italy and so he decided to cook an authentic Italian meal, cacciatore (Cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian and refers to chicken or rabbit that is prepared "hunter style") was the only dish he actually knew how to cook from memory and so he decided to give it a try. I can just see him preparing the food in that tiny kitchen in Bayonne, NJ as if he had done it a thousand times and with the flair that all Neapolitans have because that's how my dad does everything! This is his recipe including his own measurements , "One big handful" and it is still pretty much from memory .
1 chicken cut into pieces (and skinned if you like)or you can also use only chicken breasts, thighs etc.... it's really about what you prefer or happen to have around the house
1 28 ounce can (preferably San Marzano) whole tomatoes
2-4 very ripe plum tomatoes cut into smallish pieces
fresh herbs- I used thyme and oregano but you may also use rosemary
red wine (1 cup or so)
1 medium sweet onion chopped finely
1 medium bell pepper chopped finely
2 cloves garlic grated or minced finely
salt& pepper
red pepper flakes
olive oil
mushrooms, about 1 big handful of any kind and or combo wiped clean (they must be completely dry or else they will not brown) and chopped

First wash and dry your chicken and heat up the olive oil in a large skillet that has a lid for later use (use enough oil to coat the bottom of pan).
Brown the chicken pieces on both sides and remove setting aside on a plate.
Prepare your mushrooms by wiping them off (make sure they are very dry) and chopping up into small pieces.
Add the mushrooms first and saute until brown making sure you don't over crowd the pan (I would do it in 2 batches removing the first and then adding them back) or else they will be mushy then add onions, garlic, bell pepper, herbs, red pepper flakes, and saute until nicely browned.
Pour in wine and allow the alcohol to cook out for a minute or two.
Add the canned tomatoes crushing with your fists and then the fresh tomatoes adding salt and pepper to taste and allow this to cook for a few minutes, it will thicken up slightly.
Add the chicken pieces back making sure they are covered in the sauce and place the lid on top. Cook until the chicken is done, 20-35 minutes depending on the type and amount of chicken you have. A whole chicken takes about 35 where chicken breast take only about 20 so check after 20 minutes.
This is a Northern Italian dish and would normally be served over polenta but my dad serves it over rice.

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