If ever there was a dish that hunters should embrace, it’s cacciatore. It means hunter’s style in Italian. (The French call it chasseur, the Spanish cazadores.) The stew, which is usually made with chicken, also includes mushrooms, onions, sometimes sweet bell peppers and an assortment of spices. It is fairly low-cal and quite tasty.
Apparently, the dish originated during the Renaissance period (1450-1600), when the only people who could afford to enjoy wild game and the sport of hunting were the rich, hence the chicken substitute. (I’ve also seen recipes for turkey cacciatore, meatball cacciatore and tofu cacciatore.)
I’ve made cacciatore a few times over the years, often using pheasants that were harvested in western North Dakota. In fact, some of last fall’s bounty is still lurking in my freezer and needs to be eaten up soon, which is why you are reading about it here.
The following cacciatore recipes are a few that I’m considering for a meal later this week. Each of the recipes is a little different. There is one that can be made fairly quickly and easily, and two that require a bit more time.
Regardless, the result will be something I can get my arms around.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs (can substitute pheasant)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, sliced
1 cup green bell pepper, sliced
½ cup celery, sliced
2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic Blend
1 14½-ounce can tomatoes, chopped, undrained
½ cup red wine
1 pound spaghetti, cooked, drained
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet. Add in chicken and cook over medium heat on both sides until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan. Add in onion, green pepper, celery and Mrs. Dash. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomatoes and red wine. Return chicken to skillet and cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in middle. Serve over spaghetti.
1 pound pasta or egg noodles
4 chicken thighs, with skin (can substitute 8 whole pheasant thighs, with skin)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 red bell peppers, cored, sliced (not too thin)
2 green bell peppers, cored, sliced (not too thin)
5 cloves garlic, diced
12 ounces mushroooms (white or crimini), sliced
½ teaspoon ground thyme
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Red pepper flakes, crushed, to taste (optional)
¾ cup dry white white
1 28-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes (with juice)
Chopped flat-leaved parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook! Drain and set aside.
Salt and pepper both sides of the pieces of chicken. Dredge chicken in flour. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat. Place chicken skin down in pan, 4 pieces at a time. Brown chicken on both sides, then remove to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining chicken. Pour off half the fat in the pan and discard.
Add sliced onions and peppers, as well as the garlic. Stir around for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and stir around for 1 minute. Add thyme, turmeric and salt. (And crushed red pepper flakes if you like things a little spicy.) Add extra black pepper to taste. Stir, then pour in wine. Allow to bubble. Pour in canned tomatoes and stir to combine. Add chicken, totally submerging the chicken. Place lid on the pot and put it into the oven for 45 minutes. Remove lid and increase heat to 375 degrees. Cook for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven. Remove chicken from the pot and place it on a plate. Remove vegetables from pot and place them on a plate. Return pot to burner and turn heat to medium high. Cook and reduce sauce for a couple of minutes.
Pour cooked, drained noodles on a large platter or in a big serving bowl. Add vegetables all over the top, then place chicken pieces on top of the vegetables. Spoon juices from the pot over the chicken and pasta (amount to taste.)
Before serving, sprinkle on chopped fresh parsley and grated Parmesan.
1 whole chicken, with skin, cut into serving pieces (can substitute 2 pheasants)
¼ pound pancetta, or 4 strips bacon
4 tablespoons olive oil (chicken fat)
1 chopped celery stalk
1 chopped carrot
5 cloves chopped garlic
1 onion, sliced into half-moons
1 quart crushed tomatoes
2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon crushed juniper berries
4 bay leaves
Dried porcini mushrooms (about a handful)
½ pound cremini or button mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons minced parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If using, cut the pancetta into little batons about ¼-inch thick. In a large braising pan or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil or chicken fat over medium heat and cook the pancetta or bacon. Remove and reserve.
Add the chicken pieces and brown them well. Take your time and do it in batches. Remove the chicken pieces as they brown.
Add the carrot, celery, onions and the fresh mushrooms and turn the heat up to high. Saute them until the onions are wilted and are beginning to brown. Add more oil if needed. When they begin to brown, add the garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the herbs, dried mushrooms and the white wine and turn up the heat to maximum. Stir well. Let the wine cook down by half. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Add some salt if needed. Add the bacon and the chicken pieces, skin side up. Do not submerge the chicken, just nestle the pieces into the sauce so the skin stays out of the liquid.
Cover and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Check to see of the meat is thinking about falling off the bone. Sometimes with a young pheasant all it takes is 45 minutes. An hour or more is typical. When the meat is as tender as you want, remove the cover from the pot and cook until the skin crisps, about 30 to 45 more minutes.
Move the chicken pieces to a plate. Add the parsley to the pot and mix to combine.
To serve, ladle some of the sauce out, top with a chicken piece and serve with either polenta or a good crusty bread.
Yield: Serves 4. Recipe can be doubled.