CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Cacciatore Chicken

What do you do when you have an overabundance of tomatoes and have already made juice, canned whole ones as well as freezing 20 to 30 pounds of the juicy orbs?

That’s been the dilemma I’ve been facing the past three weeks or so.

Before frost put the damper on my gardens, I picked almost all of my tomatoes that were left on the vine, regardless of their color. While there were quite a few that were orange and some nearly crimson, the majority were green.

Over the years, I’ve had pretty good luck ripening green tomatoes, and this year hasn’t been any different. I usually put them on newspapers that are placed on a table in our basement and then cover them with more newspapers. The tomatoes gradually ripen in an orderly fashion over the course of three to four weeks, so we usually have a few meals of BLTs up until December and enough for my weekly pot of vegetable soup.

This year, however, I planted more tomato plants than might have been needed and was given another half-dozen or so to plant at the beginning of July and the result was almost too much to bear.

The latest batch of ripe tomatoes went into a chicken cacciatore recipe that I gleaned from the internet. A few alterations to recipe had to be made, since the whole chicken that I used weighed between 6 and 7 pounds instead of the 4- to 5-pounder that was suggested. Cooking the chicken in a Dutch oven wouldn’t work, since the container was too small, and I was forced to use an electric roaster. I skipped the grape and cherry tomatoes and the canned crushed variety and went with some from my garden.

I know that over the next several months, we will enjoy the canned and frozen tomatoes in a variety of dishes, including the chicken cacciatore. And the juice is my nectar of the gods. But will I pause next spring when thinking about how many seedlings I need to plant and germinate under grow lights?


Cacciatore Chicken
1 whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
⅓ cup red wine
⅓ cup chicken stock
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
7 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
Sprigs of fresh thyme
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons each freshly chopped parsley and basil, plus more to garnish
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy cast iron pot or Dutch oven, drizzled with olive oil. Cook chicken on all sides until nicely browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove chicken and transfer to a shallow plate, set aside.
In the same pot, add the sliced onions and mushrooms to the pot. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have given up most of their moisture, turning and stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.
Add the wine to deglaze the Dutch oven and scrape up any browned bits at the bottom. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and stir in Italian seasoning, basil, parsley, thyme and crushed chili pepper. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes.
Add the chicken back to the Dutch oven on top of the tomatoes and onions. Lower the heat and cover the Dutch oven with the lid slightly ajar. Cook on a low simmer, turning and basting from time to time, until chicken is tender, about 40 to 50 minutes, until the meat is falling off the bone. Garnish with basil, parsley and fresh thyme and serve immediately over pasta.
Notes: This can be made up to 1 day ahead and reheated. You also can add chopped green or Kalamata olives as well as red peppers for more flavor. The recipe can be adapted for a slow cooker. Brown the chicken first, then add all ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours.

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