I put this dinner together about a month ago when it seemed that everyone, including myself, was lamenting the departure of summer. We were in the glory of autumn. Homecomings all across the nation, leaves in their blazing transition of colors, and still plenty of bounty from our own gardens, local markets and orchards. With some fresh chicken in our refrigerator, 20 some pounds of tomatoes to be used, and a Saveur Italian cookbook gifted to me by my sister Chef Kathy, it seemed the perfect opportunity to make up some chicken cacciatore on that lovey fall weekend at our small lake cottage in rural Wisconsin.
On this Saturday morning, we casually promenaded among the local farmers at one of our favorite Saturday markets in the Wisconsin summer resort town of Elkhart Lake. The usual crowd had dissipated with the resumption of school and final act of the summer season. A new and unhurried undercurrent prevailed among this farmer’s market and as always we were happy to be there.
It was a refreshing and relaxed weekend, following a pretty “big one” just one week prior. After years of coexisting as a modern family, this was the first weekend since our families first commingled, that it was now headed by two married parents. In early October, Scott and I along with our six sons, celebrated our union, with 40 of our closest friends and family, from as far back as we can remember, from New York to California.
Our special weekend was at held at the iconic Iron Horse Hotel, an hour or so south in the big city of Milwaukee. Being at our rural and mostly weekend cottage in the wake of all that “city” and activity was a welcomed reprieve.
What’s more, that Saturday evening we welcomed to the cottage, a physician colleague of mine who we recently discovered lives only a half mile or so away from us, back in town. One of the genuinely nicest people I know and among the most skilled surgeon and docs that I have ever worked with, we were completely excited to welcome her and her family to our weekend retreat.
Don’t let its name fool you. This is a basic meal, made with fresh and flavorful bounty of the land. As pointed out in Saveur, we Americans know this dish as cacciatore (hunter’s style), but it’s really cacciatora, named in honor of the hunter’s wife – who, in parts of northern Italy, traditionally cooked it on the eve of the hunt as fuel for the chase.
With scads of fresh Roma tomatoes, given to me by another work colleague, and some fresh fall fare from our favorite farmer’s market, I let this sauce simmer most of the day. While the tomatoes, red carrots, sweet peppers and onions became well acquainted, Scott put put together his own dessert creation of simple apple bars. Outdoors, the boys raked piles of leaves into which they jumped, and the autumn day unfolded to a wonderful Saturday evening replete with delicious fare, frolicking children and most of all – great company.
Chicken Cacciatore (Pollo alla Cacciatora)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 lbs plum tomatoes chopped with juices reserved
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley minced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 sweet bell pepper coarsely diced
- 1/2 cup fresh grated carrot
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- Heat oil in large pan over medium high heat.
- Add onions, carrots, and peppers. Stir until soft, about 7 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook, continue to stir, for about 2 minutes.
- Push vegetables to side, or remove and set aside. Add chicken and fry, turning pieces several times to brown evenly, about 4 minutes per side.
- Add wine and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes.
- Return vegetables to pan, if set aside previously.
- Add tomatoes, with their juice, to chicken.
- Stir in bay leaf, rosemary, and parsley (reserving 1 teaspoon for garnish.)
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer, adding chicken stock gradually as tomato juice evaporates, for 45 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf and garnish with reserved parsley.
- Serve with steamed potatoes or white rice.