Have you ever tried a new recipe and then made it so many times you no longer have to look at the recipe? I have so many family recipes like that and this is one of them. I know what you're thinking. Chicken Cacciatore is one of my family recipes?! Indeed it is and I'm far from being Italian-American. I learned to cook at an early age and would spend hours looking through my Mom's cookbooks. In the mid-80s, she ordered a set of cookbooks from the Culinary Arts Institute. As soon as we got it, I was fascinated with the 40 volume set. I'd read through all the recipes and imagine what they would be like. My Dad began cooking a few recipes out those books and he was the one who showed me the Hunter's Style Chicken recipe. There's just something about a lovely tomato-ey chicken stew with melted strips of peppers and chunks of tomatoes that made me fall in love with this dish. Over the years, I've learned tips from my Italian friends how their family have made this dish. Depending on what I have on hand, sometimes I don't add the bell peppers and tomatoes. But I always keep everything else the same, including adding that half glass of red wine. The alcohol cooks out and the flavors stay behind, adding a depth to the tomato sauce that somehow without it just becomes another chicken stew.
1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs, cut into about 8-10 pieces
1/3 cup sliced red onion
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
½ cup dry red wine
5 whole ripened Roma tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
¾ cup homemade marinara sauce or tomato sauce
2 whole bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 green bell pepper, sliced (optional)
1 red bell pepper, sliced (optional)
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced (optional)
In a large dutch oven, add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Brown each chicken piece until browned. You will have to do this in two batches so that the chicken can brown properly. Set the browned chicken aside on a separate clean platter. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil into the pot again.
Sauté the onion and garlic, stirring well, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any browned pieces of chicken. Add a few Rosemary needles to the onion and garlic, then deglaze with the red wine. Stir through, also scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the chunks of tomatoes and marinara sauce to the pot and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaves
Return the chicken to the pot and bring up to a slow boil. Ensure the chicken pieces are in a single layer. Add the bell peppers (if using), then cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Check the seasoning again. Chicken should be nearly tender. Remove the cover and let cook for an additional 15 minutes to reduce the sauce. Sauce should not be watery but resemble a slightly thick tomato sauce. Server with either cooked thick spaghetti. I love mine over rice