Chicken Cacciatore (Pollo alla Cacciatora) is a traditional Italian dish. The word “Cacciatora” translates to “Hunter” in English, as this dish was originally used to prepare rabbit and gamefowl. Today, variations that feature rabbit meat still abound.
The story goes that this “hunter’s stew” consisted of ingredients you could find in the forest or open fields. Many American versions of this dish have been altered considerably from their source material; breaded, fried chicken cutlets are often smothered in a marinara sauce (not unlike Chicken Parmesan, really). Italian versions often feature tomatoes but not overwhelmingly so; instead they’re a complement to other vegetables like onion, mushrooms, carrot, and bell pepper. Northern Italian variations of this dish use white wine, while Southern Italians use red wine.
Typically, this dish is prepared with a broken-down whole chicken. I’m down for that, but at the same time, I’m always concerned about the different cooking times for dark meat and finicky chicken breasts; instead, I prepared this recipe to feature thighs and drumsticks, so that everything comes together naturally.
Chicken Cacciatore (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet friendly)
3 lbs chicken thighs and drumsticks
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp olive oil (or omit ghee and use 2 tbsp olive oil for dairy-free)
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 14oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
10oz cremini mushrooms, quartered (white mushrooms okay)
1 small handful pitted kalamata olives
6 sprigs fresh thyme
~1 cup chicken broth (see step 4)
1 small handful chopped parsley
1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Warm the ghee and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Brown the chicken, in batches if needed, about 5 minutes per side. Don’t overcrowd the pieces while browning them; reduce heat to medium if the chicken starts to burn.
2. Preheat your oven to 350F. Remove the chicken and set aside, then reduce the stovetop heat to medium (if you haven’t already) and add the onion. Saute until softened, about 4 minutes, then add the garlic, tomato paste, basil, and oregano; saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and white wine. Simmer and reduce the wine by half, stirring often, about 6 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, olives, and fresh thyme, then pour enough chicken broth in to mostly cover the chicken and veggies, about 1 cup.
3. Transfer the dutch oven to the oven and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour. Every 20 minutes, gently rotate and redistribute the chicken with some tongs. 1 hour is just a ballpark figure; you’re basically looking for that moment when the ingredients look caramelized but before the chicken looks overly “stewed” or boiled (nobody likes soggy chicken, no matter how soft it is). Rotating the chicken periodically will give the pieces some time in the open air and prevent them from getting soggy.
4. Taste the liquid in the pot and season with salt and pepper if needed. Plate the chicken and vegetables, then garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with rice-based pasta or boiled potatoes if you’re up for it, but otherwise enjoy as-is.
** I know, leaving an uncovered pot in the oven sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but it’s an easy way to caramelize the vegetables and reduce the liquid without overcooking the vegetables. Truth be told, 350F won’t cause the ingredients to escape the pot, but I understand the fear of everything boiling over; you can place a sheet of heavy-duty tinfoil under the dutch oven if you’d like (I did, just in case, and it was unnecessary).
** For best results, serve the next day. After finishing step #4, let the pot cool, cover and refrigerate overnight, then warm in a 350F oven for 30 minutes the following day. This will let the flavors really come together and is great for when you’re prepping for a party.
Plated and ready to eat. Personally, I prefer the look of everything in the pot, like the photo below…
…see what I mean?