Everything you need to know to master the hearty tomato-braised chicken.
Every cuisine has its core recipes, the fundamental dishes and techniques that set it apart from the rest of the world. I'm breaking down my 10 essential Italian dishes, sharing everything you need to know to master them and become a superstar Italian cook.
What it is: Dating back to the Renaissance era, the traditional cacciatore was originally prepared with rabbit, quail, or or other wild game, animals hunters would catch in the Italian countryside. Its history is murky, but while some claim the dish was cooked by the hunters themselves while they were out in the fields, that's probably not true - braises take a pretty long time to simmer when you're sitting out in the countryside! In fact, the dish's name is technically alla cacciatora, which means "by the hunter's wife."
The hearty stew was most likely prepared the night before a big hunt, or after they returned home from a day in the fields. Either way, it remains a staple in Italian homes across the country, a favorite in the winter months because it uses pantry-staple ingredients that are available year-round.
Why I love it: Braises are great for serving a crowd, and they get better the longer they sit. The rich, fragrant tomato sauce can be served over pasta or in a bowl with a big chunk of crusty bread on the side.
How it's done: After browning chicken pieces in a saute pan or braiser, build a simple tomato sauce with peppers, onion, garlic, white wine and tomatoes, making sure to scrape up all the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Nestle the chicken in the sauce and simmer to cook through, infusing the juicy meat with flavor.
The basic recipe can be modified to add mushrooms, pancetta, or other flavor-boosting ingredients you may have in the fridge.