When I sent Nancy DeStefanis an email confirming that she was signed up for the Pomodori!~Tomatoes in the Italian Kitchen workshop at the Italian Consulate she asked that I include chicken cacciatore in the line up. If you know Nancy, you also know that she's a larger than life local hero, committed to the welfare of great blue herons and underserved youth and that she's not one to whom one can say no.
"Alla cacciatora" means hunters' style in Italian, and therein lies the problem: there are about as manyversion of this dish as there are hunters in Italy. I narrowed it down to one with tomatoes, given the class's subject matter and Nancy also said her mom's had mushrooms and I so happened to have a jar of dried porcini sent straight from Umbria by a friend.
May I present then, my version of chicken cacciatore. Enjoy!
By the way, if you are free this Saturday, Nancy is leading a heron's nesting watch in Golden Gate Park.
Pollo in umido alla cacciatora
Chicken braised with tomatoes and mushrooms
for 4 people
1/4 cup dry mushrooms (ideally porcini)
1 smallish chicken cut in 8 pieces (about 3 pounds, or you can also use thighs)
salt to taste
1 celery stalk
1 medium yellow onion
2 slices pancetta
2 very ripe large tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry red wine
pepper to taste
Soak the mushrooms in hot water.
Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and leave on the counter to come to room temperature.
In the meantime, chop the carrot, celery and onion finely.
Mince the pancetta into a paste.
Score the tomatoes and immerse them in boiling water for about 30 seconds.
Fish them out of the pot and run them under cold water. Peel them, remove the seeds and chop them into a rough dice.
Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and add the carrot celery and onion with the bay leaves and a generous pinch of salt.
Soften over medium lively heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Transfer the aromatics to a dish and set aside.
Add the pancetta to the same pan and let render for 2 to 3 minutes.
Brown the chicken pieces in the pancetta in one layer. Do this in batches if needed.
Return all the chicken to the sauté pan and deglaze with the wine.
Once you no longer smell the acidity of the wine, return the carrot, celery and onions to the chicken.
Drain the mushrooms and squeeze the excess water, add them to the sauté pan.
Save the liquid in which the mushrooms have soaked and filter to eliminate dirt, if necessary.
Sauté everything for another 5 minutes. Add the diced tomato pulp.
Bring to the boil then turn down the heat to a low simmer.
Cover and braise gently for about 30 to 35 minutes, occasionally checking for water.
If necessary, add small amounts of liquid. The water in which the mushrooms have soaked is perfect for this.
When the chicken is tender but still compact and not falling off the bone, arrange attractively on a platter and cover to keep warm.
Adjust salt and pepper in the sauce and stir over the heat for a few minutes.
Pour all over the chicken and serve immediately.