As I’ve said before, I’m always tempted to go the fussy route when cooking for other people. I know the food I write about is often and ideally simple, but believe me when I say that it takes lot of back and forth conversation in my head to arrive at the meals I write about. So, after an evening spent buried under cookbooks and cooking magazines, with notes and grocery lists jotted down several times over, I stopped to think about what I would actually love to eat more than anything else at that moment in time. I’d been thinking about my grandma’s chicken cacciatore lately, served with a paper napkin on her white and navy blue flower-lined Corningware dishes, and I decided right then and there that chicken cacciatore would be on the menu for Lela’s birthday dinner. You could substitute other chicken pieces for the thighs, but I think that in general the dark meat tastes better – chicken breasts could work if pounded thin in order to prevent them from drying out. I love chicken cacciatore with buttered egg noodles, but I just happen to love buttered egg noodles in any context so I’m approaching this recipe with a firm bias, buttered white rice would also be delicious if noodles are absent from your pantry. If you don’t have anything you can use to cook with both on top of and in the stove, just transfer the chicken and sauce into a baking pan before popping into the oven.
2 Tbsp. + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
8 chicken thighs (the skin is up to you, but I think it imparts some notable flavour to the finished product
1 medium onion, chopped into a fine dice
2 sweet peppers, the sweetest ones you can find (colour is secondary)
2 cups thinly sliced button mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
A scant cup of dry white wine
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 tsp. Italian herb seasoning
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Small handful of fresh parsley and basil, chopped
Buttered egg noodles or rice for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven brown the chicken thighs in 2 Tbs. of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Transfer the chicken to a large plate and add the rest of the oil to the skillet or Dutch oven, lower the heat to medium or even medium-low in order to prevent burning the vegetables.
- Cook the onions, red peppers, mushrooms, and garlic in the oil until they begin to soften, giving them a light dusting of salt halfway through. Stir in the dried Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, and red chili flakes before adding the white wine and tomatoes, deglazing the pan by scraping up any flavourful burnt bits of chicken that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in a small amount of the chopped herb mixture and taste the sauce to check for seasoning, adjust accordingly. Add the chicken thighs, nestling them into the sauce, and cook uncovered in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the rest of the parsley and basil. Serve over buttered egg noodles or rice; if kept separate from the starches the sauce and chicken will keep for another 2 days in the fridge.
It’s funny listening to music under the influence of very different time periods of your life. When I first bought this CD it coincided with Fiona Apple’s appearance on the cover of Seventeen magazine (which I had a subscription to). I remember liking her for her how cool she came across as well as being a good singer, who could forget that speech at the 1997 MTV VMAs? And now, as an adult, I’m like “oh yeah! She’s also an incredible songwriter and lyricist!” Funny how these things shift, and funny that despite my personal reactions she’s carried me through a million and half sullen afternoons of my own.
Fiona Apple – Sullen Girl