Looking for a totally delicious way to shake up your midweek meal routine? Then you have to try my Easy Chicken Cacciatore! It’s an easy peasy version of this comfort food classic, that can be made in under an hour without even switching on your oven. Serve with wodges of creamy mashed potato for the culinary equivalent of a great big hug.
I don’t know about you, but at this time of year I seriously crave comfort food. It’s chilly outside and, let’s face it, a teensy bit miserable and having a big pot of something warming and delicious on the stove (or in the oven), makes things seem a whole lot better (or is that just me?).
If you are a regular reader of Easy Peasy Foodie, you will know one of my favourite things to do is to take a classic recipe, and distil it down to the bare essentials – so it becomes doable by mere mortals (with normal kitchens!) AND quick and easy enough to do even on a busy weeknight – and that’s exactly what I’ve done with this Easy Chicken Cacciatore recipe. (For other simplified classics, check out my Lamb Bhuna, Coq au Vin, Chicken Mole and Super Simple Macaroni Cheese.)
Chicken Cacciatore is one of those classic dishes that sounds far more fancy than it actually is. Cacciatore literally means ‘hunter’ – in other words this dish is chicken ‘hunter style’ and a similar sauce can be found in France called Chicken Chasseur (‘chasseur’ being the French word for hunter).
It’s a rustic sort of sauce that I can imagine hunters (or possibly their wives) preparing with the fruits of a day’s hunting…and indeed, traditionally, this would have been more likely to be prepared using game, such as rabbit or pheasant. I doubt very much that many hunters go out looking for chickens!
As I usually do when creating a simplified version of a classic dish, I researched what typically goes into a classic chicken cacciatore, and found, as is so often the case, that there was a wide variety of different interpretations of what was considered an authentic Italian chicken cacciatore. I always like this because it allows me to pick what is truly essential and create a simplified version whilst preserving the key features of the dish.
My Easy Chicken Cacciatore features chicken and bacon, fried until crispy, a simple sauce made from red wine (or stock if you prefer) and tinned tomatoes, herbs, garlic, onions, peppers and olives. The chicken and bacon are then returned to the pan and the dish is simmered until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thick.
It’s actually very simple to make and can easily be made in under an hour. It can all be made in one pan, so very easy on the washing up, and there is a choice about whether you cook it on the stove or in the oven, depending on what you prefer. Best of all it’s that kind of dish that would work equally well as a midweek treat or at the weekend instead of your usual roast dinner or even as the main course at a dinner party. It would also be brilliant as a swap in on my new 4 Week Easy Dinners Meal Plan, which you can get for FREE here!
It also makes the most incredible leftovers – those flavours mingle and develop in the fridge overnight and this makes a wonderfully decadent lunch the next day or else you can make extra and freeze some for another time.
Although I am almost certain it’s not traditional, I have chosen to serve this with mashed potatoes to really ramp up the comfort food factor – and believe me there’s not much more comforting than a big wodge of creamy mashed potato and a serving of my Easy Chicken Cacciatore!
If you want to make life even easier for yourself, simply serve this with crusty bread and enjoy dipping your bread in that gorgeous sauce! For a healthier spin, serve with brown rice.
If ever there were a dish that cried out to be served with red wine it is this one! The obvious choice is to use the wine you put in the dish – please, please, please don’t use nasty old dregs of a long ago opened bottle in this – it will ruin it! This is definitely a dish which needs a good wine IN it as well as WITH it!
My personal choice would be something Italian (it would somehow seem wrong not to!) – a Chianti for preference or else something made from the Sangiovese grape (the main grape variety in Chianti) from somewhere else in Italy or the rest of the world. You can get some good Sangioveses from the USA and Australia, although they do tend to be a little pricier than the ones you can get from Italy. If Chianti is not your thing then you could go for a Valpolicella or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – both would work very well here.
If you are a confirmed white wine drinker, then I would switch out the red wine and actually use white wine in the dish too, and drink the same wine with it. A ripe and fruity Chardonnay from the South of France or Chile would be my choice.
If you don’t or can’t have wine for whatever reason, simply swap the wine for chicken stock.
Easy Chicken Cacciatore
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 90 g lardons or smoky bacon diced
- 8 chicken thighs or legs or a mixture skin on and bone in
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 red onions sliced
- 2 red peppers sliced
- 4 cloves garlic crushed or grated
- 200 ml good quality red wine or chicken stock
- 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves see note 1
- 4 sprigs of thyme see note 1
- 20 black olives stones removed
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped finely (optional – for garnish)
- Mashed potatoes or crusty bread to serve
Place the oil in wide shallow pan and heat on high for 1 minute. Add the bacon and fry for 2-3 minutes until brown and crispy, stirring frequently. Remove the bacon onto a plate.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add the chicken pieces to the pan, skin side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until lightly browned, then remove the chicken pieces onto a plate.
Turn the heat under the pan right down and add the onions and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes until reduced slightly, then add the tomatoes, herbs, olives and bacon and bring back to the boil.
Add the chicken pieces back into the pan in a single layer, skin side up. Cover with a lid and cook on a medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium. Cook for a further 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced to your liking.
Alternatively cook in the oven (see note 2).
When the dish is ready, scatter with parsley, then serve with mashed potatoes and / or crusty bread.
(1) Please add in whatever herbs you like best to this recipe. My choice is bay, thyme and parsley, but you could also use oregano, rosemary, mixed herbs or herbes de Provence. All would work brilliantly (but result in a slightly different flavour). If using dried herbs, I suggest 2 teaspoons in total.
(2) If you prefer, this dish can be cooked in the oven. Use an oven proof saucepan or casserole dish and follow the recipe up until the chicken is back in the pan and the dish has been brought back to the boil. Put a lid on and place in an oven preheated to 200C / 180C fan / gas mark 6 / 400F for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the oven up to 220C / 200C / gas mark 7 / 425F and cook the chicken for a further 10 minutes. You will find doing it this way the sauce will reduce more and the chicken will get an even crispier skin, but it is an extra step – up to you if you think it is worth it!
Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
Love chicken? Check out my collection of Easy Peasy Chicken Recipes…
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