I recently took a long weekend road trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with two girlfriends to see the Fall colors and just enjoy each other’s company. While we were in Marquette we decided to go to dinner at an Italian restaurant that seems to be very popular. We got there at 5:00 on a Friday night and got one of the last available tables. We thought, wow….this is a good sign! We ordered cocktails while we looked at the menu and those were excellent. One of us had a frozen strawberry daiquiri and two of us had margaritas on the rocks. One of us ordered the meat ravioli and two of us ordered the chicken cacciatore. Two of us would be sorely disappointed! The cacciatore entree included a salad and garlic bread for about $15. Pasta was an add-on for a little over $4. The salads were good. Cold and crisp iceberg lettuce with a couple olives, pepperoni, and tomato and a nice house vinaigrette.
After the salads it was all downhill. The chicken cacciatore consisted of two small pieces of breast meat, served in a Corning ware dish, SWIMMING in what tasted like an unseasoned can of Hunts tomato sauce. My apologies to Hunts. No flavor whatsoever. This is how appealing it looked!!
Seriously the worst Italian meal I’ve ever had. I was glad that I ordered the side of pasta because I only ate one of the small pieces of dry chicken. No one came around with fresh grated Parmesan cheese or cracked pepper…there was a shaker of the cheese that comes in the green can and a pepper shaker on the table. For a place that is considered an upscale Italian restaurant Olive Garden would put them to shame, and I am not an Olive Garden fan. The good news about this horrible meal is that I was inspired to make chicken cacciatore as soon as I got home. I’ve always made chicken cacciatore with lots of vegetables and seasoning and chicken on the bone and I’m in good company because so do Lidia and Giada.
One whole chicken cut up
2 T olive oil
1 large onion rough chopped
2 sweet bell peppers rough chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic chopped
4 slices of thick bacon diced
1/2 cup red wine to deglaze the pan
2 pints of canned diced tomatoes
1 pint of tomato sauce
2 T dried basil
2 T dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Pasta of your choosing
Fresh grated Parmesan or Asiago and fresh basil for serving
Preheat the oven to 325. Cut the chicken into pieces (or just purchase a chicken that’s already been cut up). Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a dutch oven and brown the chicken pieces on each side.
Set the chicken aside on a platter and add the bacon and vegetables to the pan.
Cook the vegetables until they are tender and most of the fat has been rendered from the bacon. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, add the dried basil and oregano, and the tomatoes and sauce.
Return the chicken to the Dutch oven, Cover and bake for approximately 2 hours.
Once you remove the pot from the oven allow it to rest while you prepare your pasta. My favorites are spaghetti or angel hair but any pasta will do. Remove the chicken to a platter and add the hot pasta to the sauce. Serve with fresh grated cheese and thin sliced fresh basil. The chicken will be fall off the bone tender and the combination of the vegetables and seasoning result in a tasty sauce.
As much as I like going out to dinner, sometimes my own cooking just tastes so much better.
NOTE: Perfect pairings for this dinner are a cold, crisp salad and garlic bread. The restaurant had that part correct.
Cooking the cacciatore with skin on, bone in chicken makes the dish ever so much tastier. However, if I were to make it with boneless, skinless chicken I would use dark meat.
This dish would also be wonderful served with polenta.