Mama’s chicken cacciatore is right up there as one of my all time favorite comfort foods. There was nothing better than breaking off a piece of Italian bread and mopping up that delicious sauce. Out in Long Island, my grandmother’s cousin, Zia Eva, or as we used to call her Zeveve (Tse-veve), made a great chicken cacciatore that I remember till this day. She put all sorts of good things in the pot, including olives, mushrooms and peppers.
It was a beautiful spring day and I could remember being at my Aunt’s house in Massapequa sitting outside and enjoying that chicken cacciatore. It’s just amazing how certain things keep in your memory and that day I fondly remember eating her chicken cacciatore. The entire family was sitting around the outdoor table, covered in a linen table cloth, enjoying the food and idle conversation. Everyone around me was speaking Italian, and although I never learned to speak it myself, I knew exactly what everyone was talking about….for the most part. A large bowl of salad, which was saved for the end of the meal, along with cooked greens, plenty of bread, ginger ale and red wine was passed around the table as we filled our plates with the chicken that was almost falling off the bone. I think it was that meal that imprinted chicken cacciatore for me as comfort food.
Zia Eva was a master at cleaning the last bit of food out of a pot. One day she made chocolate pudding for us kids and she allowed us to fill the dessert cups with the pudding. When we thought we had the last bit of pudding out of the pot, Zia Eve took her wooden spoon and scraped the pot enough to get another whole cup of pudding out of it. You don’t waste a drop!
Mama’s Chicken Cacciatore
- 1 whole fryer cut up
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- one 28oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
- 1 onion diced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup canned black ripe pitted olives, whole
- 8 leaves fresh basil, julienned
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- plain bread crumbs
My mother always soaked the chicken in a large pot of salted cold water for about a half an hour. In a large pot place the chicken and fill just to cover with cold water. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of Kosher salt over the chicken and let soak for 1/2 hour. Rinse under cold running water and dry.
In a large saute pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat and brown the chicken about 6 minutes each side. Don’t move the chicken until after the 6 minutes. Once the skin browns it will be easier to turn when you loosen it with a spatula. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan cook onions over medium heat till translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
De-glaze the pan with the white wine as you loosen up the bits at the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon, and cook about two minutes. Add can of crushed tomatoes, sugar, oregano, basil, mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring sauce to a simmer.
Add chicken pieces and stir to combine. Partially cover and cook 45 minutes, turning the chicken once halfway through the cooking time. Stir occasionally. Add the olives during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Check sauce and if too thin add a sprinkle of bread crumbs to thicken. Serve the chicken with plenty of crisp Italian bread to mop up the delicious sauce.