Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to Catch A Tory

Let's talk about a well-loved Italian-American restaurant staple, chicken cacciatore, or "hunter's chicken". (Also called chicken cacciatora, which I guess depends on whether one hunter or multiple hunters are involved in the dish.)

Back in the old days, hunters would cook their game in wine to mellow out the flavors and would add the things one might find in the woods or in the kitchen garden like onions and mushrooms. It was a very rustic and simple dish.

I'm not sure how that was translated in the United States as chicken cooked in tomato sauce with peppers and onions, and the occasional mushroom depending on the cook. But then again, to me it doesn't matter. It's like having dinner at my favorite neighborhood "red sauce", Italian-American restaurant. It may not be authentic. It may be Italian food as translated by Americans far removed from their immigrant ancestors, but so what? It's still good. In fact, chicken cacciatore is a big favorite of mine when I visit those inauthentic restaurants.

I had bought some cans of tomatoes on sale a couple of weeks ago figuring I'd always use them. I've been on a bit of a budget this week and thought it would be a good time to use one. Chicken seemed like a good option. I have also been a bit time crunched, so I'm not all that inclined to slowly stew bone-in chicken parts. My cacciatore was going to be a slightly quicker version with all of the traditional elements for both the Italians and the Americans.

Since my recipe is so inauthentic, I decided to set a trap and catch a Tory. What I'll do with that Tory once I have it is beyond me (just throw it back I suppose). I thought about catching a Tori instead. But which Tori would I catch? Catching Tori Amos would be cool. Tori spelling not so much.

How inauthentic is my recipe? Let's see.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They cook quickly and have way more flavor than breasts.
Tomatoes. Everyone associates tomatoes with Italy. Come on! They're indigenous to the western hemishpere. Okay, so Italians have been eating them for centuries. So what? What if that hunter caught his game in the fall when it's past tomato season?

My other starring players. (Am I beginning to plagarize Ree or Cathy here?) The peppers, onions, garlic, and shrooms. I don't normally like cooked green peppers, but I love the flavor they add to dishes like this.

Put it all together and serve with polenta squares. I'm obsessed with polenta these days.

This recipe does require a bit of slicing and chopping on the part of the cook, but once it's all cut up, it comes together fairly quickly because of the boneless chicken. The vegetables smell wonderful when you cook them. You know the dish is going to be good even if it's not "real" cacciatore. It is a delicious and satifsying weeknight meal. I received rave reviews from the Other Half.

Chicken Catch A Tory (Quick and inauthentic chicken cacciatore)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 Tbl olive oil
1-2 onions (depending on size) finely diced
10 oz. mushrooms (I like cremini) thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, diced small
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup hearty white wine

Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and brown in a pan with the olive oil on both sides. Remove from pan.

Add the mushrooms, onions, and pepper. Cook until softened. Add in tomatoes and wine. Adjust seasoning. Allow to cook down a minute or two.

Add chicken back into pan and simmer until cooked through.

Serve with pasta, polenta, crusty bread, or whatever else you like to soak up your sauce.


Bunny said...

I bought tomatoes on sale too!! I LOVE Chicken like this, smothered in tomato sauce with grren peepers, it's the BEST!!

Sara said...

It doesn't have to be authentic to taste good! I also love chicken thighs, and they happen to be cheaper too which is always a bonus.

noble pig said...

Okay I love the title...and it looks so, so yummy. Forget authentic, it's awesome!

Emily said...

Mmm, this sounds so good. Especially served on top of polenta. It looks saucy. And sassy.

I've never had a Jersey tomato.

jesse said...

Mmm, this is amazing. I prefer chicken thighs to breast actually, so your recipe is perfect in my eyes. ;)

The Blonde Duck said...

This looks so good! I love the green peppers. We like things spicy down here.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Bunny - I need to be one of those people who buys doubles and triples of things when they're on sale. I'd do a lot less shopping if I remembered to do that.

I'm also a huge fan of pork or chicken pizzaiola that is covered in tomatoes and mushrooms. Another "Red Sauce Restaurant" favorite.

Sara - Exactly. The beauty of Italian-American (or Chinese American for that matter) food is that it's good no matter what the authenticity.

NP - Glad you like the title. Not everyone likes my obsession with puns.

Em - NJ is THE place for tomatoes. I don't know if the toxic waste makes them grow more or taste better or what, but there is something about Jersey tomatoes. In the summer when I'm in rural NJ all weekend, I gather as many as I can at the farm stands. I'm so glad that there is a Jersey-based company canning and growing their own tomatoes.

Jess - I have always preferred thighs to breasts. I'm so happy that boneless, skinless thighs are so readily available these days.

Duckie - I'm not sure I would use spicy peppers in chicken cacciatore, but I'd be willing to try anything. We've already established authenticity doesn't mean a thing! Spicy is good!

melissa said...

If I caught a Tori Spelling, I would definitely throw it back. Hard.

I've given up on the authenticity thing. Food was meant to be played with. If it tastes good and uses fresh ingredients, it's a great dish, period. Your version looks wonderful just as it is, and I agree about chicken thighs. I've switched almost completely to using those instead of breasts.

And I've done the same type of setups, but I wouldn't think you're plagiarizing Cathy or Ree. ;)

The Duo Dishes said...

Oooh, if it's good, it's good. Doesn't have to be authentic. Yummy!