Recipe: Chicken alla Cacciatora, Late Summer Style
It’s the time of year for tender transitions. Isn’t it that way with your cooking too right now, as you try to integrate a little depth into your dishes without completely relinquishing that summer vibe? This is a cooking truth. We’ve got that settled.
With this little ache in my heart working on my culinary head, I zeroed in on lightening up chicken alla cacciatora, always a winter dish when I was growing up, and still one for me now that I’m more or less an adult. Why now? Because lots of summer tomatoes are still around, and fresh herbs, which I added at the last minute to retain clarity. My winter versions always included canned tomatoes and rich herbs, rosemary in particular but also on occasion thyme. I gave this dish a lift with a little fresh marjoram and a generous amount of Italian parsley. Nice.
Chicken alla Cacciatora, Late Summer Style
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 whole chicken legs, separated into thigh and drumstick
A sprinkling of sugar
1 approximately ¼-inch-thick half round of pancetta, cut into small dice
2 shallots, cut into small dice
1 tender inner celery stalk, cut into small dice, with a handful of the leaves, roughly chopped
1 carrot, cut into small dice
1 garlic clove, very thinly sliced
A few big scrapings of nutmeg
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth, homemade if possible
3 medium-size round summer tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into a medium dice (also drained, if very juicy)
5 sprigs fresh marjoram, the leaves left whole
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, the leaves left whole
In a large skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. When hot, add the chicken pieces, seasoning them with the sugar, salt, and black pepper. Brown them on both sides. Take the chicken from the skillet, and pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of fat.
Add the pancetta, and let it get crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots, celery, and carrot, and sauté a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and the nutmeg, and sauté briefly, just to release their flavors. Return the chicken to the skillet. Add the white wine, and let it bubble for a minute. Add the chicken broth. Turn the heat down low, cover the skillet, and simmer for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken once or twice.
Add the tomatoes, and simmer uncovered at a low bubble until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about another 15 minutes. Season with a little more salt and black pepper.
Take the chicken from the skillet, and place it on a rounded serving platter. With a slotted spoon, scoop out most of the tomato chunks, and spoon them over the chicken.
Boil down the liquid left in the skillet until it thickens slightly. Pour it over the chicken, and then scatter on the marjoram and the parsley. Serve hot.