Chicken alla cacciatora, or hunter’s style, can be found all over Italy—but tomatoes were scarce for quite some time. Most Americans, including us, are more familiar with the southern Italian version with tomatoes, but this one is from Umbria, in the country’s center, and it’s made savory with lemon, vinegar, olives and rosemary instead of tomatoes. It’s lovely served with steamed greens dressed with a fruity olive oil, over homemade mashed potatoes or polenta. You really have to try it!
This meal is comfort food all the way!
We can’t say enough about this fabulous dish! Absolutely divine, with so much flavor we kept oohing and ahhing all through dinner. The cooking vehicle of choice was our smaller Le Creuset pan “Baby Blue,” which was just the right size to hold all of the ingredients. Our sides included creamy garlicky mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach in olive oil and roasted garlic paste—thank goodness we’re both fans of garlic. Upon completion, there is enough luscious sauce to spoon over every item on your plate if desired—and desire we did!
Step 1 instructs you to remove the browned chicken pieces and wipe the pan clean before returning the chicken and adding the sliced onions. Why in heck would you do that? Those browned bits contain a lot of seasoning and will flavor the onions as you caramelize them. And buy brined olives with the pits because they also lend another layer of flavor, and the meat almost melts off the pit into your mouth.
While you can buy already cut-up chicken parts, we purchased a 5-pounder because Russ likes to hack up the chicken with his heavy-duty meat cleaver to get the extra bony parts for making stock. I secretly think it’s his inner Neanderthal making an appearance…
Umbrian-Style Chicken alla Cacciatora
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 small chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into serving pieces, or use bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/4 cup good-quality brine-cured olives, black or green, with pits (we used a 1/2 cup)
- 1 large sprig rosemary
- 1 handful sage leaves, rough chop if leaves are large
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Chicken pieces are heated in olive oil in a large braising pan and seared over medium heat until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes.
Turn heat to low, add the onions and stir frequently until caramelized.
The onions caramelize with the chicken in about 20 minutes.
After the onions have caramelized, add minced garlic, capers, olives, rosemary sprig and sage leaves.
When everything smells fragrant, add the wine, cover and simmer very slowly until the chicken is tender and cooked through, only about another 15 to 20 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Add chicken pieces and sear over medium heat until golden on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and wipe the pan clean before proceeding. (We absolutely did NOT wipe the pan clean!)
- Turn heat to low, add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and return the chicken to the pan. Add onions and stir frequently until caramelized, about 18 minutes. Add minced garlic, capers, olives, rosemary sprig and sage leaves. Season with just a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
- After a couple of minutes, when everything smells fragrant, add wine. Cover and simmer very slowly until the chicken is tender and cooked through (165 degrees). Start checking the temperature of the chicken after 15 minutes to avoid overcooking. Add some water if the sauce gets too dry while simmering.
- When ready to serve, reheat if necessary, then add lemon juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. Taste and add more lemon if desired. Remove the rosemary sprig and serve.
Recipe by Letizia Mattiacci, author of the cookbook “A Kitchen with a View“
There is no doubt we will be repeating this dinner over and over!