Did you know that Umbria, in central Italy, is home to a tomato-free version of Chicken alla Cacciatora? Rather, the rustic braise gets it character from lemon, olives, garlic and herbs. Capers also are customary, but this version uses pancetta instead to build rich, savory depth. Finally, alternatively to cutting up a whole chicken, which is what we usually do, here we substitute bone-in, skin-on thighs.
Strips of lemon zest are simmered into the sauce to infuse the dish with subtle citrusy notes. For easiest results, use a sharp vegetable peeler to plane off wide strips of zest from the fruit; each piece should be roughly 2 to 3 inches long. You will need a 12-inch oven-safe skillet for this recipe, our 3-quart Le Creuset “Baby Blue” enameled cast-iron pot was perfect.
Fantastic! The combination of flavors had so much depth, we wanted to lick our plates clean. I know we loved the previous version using an entire chicken and capers, but this riff may have raised the bar to another level…
Umbrian-Style Chicken alla Cacciatora
- 3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 cup pitted green or black olives or a combination, drained and halved
- 4 strips lemon zest, plus 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
- Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle position. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
- In an oven-safe 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken skin down and cook without disturbing until golden brown on the bottom, 5 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken skin up to a large plate.
- Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet and set the pan over medium. Add the pancetta and onion, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the wine, bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, rosemary, olives and lemon zest. Return the chicken skin up to the skillet and pour in the accumulated juices. Transfer to the oven and cook until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175°F, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the oven; the handle will be hot. Using tongs, transfer the chicken skin up to a serving platter, then remove and discard the rosemary and lemon zest. Bring the liquid in the pan to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and reduced, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice and vinegar, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce around the chicken.
Adapted from a recipe from Milk Street