Braised dishes, with long simmered flavours, are the quintessence of comfort food. Especially on a cold Minnesota night.
When most of us think of these familiar dishes, classics like beef stew, chicken and dumplings, and smothered pork chops come to mind. And while these are all satisfying and delicious options, sometimes we crave something with bigger, bolder flavors, and this week’s Chicken and Sausage Cacciatore fits the bill perfectly.
Chicken cacciatore is an iconic Italian dish, said to have been created by a hungry hunter (cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian) during the Renaissance era. In those early years it was probably made with rabbit in addition to tomatoes, onions, garlic, and sometimes peppers and/or mushrooms.
Today, chicken is the most typical protein, although in parts of southern Italy salami also makes its way into the mix. In our version, sausage, chicken and mushrooms take pride of place in this lightly spiced tomato stew.
The flavor starts building early on, with chicken, sausage and mushrooms browning all in one pan so nothing gets lost along the way. The key to this important step is to brown the ingredients individually, giving each the space necessary for the exuded liquids to evaporate. If the chicken, sausage and mushrooms were all tossed in at once, they would simply boil in their own juices and the flavor that comes with browning would never have a chance to develop.
Then the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, along with a touch of red pepper flakes, are sautéed before a nice touch of wine is mixed in and helps release all those delicious morsels at the bottom of pan. The wine is reduced, tomatoes and rosemary are added, along with all those beautifully browned ingredients, and everything is simmered until the chicken is tender and the flavors have come together.
This hearty dish is satisfying on its own, but even more so over noodles or, even better, over buttery and cheesy polenta.
Chicken and Sausage Cacciatore
For 6 persons.
Note: Warm and comforting, this meal will take the chill off any freezing night. From Meredith Acts.
• 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
• 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lbs)
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 12oz. Italian sausage (4 links)
• 8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms
• 1 ch. onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 tsp. carrot, finely chopped
• 1/2 tsp. celery, finely chopped
• 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
• 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
• 1/2 tsp. dry red wine
• 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
• 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
• Flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate.
Add sausage and cook, turning frequently, until browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the chicken.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the mushrooms, in a single layer, and cook, turning once, for 4 to 6 minutes, until browned on both sides. Transfer to the plate with the chicken and sausages.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring, until vegetables soften, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and continue cooking, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and bring to a boil. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, for a few minutes, until the wine has reduced by about half. Add tomatoes, chicken, sausages, mushrooms and rosemary and toss to coat with tomato mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove the sausage and rosemary sprigs. Cut each sausage into 3 pieces and return to the skillet. Discard the rosemary. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with parsley and serve with polenta or pasta, your choice.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Contact her at [email protected] Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.