Friday, April 3

Chicken Cacciatore

So I was sitting on the couch the other day, watching TV, when I started thinking about chicken. Despite how odd that might seem to some of you, me thinking about chicken is actually a quite common occurrence. Standing in the shower, scrubbing away the sleep, I think of chicken. Looking out the window at the spring rains as they bring life back to the soil, I think of chicken. Gently holding hands with Courtney... She asks quietly, looking soulfully in my eyes, "What are you thinking about?" I return her delicate, meaningful gaze and reply, with all the seriousness in my heart, "Chicken."

But I digress. It occurred to me that, in my entire adult life, I have never attempted to make chicken cacciatore. I remembered my mother making it, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember what it tasted like. I knew it was red and smelled tomatoey, but I really couldn't remember the flavor. So, after a little websurfing for recipes and a quick visit to the Key Food across the street, I was ready to take a whack at it.

I managed to pick up two things about chicken cacciatore while rooting around online. First, it involves flour-crusted chicken braised in a tomato sauce. Second, what goes into the sauce is pretty much anyone's guess. The options were wide and varied - just the way I liked it.

Now, like all things that are good and beautiful in this world, my cacciatore started with bacon.

I'm not going to explain or defend my choice. It's bacon, people. C'mon now.

While I was letting the bacon crisp up and render out, I set about disassembling my vegetables.

Mushrooms were on sale, in case you couldn't tell. There's something relaxing about cutting apart veggies in preparation for cooking; getting the peppers, onion, and garlic into a small dice seemed to take no time at all. The shrooms were stemmed and sliced thin.

Now, the greatest thing about starting with half a pound of bacon is the bacon fat.

Mmm. Bacon fat. The second greatest cooking medium in creation. What do I use it for? Well... I could use it to brown these chicken thighs that've been dredged in flour.

Or I could use it to brown up these here mushrooms.

And when I'm done with the mushrooms, there's still plenty left to sweat out these vegetables.

Mmm. Now, while the veggies were softening up (with a liberal application of crushed red pepper, dried oregano, and dried basil), it was time to assemble the liquids that were going to make up the rest of our sauce.

By this point, the smell of the red wine reducing was enough to get me salivating. If it's one thing I love, it's an apartment that smells like food. Once the wine was reduced by half (or so, I never actually measure), it was time to dump in the tomatoes and stock... and my secret weapon.

Mmm. Capers. I happen to know for a fact that two people very dear to me aren't fond of them, but I can't resist. They're all briney and vinegary and little explosions of flavor in everything you put them in. I didn't even bother draining them; I just dropped the brine into the sauce with the rest of it. By now, the sauce was looking pretty hearty.

It was time for the final push. I stirred in the bacon, wedged the chicken thighs in there, put on the lid and set the pot to simmer for 30 of the longest minutes of my life.

In the meantime, I had to fix myself up something to put the chicken on. The answer, of course, was spaghetti. Because I have a lot of it lying around.

After tossing it with parsley and (say it with me now, folks) bacon fat, everything was ready to serve. And serve it I did.

Complete with a fistful of romano on top. That, my friends, is not bad for my first try.

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