Sunday, October 6, 2013

marcella hazan's chicken cacciatora

I can't remember a time when I didn't know Marcella Hazan's name. Growing up, my father referenced her cookbooks frequently and Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned- a gift from my mother. When I heard she had passed away last week, I pulled Essentials down from my shelf and started flipping through it. It's a wonderful book- direct and no-nonsense. In following the recipes, simple, high quality ingredients are transformed into nuanced, delicious meals in a way that feels borderline magical- see Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce.

On Friday, I was up at Daniel's house and was looking to make something for dinner that would be both a satisfying end-of-the-week meal and relatively simple to throw together since I wanted to spend some time sitting out on the deck with a cocktail. I settled on Marcella Hazan's chicken cacciatora. Ms. Hazan offers two versions of chicken cacciatora- one that involves coating the chicken pieces in flour before browning and includes carrots and celery, and another that is even simpler, with no other vegetables except for onions and tomatoes. I didn't have any carrots on hand, so I went with the simpler version. The recipe comes together like a dream- basically, you just fling the ingredients into a pot and let them bubble away. In under an hour, I had a pot of delicately cooked chicken in rich tomato sauce. The onions and garlic sort of melted into the tomatoes- it was fantastic. We served it up with slices of toasty bread and a big arugula salad, raising a glass to Marcella Hazan. Daniel ate three pieces of chicken and used bread to wipe his plate clean while making appreciative noises about the sauce. This one's a winner. 

Chicken Cacciatora, New Version
3 lb chicken cut into pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion sliced very thin
2 cloves of garlic, sliced very thin
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups fresh, ripe tomatoes skinned raw with a peeler

Wash the chicken in cold water and pat dry. Place a saute pan with a lid or dutch oven large enough to accommodate the chicken pieces without touching over medium heat and add the oil and onions. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent then add the garlic and chicken pieces, skin side down. Cook until skin is golden brown then flip to the other side and repeat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add wine and let simmer until half has evaporated then add the tomatoes, turning down the heat to allow a low simmer. Remove the chicken breasts and set aside, leaving only the dark meat in the pan. Put on the lid, leaving it slightly askew and cook for 40 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally and adding a few tablespoons of water if the liquid in the pan gets low. After 40 minutes, add the chicken breasts back to the pan and cook for another 15 minutes.

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