I love recipes like this when I have people over. If you start cooking a little before your guests arrive, you can pop it in the oven and enjoy a chat and some nibbles while this dish practically takes care of itself. It is very flavoursome and fairly easy to make. You can either joint a whole chicken or use 4x thighs and 4x drumsticks here. This recipe also thought me the secret to a perfectly crispy chicken skin in a stew – a little flour. This was originally from a Waitrose magazine (Aug 2014). The original recipe reckons you can serve up to 6 people, but my hungry crowd of 5 mopped every single last bite here. I’ve made some small changes to the recipe, which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Mary Contini’s Pollo alla cacciatora (Hunter’s chicken)
Serves 4-5 | Prepare 30 mins | Cook 2 hrs
Easy | Dairy-free
- 5 tbsp olive oil;
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled;
- 1 large onion, finely chopped;
- 3 celery sticks, finely chopped;
- 2 carrots, finely chopped;
- 1 bay leaf;
- 100g smoked pancetta, cut into small lardons;
- 1.5 kg whole chicken, jointed and cut into 8 pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings) or 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks;
- 3 tbsp plain flour;
- 125 ml white wine;
- 400g fresh or canned plum tomatoes, roughly chopped;
- 3 thyme sprigs;
- 75g pitted olives, drained;
- small handful basil leaves.
Before you start preparing your ingredients, salt the chicken liberally and let it sit at room temperature while you prep the rest of the ingredients. This will ensure it’s well seasoned from within.
Preheat the oven to 200C | 180C fan | gas mark 6. Heat the oil in a large casserole, add the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes to flavour the oil. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook gently for 10-15 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the bay leaf and pancetta and cook until the pancetta is golden, about 4-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ‘saffritto’ from the oil and set aside.
Dust the chicken with flour and raise the heat under the casserole. Brown the chicken over a medium-high heat (in batches if needed, one layer at a time), turning until golden and crisp all over. Return all the chicken to the pan and add the wine. Bubble to evaporate off the alcohol, then return the saffritto to the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, thyme and olives. Pour over boiling water until the chicken is just covered and season to taste.
Bake, uncovered, for about 1hr – 1hr 20 mins until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is tender. Before serving, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Stir in the basil and serve as suggested above.
I served this with fresh green salad (lettuce, cucumber, spring onion, black olives, sea salt, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil), mash and garlic bread (though if you want to go authentic, opt for a good quality crusty bread).
Original recipe by Waitrose Food Magazine, issue August 2014, no longer available online.