by Gennaro Contaldo from Slow Cook Italian
(Pavillion/Harper Collins) photography: Laura Edwards
This classic Italian dish is renowned all over the world and often seen on the menus of Italian restaurants. The title alla cacciatora (‘in the style of the hunter’) suggests it was probably first made with game birds or rabbit. However, as with many Italian dishes, it also has roots in the cucina povera, when people used whatever meagre ingredients they had to hand; in this case, a chicken or, more likely, an old hen, was slaughtered for a special occasion and, to make it go further, enriched with whatever vegetables and herbs were available in the garden as well as a splash of homemade wine. It is made all over Italy and here I have recreated it in the way it is normally made in my region of Campania, using lots of herbs and fresh tomatoes. I like to serve this rustic dish with slices of toasted country bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.
750g / 1lb 10oz chicken thighs and drumsticks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed and left whole
1 small red chilli, sliced
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
a handful of parsley, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
4 sage leaves
125ml/4fl oz/½ cup dry white wine
1½ tbsp tomato purée (paste), dissolved in 3 tbsp lukewarm water
175g/6oz cherry tomatoes, halved
Rub the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the chicken and seal well all over.
Add the onion, garlic, chilli and herbs and cook for a couple of minutes on a medium heat. Add the wine, increase the heat and allow the wine to evaporate slightly. Add the diluted tomato purée, then stir in the cherry tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook gently for 1¼ hours, until the chicken is cooked through; the flesh should come away from the bone and there should be no sign of pink when you pierce the thickest part. Serve hot.
For a slow cooker: Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan and cook the chicken as above. Continue as above, add the tomatoes, plus 300ml/1¼ cups chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then transfer to a large slow cooker pot. Cover and cook on low for seven to eight hours or until there are no pink juices when the chicken is pierced with a small knife.