Friday, August 28, 2009

Pollo alla Cacciatora Milanese - Chicken Hunter-Style from Milan

I have read that in the trattorie of Milan, rabbit, pheasant, lamb or chicken are often cooked alla Cacciatore. This preparation implies a method of cooking that gives the dish a rustic and robust quality. In Milan the key ingredients to this simple dish is dried porcini mushrooms whose woodsy flavor enriches the depth of flavor in this slowly cooked dish. Serve with soft, grilled or roasted polenta. The best part is the leftover sauce, which makes a delicious second meal tossed with penne, rigatoni or any pasta type you enjoy. A Note: Traditonally Italian cooks are light on the tomatoes. In this dish because of making a pasta sauce as well for a second meal, I like to use the canned crushed tomatoes in puree over whole canned Italian tomatoes that have been put through a food mill to puree and remove seeds which is more tradtional in most Italian recipes using can tomatoes. I like the thicker texture the crushed tomatoes in puree gives the sauce.

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups lukewarm water for 20 minutes
1/4 cup EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
2 cups flour
1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds) cut into pieces, washed and dried with paper towels
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, minced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 cup dry white wine (I usually use Gaetano D'Aquino Delle Venezie 2007, a reasonably priced Pinot Grigio with a dry flavor and slightly bitter end)
1 (28 oz) can Crushed tomatoes in puree (I prefer Muir Glen brand)

Drain the mushrooms reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the mushrooms well under cold running water, then chop coarsely. Line a strainer with a few layers of paper towels and strain the soaking liquid into a bowl to get rid of the sandy deposits. Set aside.

In a large deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Flour the chicken pieces lightly and add to the skillet skin side down. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, turning only once, until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Discard the oil and add the butter, returning the skillet to medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the onion, garlic, rosemary and parsley. Cooking, stirring until the onion is lightly golden and soft, perhaps 6 minutes.

Add the porcini and wine, stirring with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the bits on the bottom of the pan, until the wine is almost evaporated.

Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of the porcini liquid, then lightly season with salt and pepper.

As soon as the sauce begins to bubble, return the chicken to the skillet, reduce heat to low, and partially cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened nicely, about 40 to 50 minutes. If needed, add a bit more porcini liquid if sauce thickens too much. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.

This is even better if you allow the dish to rest for about an hour before serving. The flavors become more pronounced.

The leftover sauce served the following evening over penne. My heart sang when I ate both the cacciatore and the pasta. My Nana used to use porcini mushrooms and rosemary in many of her dishes, and the aroma of this dish brought me back to Nana's kitchen all those years ago and the taste brought tears to my eyes. Eccellente!


  1. Oh, wow, Diane....this sounds incredibly delicious.....I'm excited about your new blog and am pleased to be the first commenter!

  2. D. down the street here.

    Polenta. Cousin to Johnny Cake. Gotta be good with all that yummy stuff on it!

    BTW You might try using the 'museum' function on your camera to be able to take lower light photos. It takes in more light without using flash. I just wondered if you knew about it.

    If none of that makes sense, ask me next time we talk.

    Sorry I didn't see you on the road. I'm not used to looking for people I know.

    Funny, where I grew up it was common to wave your arm off while driving because you saw EVERYONE you knew!

  3. Thank you Sonia! I will always remember that too. The sauce in this dish is packed full of flavor and I love the texture and taste on pasta for a second meal.

    D - smiling here about polenta and Johnny cakes! Thanks for the camera tip. Mine doesn't seem to have that feature as far as I can tell. Now where ever did I put those camera use directions?!I am thinking it is time to borrow my husbands camera with all the bells, whistles and lenses and teach myself a thing or two about photograpghy.