How pretty is this?
It’s my niece’s birthday today. (Happy birthday Em! I luvs ya.) When she was off for spring break, she came over to help me cook and style food for a couple of days; we played Green Day and made Chicken Cacciatore. She wanted to help out, and so I printed off this recipe and set her to make it – all on her own. I tried to stay out of it and let her figure it out. I find it interesting to watch people – especially those who aren’t everyday cooks – navigate a recipe. She did a great job, and was a bit of a perfectionist, in fact, carefully placing single pieces of bacon in the hot pan, spacing them evenly, muttering under her breath when one piece folded over. She stood in wait over the pan, jumping at each spatter, turning each piece of bacon as it cooked. It was adorable.
We’ve done a lot of baking together, and she has chocolate chip cookies down pat (and even invented the cookie dough truffle – how brilliant are these?) but although she often asks if we can cook together, we haven’t done much dinner-making. She asked plenty of questions, eschewed the mushrooms in the recipe, and ultimately nailed it.
To me, chicken Cacciatore will forever be the dish Mike and I ordered at a seedy restaurant in Vancouver (it’s still there, on Robson, and it provided a view out my window last month when I stayed across the street at the Listel – times have changed). We were somewhere around 20; it was our first trip to Vancouver and Mike’s first time seeing the ocean. The hotel cost $70 a night – all we had – and the bed sunk so low in the middle it touched the floor. We ate at the hotel restaurant, which was (still is?) a kind of family pasta joint, with a covered cement patio with clear plastic sides that (kind of) shielded us from the pouring rain. It was freezing, and I still remember how the not overly delicious but steaming hot chicken Cacciatore warmed us up. I’m not sure I’ve had it since.
Chicken Cacciatore is essentially chicken in tomato sauce served over pasta; this version was less tomatoey, more brothy than most, even though she used two tomatoes instead of one; next time I might add some tomato paste along with the stock. Em ditched the mushrooms as they are her culinary enemy; you could swap them for chopped zucchini or eggplant or any other veggie you might normally use in pasta. It was also fine without.
The only major change we made was to bake it uncovered; I made an executive decision as it went into the oven, thinking that a lid would prevent the chicken from crisping up nicely. There was no danger of it drying out in all that stock and good stuff. Keeping it uncovered gave the sauce a chance to thicken and the skin above its surface to get golden and crisp. It worked like a charm.
And Em even ate it.
adapted from CookwithCampbells.ca
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6-8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
3 bacon strips, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups quartered button mushrooms (optional)
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carton (480 mL) CAMPBELL’S Stock First ™ Chicken stock
1 large tomato, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large re-sealable plastic bag (or a bowl) toss the flour and chicken to coat evenly.
In a large, heavy ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp; remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the chicken pieces in batches and brown them on all sides. Remove chicken from pot and set aside.
Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion and mushrooms (if you’re using them) and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
Return the chicken to the pan along with the bacon, stock, tomato and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Bake uncovered for 1 hour, until the chicken is golden, tender and cooked through.
Serve over pasta or with mashed potatoes. Serves 4-6.
This post was generously sponsored by Campbell’s, but the opinions and images are my own. For more quick and easy meals kids will love, visit CookwithCampbells.ca.