Chicken Cacciatore & Polenta
The real hero of this rustic Italian dish is not the chicken but its flavorsome braising sauce. Of course, the chicken is lovely, too. We sear up chicken thighs — dark meat is nice here because it has a little more flavor and fat — and then let them cook in tomatoes, mushrooms, wine, chicken broth, and aromatics ‘til they’re tender and juicy. Along the way, the wine, broth, and chicken fat cook down, transforming the bright, tangy tomatoes into a rich and deeply savory sauce. It tastes wonderful on the buttery polenta. A true bowl of comfort.
This dish is so warm and satisfying, it will make an incredible Sunday supper — especially if you’ve spent the day outside, hiking the hills or otherwise adventuring. It’s just the dish you want to curl around at the end of a full day. Put on your blousiest pants, pour yourself a glass of Gelson’s sangiovese, and tuck into the latest binge-worthy series.
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 ½ to 2 lbs skinless chicken legs and/or thighs (thighs can be boneless)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1 small carrot, minced
3 ribs celery, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp fresh minced Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
1 heaped tsp minced Gelson’s organic fresh rosemary
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
½ cup red wine
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes in juice
¾ cup vegetable stock
1 16- to 18-oz package of polenta
In a 12-inch heavy, nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown, in batches, for 5 minutes on each side.
Transfer the cooked chicken pieces to a plate.
Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining oil, onion, carrot, and celery, as well as a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, parsley, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Cover, turn the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until the mixture is soft and aromatic.
Stir in the crimini mushrooms. Turn the heat back up to medium, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the red wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring for a few minutes, until the wine has reduced by about half.
Add the tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have cooked down a little and smell fragrant.
Stir in the vegetable stock.
Return the chicken pieces to the skillet and stir, so that they are well submerged in the tomato mixture. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the polenta according to the package instructions. Note: you’ll want to cook the polenta in a pot to create a mixture that resembles mashed potatoes.
Uncover the chicken and simmer it over low heat until the chicken is tender, about 15 minutes. Taste the chicken, and season it with salt and pepper if needed.
Serve the chicken over the polenta.
Recipe adapted from: New York Times Cooking