Classic Italian, made even better with mushrooms and red bell pepper
Ready for rustic? Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian, so the idea is to eat as you would on the trail. Or something.
We prefer to cook it in our kitchen, where we can add wine. Not to mention red sauce, mushrooms, and tasty bell peppers.
Our version is still simple to make, though. And you can even prepare it ahead of time, then reheat it whenever.
So you won’t have to hunt around for something decent to eat.
Recipe: Chicken Cacciatore
There are hundreds of cacciatore-style recipes. They all feature braising, but the ingredients vary. Italian cooks often use rabbit instead of chicken.
Most recipes feature tomatoes and onions. How about mushrooms, bell peppers, and wine? Those seem to be optional, but we like them. So they all appear in our version of Chicken Cacciatore.
This dish may be more popular in the US than in Italy – it’s long been a staple of Italian restaurants in the US. The Italian-American version typically features chicken swimming in a rich tomato-based sauce (by contrast, most Italian recipes make a fairly dry dish, with minimal sauce). We’re saucy types, so we prefer the Italian-American version.
We like to serve this dish over Polenta. But it’s also great over pasta (Homemade Noodles would be our choice). Alternatively, you can serve it over rice, or even mashed potatoes. It’s also delicious all by itself.
Prep time for this dish is about 20 minutes. Cooking adds another 40 to 60 minutes (most of it unattended).
This recipe serves 4 to 6 as a main course. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- ~1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 cups very hot (or boiling) water (to reconstitute the mushrooms)
- 3 to 4 pounds chicken thighs and/or legs
- salt for seasoning the chicken (1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- olive oil as needed for browning the chicken pieces (probably a couple of tablespoons)
- 1 onion (large for us, but suit yourself)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 red bell pepper (or other color of your choice; see Notes)
- additional salt to taste (probably 1 teaspoon kosher salt)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (or to taste; ½ teaspoon for us, because we like spicy)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¾ cup dry red or white wine (your choice; can substitute ½ cup dry vermouth)
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound mushrooms (the ordinary white ones work fine)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 additional tablespoons olive oil for cooking the mushrooms
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- additional salt for seasoning the mushrooms (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (about a dozen grinds for us)
- mini sweet pepper slices for garnish (optional; see Notes)
- chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
- Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a heat-proof container, then cover them with 2 cups of very hot water. Allow them to soak for at least 15 minutes (30 is better).
- Dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel and season them to taste with salt. Place a wide-bottomed Dutch oven over medium stovetop heat (you could also use a heatproof casserole or a large frying pan). When the cooking pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil is heated (about 15 seconds; it’ll shimmer), add several pieces of chicken (skin side down). Add only as many pieces as will fit easily in one layer (if you crowd the pan, the chicken won’t brown properly). Brown the chicken pieces for 5 minutes. Turn the pieces over, then brown the other side for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and drain them on paper towels. Continue browning the rest of the chicken pieces (adding more olive oil to the cooking pot if needed). When all the chicken pieces are browned, pour off most of the fat in the pan, leaving only about a tablespoon (or add a tablespoon of oil if there’s none left in the pan).
- Meanwhile, prep the onion, garlic, and bell pepper: Peel the onion and chop it into dice of about ½ inch. Set aside. Peel the garlic and mince it finely. Set aside. Wash and core the bell pepper, then cut it into dice of ¼ to ½ inch. Set aside.
- Add the chopped onion and bell pepper to the cooking pot, season to taste with salt, then sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 additional minute. Add the oregano, the red pepper flakes, and the tomato paste. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
- Remove the rehydrated porcini mushrooms from their soaking liquid. Chop the porcinis roughly, then add them to the cooking pot. Pour the soaking liquid through a fine mesh strainer (to trap any sand or grit). Reserve the liquid.
- Add the wine to the cooking pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mushroom soaking liquid from Step 5, along with the diced tomatoes and the browned chicken pieces. Bring the mixture to a simmer again, then set a timer for 30 minutes.
- Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any excess dirt (or wash them if they’re extremely dirty). Cut the mushrooms into halves or quarters (depending on their size). Place a large frying pan on medium stovetop heat (use one large enough to hold the mushrooms in a single layer). When hot, add the butter and olive oil. When the fat is heated, add the chopped mushrooms. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Sauté the mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside until ready to use in the next step.
- After the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, add the cooked mushrooms. Cook the mixture for an additional 15 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. (If you want to cook this dish a day ahead of time, stop cooking after 15 minutes. Then, when ready to serve, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes.)
- Plate the dish: If serving over polenta, add a large spoonful to each plate. Spoon the chicken mixture over it. Garnish with slices of mini sweet bell pepper, chopped parsley, and/or grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
- If you prefer, you can cook the mushrooms (Step 7) and then stir them into the dish right before serving.
- Most supermarkets carry packages of mini sweet bell peppers in assorted colors. You substitute them for red bell pepper in this recipe (use a handful or two). We prefer to use them as garnish.
- We like to use chicken thighs and legs for braising. But use any cut you like. Breast meat takes less time to braise, so cook it for only 20 to 30 minutes, total. (If using a mix of dark and breast meat, add the breast meat midway through cooking.)
- Some cooks like to dip chicken pieces in flour (then shake off the excess) before browning. If that’s you, indulge. Season the chicken pieces before dipping them in the flour. And season the flour, too.
- You can use almost any herb you like in this dish. We’ve opted for oregano to flavor the tomato sauce, and thyme to flavor the mushrooms. Many cooks like to use rosemary.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the flakes are larger, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half as much as we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- Many countries’ cuisines have some version of “hunter’s chicken.” In France the dish is poulet chasseur. It differs quite a bit from the Italian version (the chicken is sautéed, not braised, and the chasseur sauce – a brown sauce often flavored with mushrooms and tomato – is added to the chicken after it is cooked). There’s also a British dish called Hunter’s Chicken. It features bacon-wrapped chicken covered in barbeque sauce (and often topped with cheese).
- What makes this dish “hunter’s” chicken? Who knows? The Italian version probably was made with rabbit originally (and often still is). Rabbits are common prey for hunters, of course. And while in the woods, hunters might discover some wild mushrooms, which they could add to the cooking pot. However it got its name, this is a wonderful dish.
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Best version of this dish yet.”
“The bell peppers rock,” I said. “It’s fun to try new ingredients.”
“Just don’t make it with rabbit,” said Mrs K R.
“Uh, right,” I said. “Every time I’ve cooked rabbit, you just push the food around your plate, muttering about Flopsy and Mopsy.”
“Poor little fluffy bunnies,” said Mrs K R.
I’ve finally learned that our table is a no-rabbit zone. Why bother having hare today if I’m gone tomorrow?
You may also enjoy reading about:
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Chicken and Celery Stir-Fry
Turkey (or Chicken) Piccata
Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Or check out the index for more
I’ve tried those little mult-color peppers and they don’t seem as tasty as the better bell peppers, like the really good red ones we sometimes get. But they sure are pretty! Your dish looks very tempting.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Mae, you may be right that those little peppers have more eye appeal than taste appeal. They're fun, though! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Two things, John (well, maybe three). First, this sounds perfect, so many flavors all working together while still retaining their own identities in individual bites. And I'm a huge fan of rustic, satisfying dishes like this (so maybe that's a second thing). Also, you saying "cacciatore" means hunter now has me hankering for a hunter's stew. Certainly is the weather for it. Great post—I always learn something when I come here.
Hi Terry, mmm, Hunter's Stew! I haven't had that in years. There are probably dozens of versions -- I now the one that has spicy sausage (like Kielbasa) and cabbage and potatoes. Good stuff! Thanks for the comment.
I've never made cacciatore, never eat it ... what's up with that? Looks delicious John, and I'm with the Mrs. on that no rabbit zone. :)
Hi Lea Ann, bet you'll like this. With chicken, not rabbit, of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yes to mushrooms, bell peppers, and wine! Funny how some dishes you think come from a country are actually a local invention with the country's name tagged to it. Like General Tao too.
Hi Evelyne, it's fun to trace back food recipes, names, etc, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
I adore Chicken Cacciatore! So much flavor and perfectly satisfying. Great recipe.
*smile* Chicken cacciatore has been one of Australia's most favoured poultry dishes 'forever' and was probably the first recipe I tried as a young bride! Oh yes, we always use mushrooms and often capsicums, but pancetta and green olives also usually end up in the pot. Always white wine this side of the Pond :) ! I love the small sweet peppers now available: as my breakfast almost always is a Scandinavian open black bread sandwich piled high with ;'goodies', these peppers suit beautifully as the 'top layer' !
If I am not mistaken hunters chicken in the UK has bacon and cheese on the chicken and its cooked in a barbecue sauce. I could be wrong as I havent eaten it myself but I am sure I have seen my hubby ordering it in a resturant. I have to say I think your version looks far better and a lot healthier.
Hi Tricia, this is one of those dishes we don't have all that often, and when we do, wonder why we don't. If you know what I mean. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Eha, I almost put pancetta in this version! It's a good addition. I've seen recipes with olives but don't believe I've ever had it made that way. Your breakfast sounds good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Emma, you're probably right about how it's prepared! I've never had the UK version, just read about it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is a great version of chicken cacciatore. I love the porcini mushrooms. Matter of fact you might catch me eating all of the mushrooms in this dish first, they are my favorites.
Yes, mushrooms and bell peppers not only add colors as well as flavors...super dish John...thanks for sharing such a delicious Italian dish with a twist. I hope you are enjoying your week!
Hi Dahn, the porcini mushrooms really give this intense flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, love the flavors in this -- really nice. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh my John. This is much better than my mother's recipe! Love the dried porcinis in this. And as for hares? I'm afraid the old Rabbit Catcher would be happy to add some to the pot!
Hi Abbe, the dried porcini mushrooms add a ton to this dish! And this does sound like a dish the Rabbit Catcher could sink his teeth into. :D Thanks for the comment.
John, this cacciatore looks fantastic! Love the addition of the porcini and bell peppers. It must be bursting with flavor!
So very colourful and flavourful with mushrooms and red peppers and I am very sure it tastes just as heavenly as it looks, John.
I love this dish!☺
John, this is a beautiful dish! My husband would be so happy if I made this for him. I love your use of mushroom stock. --Rocquie
Ok we are checking on flights now. Save us a little. Really John this is so darn delicious. Your right why not add mushrooms and all your favorites. This is comfort food at its finest.
John, cacciatore is likely my favorite way to eat rabbit, but I haven't made it much with chicken. Don't know why, just haven't. That shall soon be corrected. For us, polenta all the way. Thanks formovtivating me
Well that last one was a senior misfire on the old publish button. Wanted to thank you for motivating me to try a new version of cacciatore, chicken.
Hi Kelly, the porcini mushrooms are a neat ingredient. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Angie, we really like red bell pepper in this dish! And it MUST have mushrooms. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Natalia, we do too! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rocquie, the mushroom sauce really adds oomph. We like oomph. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, with the weather we've had we NEED all the comfort food we can get! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ron, rabbit is probably the classic meat for this dish. Don't tell Mrs KR. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ron, whataareyoutalkingabout? :-) I do that all the time too!
Such a delicious Italian dish!
Hi Denise, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Mmmm....those big quartered mushrooms sold me! It's been way to long since I've had chicken cacciatore and you've inspired me to add it to the menu next week!
Hi Liz, we hadn't had this for ages either -- which we promptly rectified when we realized that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I remember the firs time I ever had Chicken Cacciatore! It was at a Whole Foods Hot Bar when I was in college and it was SENSATIONAL. I have actually never made it myself though, but this recipe is making me re-think that MAGICAL feast I had at Whole Foods so perhaps I need to make your dish to relive those moments. PERHAPS yours will be far better?!?!?!
Porcini and crimini mushrooms! Love it! I'd use dried mushrooms often so it's nice to come across a delicious looking recipes that uses them. Your Cacciatore looks fabulous John!
Hi GiGI, perhaps. :-) Although it's really hard to compete with a memory! Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, we really like using dried mushrooms to inject massive mushroom flavor into a dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, mmm, with the red bell pepper and both fresh and dried mushrooms, I'm sure to love this version of chicken cacciatore.
Hi Jean, this has loads and loads of flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a hearty yet healthy dish - the perfect kind! I know leftovers would be the BOMB!
Dried mushrooms add so much flavor to this fabulous chicken recipe. A perfect dinner to make and take to my daughter who on the mend from surgery.
Hi Laura, leftovers are great! Ask us how we know. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deb, hope your daughter gets better, and quickly! This is just the medicine she needs. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Love the sound of your version, John! Mustard is a real surprise but why not?
What a great version of Cacciatore. I love that you used the dried porcinis and hydrated them -- add so much great flavor! Great dish for this time of year. And no rabbit on our table either. ;-)
Hi David, I think you may have read "mushrooms" for "mustard," but that's an intriguing idea! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Valentina, what, another rabbit-free zone? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Look at that bowl of deliciousness! I no longer eat any kind of meat but your post is tempting me :P
This is fabulous! I love that you used dried mushrooms - they provide such a great depth of flavor. Really nice. I'm going to have to make this!
Hi Taruna, sorry about that temptation thing. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mimi, dried mushrooms are awesome in dishes like this! Thanks for the comment.
I am salivating at this photo! Talk about a dish that delivers on every point -- comforting, satiating and delicious. Can't wait to enjoy it this winter.
Hi Carolyn, comfort food at its finest. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I also just push rabbit around my plate. My husband ate it a lot growing up but I was not introduced to it. When faced with it I can't stop thinking about Beatrix Potter and her wonderful stories and stunning images. I love chicken cacciatore and like you say, it pretty much takes care of itself. It's also a great dish to make as a gift for someone as the entire meal can go into a single container (except the polenta of course!) xx
Hi Charlie, rabbit is really good, but I have problems eating it these days, too. Maybe because Mrs KR won't let me. :-) Thanks for the comment.
My mom used to make chicken cacciatore when I was growing up but I haven't had it in years. This sounds great!
Hi Kelsie, time you made it again! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I so love your chicken cacciatore and also you fabulous comments. After having a pet bunny I must say we will never eat rabbit either .... mind you I bought quail to raise and farm but then became besotted with these pets and it was years before I could eat quail again. This is a lovely twist on a classic and thank you again for offering such a wonderful dinner idea.
Hi Merryn, quail is good! Fortunately Mrs KR doesn't feel the same way about quail as she does little fluffy bunnies. :-) Thanks for the comment.
i love rabbit! dad used to go out shooting them when we were kids. poor mum had to skin them and cook them tho. Yum to bunny stew i say:) yep i am a saucy type too - obviously i wasn't italian in a past life. cheers sherry
Hi Sherry, rabbit is pretty good! Even though I don't cook it these days, I'll sometimes order it when we're at a restaurant. :-) Thanks for the comment.
How absolutely yummy.
MMMMMMM...... Total comfort food right here! I haven't had this dish in a long time, but need to change that soon. Looks delicious!
Hi Amalia, totally! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amy, we kinda forgot about this dish for the longest time, but SO glad we're making it again. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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