When I was a kid, my mom had a regular rotation of weeknight dinner meals. You know what I’m talking about– those 10 or 12 dishes that are fast, tasty, and reliable. Most of us grew up with some form of meal rotation. It’s part of what gets you through the week– those reliable standard dinners that everybody in the family enjoys. My mom’s meal rotation made an indelible mark on the fabric of my childhood. The smell of these dishes meant home, comfort, family… Tuna Casserole, Turkey Tacos, Cornish Game Hens with Artichokes… and of course, there was Chicken Cacciatore, the meal that tickled my funny bone.
Chicken Cacciatore is an Italian dish, pronounced Chicken Catch-Ah-Tori. When I was little, I used to hear the word as “Catch A Tori.” My name is Tori, so I found this wildly amusing. As my mom would stir the simmering tomato sauce with aromatic Italian herbs, I was fond of announcing:
“It’s not Chicken Catch-Ah-Tori, it’s Chicken-Catch-Me!”
My mom got the recipe as part of a creative gift at her bridal shower. Her girlfriend gave her a box filled with placemats, wine glasses, plates, and a recipe for Chicken Cacciatore. It was a cute gift that proved very useful. Mom cooked the recipe many times for our family over the years. She liked serving it over egg noodles best. When combined with egg noodles or rice, Chicken Cacciatore is complete meal. It’s tasty, healthy, and couldn’t be easier.
Mom makes this dish with boneless skinless chicken thighs, which are healthy and provide more flavor than breast meat. I’ve also made it with bone-in skin-on thighs, which I simmer for 20-30 minutes longer– when I do this, I usually end up adding a bit of chicken broth or water to the sauce to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Using bone in, skin on meat makes the chicken very tender and flavorful, but it does up the fat content of the dish. Use what works best for your diet. If you want to cook this without alcohol, you can substitute chicken broth for the red wine. Also, you can easily make the dish gluten free by using a GF flour substitute instead of flour for the chicken coating. I actually cooked this for a GF friend a few days ago, so these pictures were taken using King Arthur Gluten Free Flour. The only difference I noticed was that the chicken didn’t brown quite as deeply as it does with flour. Otherwise, the recipe works exactly the same. If you’re making it GF, I recommend pouring it over brown rice or some other gluten free starch. Yummy!
Now that I’m a wife and stepmom, I have my own regular rotation of weekday meals… Roast Chicken, Moroccan Fish, Vegetable Stew, Matzo Ball Soup… and of course, Chicken Catch Me. Thanks for the inspiration, Mom!
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Chicken Catch Me (aka Chicken Cacciatore)
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup flour (for gluten free use GF flour substitute)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 28 oz diced Italian tomatoes (1 large can)
- 14 oz tomato sauce (1 can)
- 6 oz tomato paste (1 can)
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 8 ounces sliced white mushrooms
- Salt and pepper
- 3 cups cooked wide egg noodles or cooked rice (for gluten free use rice or your favorite certified GF pasta)
- Fresh chopped basil for garnish (optional)
- Place the chicken thighs on a plate. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together flour, garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.
- Dredge the chicken thighs in the seasoned flour till thoroughly coated. Reserve.
- In a large saute pan combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, red wine, sugar, oregano, and basil. Stir. Turn the heat to medium low and let the sauce slowly warm.
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium. Place the breaded chicken thighs into the skillet and fry them for a few minutes on each side till they turn golden brown. Don't cook them all the way through, just brown them.
- Place the browned chicken thighs into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and let the thighs simmer on medium low in the sauce.
- Meanwhile, pour another tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet. Pour the chopped onion and bell pepper into the skillet. Saute them for 8-10 minutes till softened.
- Stir the sauteed onion and pepper into the tomato sauce.
- In the skillet, sear the sliced mushrooms on medium high for 5-6 minutes until they start to brown.
- Stir the seared mushrooms into the sauce.Let the chicken and vegetables simmer together for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, till the chicken cooks through and the sauce thickens. If the sauce seems to be drying out or gets overly thick, stir in some hot water to thin it out a bit. At the end of cooking, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot chicken and sauce over cooked wide egg noodles or rice. Garnish with a little fresh chopped basil, if desired.