Several events happily conspired to the creation of this meal - Top Chef's Fabio Viviani made chicken cacciatore on the show the same week that I saw Anne Burrell make her version of it on her show. Then we got a whole chicken in our CSA and Bon Appetit magazine had a tutorial on how to break down a whole chicken into pieces. So the stars aligned and I knew this is what I wanted to do with the pretty bird you see below.
I have to say, I've always been a little unsure of exactly how to cut a whole chicken into pieces so I generally don't do it - hey, a whole roasted chicken has always been just fine for me! But, it was actually really easy and I'm glad I know how.
adapted from recipes by Fabio Viviani and Anne Burrell
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup flour for dredging
1 red onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup chicken stock
3 springs rosemary, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, diced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Salt and pepper your chicken. Put flour in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper and dredge your chicken pieces in flour, shaking off all the excess. Heat olive oil in an oven proof pot and brown your chicken. You want to get it nice and seared on the outside, but you don't need to cook it all the way through as it will cook the rest of the way in the oven. Remove chicken from pan.
Add a little more olive oil to the pan, if needed, and sautee your garlic, red pepper flakes, onions and mushrooms, scraping up all those delicious chicken bits. Season with s&p. Once your onions and mushrooms have cooked down and are slightly caramelized, add your diced peppers and cook until soft. Turn up the heat and add the wine, stock and herbs. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, dice up your tomatoes and then add them and their juice to the pot. Add the chicken back to the sauce, cover and put in the oven for 45 minutes. When my 45 minutes was up, I have to admit, my sauce was really soupy, a lot soupier than I wanted. I put it on the stove top and brought it to a boil in the hopes of reducing it a bit more. But everyone was hungry and it tasted really good already (like, REALLY GOOD) so we just decided to eat it as it was. It did thicken up as it cooled.
While the chicken is in the oven, make your polenta. You can also serve it over egg noodles, but when there is creamy, cheesy delicious polenta as an option, I don't know why you would.
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tbs butter
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
Add cream, water and bay leaves to a pot and bring to a boil. When at a boil add the salt. Chef Anne says you should salt it almost to the point of over-salting it. Interesting! I guess, like pasta, it is your only chance to flavor the corn itself. Sprinkle in the cornmeal (I forgot about the sprinkling and dumped it in, so mine was just a little lumpy) and stir, stir, stir until the polenta is done about 45 minutes. I did end up adding water a few times.
I have to admit some confusion about polenta - is it supposed to stay creamy? Because mine pretty much seized up as soon as it cooled a little. It tasted delicious, but I'm unsure of my consistency. In Bill Buford's great book Heat, he discusses this very situation and finally comes to the realization (wish I had remembered this when I was cooking the polenta) that you should add water to the polenta until it "behave[s] as though it...quenched its thirst." In other words, you should just keep adding liquid until it doesn't immediately soak it up anymore and then cook until it is done. I don't know - either way, mine tasted good and was a great base for the cacciatore sauce. Steeping the bay leaf in the liquid while bringing it up to a boil is a genius move and adds great flavor.
I was hoping this would be delicious, but I actually knocked my own socks off, and Elaine said it was good too, and she really knows what she's talking about. The chicken was so tender and the sauce was absolutely lip-smackingly delicious. I think Axel F had two servings. Boom.
Elaine AGAIN made a really unique and delicious dessert, which I have no doubt she will share soon.