After spending a weekend with the family, I felt like my return to apartment life could benefit from some real home cooking. Time for a Mom Recipe, you know? I don’t know if Spring has sprung where you are yet, but even here in southern California the nights are chilly enough to encourage stewy, braise-y dinners. So readers, today you’re lucky enough to learn about one of our most popular family recipes: my mom’s chicken cacciatore.
Cacciatore is Italian for ‘hunter,’ and as I understand it, the idea behind the dish is that hunters are able to pick up wild mushrooms while out in the forest. I don’t claim any real Italian authenticity, but the thing that sets this recipe apart is the sauce. Ohhh, the sauce… It’s tomato-based, but doesn’t really even taste like a tomato sauce. Some kind of magic alchemy goes on between the wine, broth and aromatics that yields something complex, herbaceous, and completely revelatory.
My mom’s original recipe was the perfect sauce, straight-up, with a jar of marinated mushrooms stirred in. It’s simple and flawless, but I can’t help myself but modify a little to include – what else? – MORE VEGGIES. And the best part is, for such an undeniable comfort food, it’s completely healthy. Just wholesome ingredients that happen to be so good together, you’ll want to lick your bowl!
I never ate mushrooms very often growing up, but in recent years I have come to LOVE them. They’re so earthy and deep with umami flavors, and they’re rich in a lot of essential micronutrients. And honestly… real talk… they appeal to my biological curiosity. The fungi kingdom is so fascinating, sometimes I wish I had pursued a career in mycology. (true life: I’m a total weirdo.)
I use boneless chicken breasts because I like them, but this recipe would also work well with bone-in pieces if that’s what you’re into. The recipe calls for dried marjoram, which I know isn’t really a staple herb in most pantries, but it has such a unique, sweet fragrance. It wouldn’t taste like my childhood without it!
Even for those of you without childhood memories tied to this dish, it’s an instant classic. It’s the kind of cooking that’s a legitimate recreational activity. The kind where you get to open a bottle of wine and settle in for some simple chopping, deglazing, simmering, and decompressing.
Basically, it’s the kind of recipe you want in your family. Trust me!
Adapted from MOM.
Sprinkle the flour onto a shallow bowl or plate and season with salt and pepper. Begin heating the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and dredge the chicken breasts lightly with the flour. Transfer the chicken breasts into the skillet when the oil is hot, and cook on both sides until golden (the center does not need to be cooked through). Transfer the browned chicken onto a plate and set aside.
In the same skillet, add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the peppers and cook for one minute, until they begin to soften, before adding the mushrooms. Saute the mixture, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft, moist, and reduced in size.
At this point, add the wine; the pan will likely already be somewhat "deglazed" from the moisture of the vegetables, but scrape up any remaining brown bits while stirring the mixture. Allow the wine to reduce for 1-2 minutes before adding the broth, crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes and dried herbs. Stir the sauce to combine, and add the chicken breasts back to the skillet, nestling them underneath the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and allow the dish to simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked. Serve over pasta, potatoes or polenta.
6 thoughts on “Mom’s Chicken Cacciatore”
This looks beautiful!! Your pictures are stunning! This is a “mom dish” taken to a new level! It’s total comfort food but not in the super heavy, cheese smothered kind of way. Bravo!
Thanks Bryee!! I wish I could take credit for perfecting comfort food, but that goes to mom all the way 😉 And thanks so much about the photos – I’ve been trying hard to learn the ropes and it is really a challenge! Your shots have been looking good lately too, I’m looking at your stuffed collards right now and they are gorgeous!!
I made this for dinner tonight and it was so good!!!! I had to sub oregano for the marjoram *gasp* but it was still so delicious!!!! (I also used bone in thighs since that’s what we prefer) I will definitely be making this again!!!
Oh this comment made my day!!! It is such a good recipe, I’m glad it’s happening in your kitchen now too! Thanks for sharing!
I’m almost done making this as I type this. Such a simple recipe and I can’t wait to try it! I’m a little bummed because my sauce doesn’t look as rich and brown as yours but I’ll chalk that up to not using enough flour on my chicken breasts and maybe not deglazing long enough. Either way I’m sure it’s going to be delicious when I serve it for dinner in a few minutes!
I hope you loved it!! Those sound like good explanations for your sauce color, the “fond” does make a big impact on color and flavor. Also the choice of wine and broth could play a role too. But it’s hard to make these ingredients taste less than stellar together! 😉