A messy cook is a happy cook.
Alrighty, truth be told I totally made that quote up! I’m sure neat and tidy cooks, organised cooks, dancing cooks and even first time cooks are also truly joyful souls, so us messy ones can’t own ALL the happy stakes.
There’s one type of messy that every cook should claim from beginner to the most refined – and that’s knowing how to have a pungent tomato sauce splash up the sides of a favourite pot. It looks as if an artist’s been let loose with paint pots to splash around with glee, don’t you think? However it’s viable proof of a gem of a kitchen secret – that the sauce has simmered, reduced, braised and intensified in depth of flavour. It’s mess with intent!
This classically braised chicken dish
is one of my all time favourites, and for personally significant reasons. Chicken Cacciatore was the FIRST recipe I ever cooked unassisted, with the help of a classic Women’s Weekly cookbook. I still remember flicking through that cookbook cover to cover, spending ages working out what to cook. As a teenager who didn’t really know my way around the kitchen, I remember being glued to every recipe step. Yes I was immensely proud of my creation, with thankfully no memory of what mess zone I created!
I’ve tinkered with the recipe since all those years ago, I must admit. Being such a famous Italian dish there are hundreds of variations in existence. However mine, for good reason, is still based largely on the Women’s Weekly classic with just a few more veg tossed in to up the nutrient profile.
Anyone else a Chicken Cacciatore fan? Who else happily remembers their first kitchen success? Let me know in the comments below. I’d absolutely love to hear about what you cooked and whether you too occasionally claim the messy as your own.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1.3 – 1.5 kgs chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon chilli flakes
½ cup red wine
400g can crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 anchovy fillets
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup kalamata olives, seeded
2 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
- Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in large lidded saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the pan and brown for five minutes each side.
- Meanwhile, chop the garlic finely, leaving to the side once chopped so as to trigger an enzyme reaction in the garlic. This boosts the bioavailability of key nutrients, including healthy sulfur compounds.
- Transfer the chicken to a bowl. Pour any juices off the pan and return to a medium heat.
- Add the remaining oil to the pan, along with the onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften.
- Add the garlic, rosemary, chilli flakes and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat to low, stir, and cover for 5 minutes.
- Return the heat to medium-high and stir in the wine. Bring to the boil and, stirring, allow the wine to reduce by about half.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, anchovies and stock. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until slightly reduced and fragrant.
- Return chicken pieces to pan, submerging under the aromatic tomato mixture: bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.
- Uncover and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender and sauce is reduced.
- Stir in olives and parsley, season to taste and serve to applause.
Tip: boneless and skinless chicken thighs are also an option. The cooking time required will be less.