In our house we have an ongoing battle about birthday dinners. Not between our kids, but between my husband and I. When I met my husband over 20 years ago, the man ate nothing but fried foods and pizza. He confessed that as a kid he was a picky eater and that he didn’t actually learn to eat spaghetti with sauce until he was in college. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Yes, I still married him, and thankfully his palate has grown considerably since those days, but when it comes to birthday dinners, he always asks for his childhood favorite: meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Now let me tell you, as a kid there were three foods that I wouldn’t eat, that would cause me to sit at the table until bedtime because there was no way I was eating them and they were- liver, stuffed green peppers and MEATLOAF!
Oh how I hated that heavy brick of meat. Why you would do that to ground meat when you could make meatballs in sauce, or even a good old hamburger, I could never understand; and while I have learned to make a meatloaf that my family loves, and even I can eat and enjoy, it would NEVER be on my list of birthday treats!
For me, every year on my birthday I asked my mom to make Chicken Cacciatore (Pollo alla Cacciatora) which simply means chicken cooked “hunter style.” It is a rustic braised chicken with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and a bit of wine. We always had it with spaghetti or linguine, a crispy green salad and some crusty bread and it is still one of the best meals I can imagine.
The nice thing about this meal is that it is so simple to put together that it’s great for any time of the year! It isn’t my birthday but it’s time for my favorite meal! I hope you enjoy it! (By the way, it freezes beautifully so I always make a double batch and freeze some for a dinner on a different day!)
1 3-4 lb.package of chicken pieces, dark, light or combination of both
Olive oil (several tablespoons)
2 large sweet onions such as Vidalia, cut in half and then thick slices
2 large green peppers, thick dice
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb. Crimini mushrooms (Baby Bellas) halved
2-3 Tb. of tomato paste
1/4 c. red wine
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 32 oz. can of diced tomatoes in sauce
1 Tb. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 c of grated Parmesan cheese
Heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them a few at a time (don’t crowd the pan) on both sides. As they brown, remove them to a platter. They won’t be cooked through, just nicely browned. (This tastes so good with the skin left on the chicken, but I usually remove the skins to reduce the fat and dust them in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder.)
Once the chicken pieces are browned drain most of the fat out of the pan and add the onion and peppers, saute them until they are soft and a little browned, add the garlic and cook another minute until fragrant and then remove the vegetables from the pot. Add another drizzle of olive oil and add the mushrooms. Cook them for 3-4 minutes until they start to turn golden brown and then remove them from the pot.
Add the tomato paste and allow it to cook for a minute or two, then deglaze the pan with the wine (or a splash of chicken stock or water) and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken and vegetables back to the pan and add the tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add the herbs. Place the cover of the pot on leaving it cracked open 1/2 inch or so and bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked, sprinkle in the cheese and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Very tasty! As a matter of fact it’s what’s for lunch for me today too!