I have a couple of goals for my kitchen-life as we head into one of my favorite times of the year.
- Get something in the slow cooker once a week.
- Broaden my freezer-meal repertoire.
So far, so good on both accounts.
My freezer meals are typically offerings from Trader Joes, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti pie, enchiladas, and chili. But after a weeknight success with chicken cacciatore, I’ve started thinking about throwing this into the depths of the freezer. It’s just sauce, veggies and chicken, and would flatten out just fine in a Ziploc bag. You could prep some pasta, rice, or polenta the night you wanted to cook it, and call it a complete meal.
I had an unfortunate experience with chicken cacciatore early on in my cooking career. Early on as in, I was 15 and cooking lots of “one pot meals” from my mom’s copies of Women’s Day and Family Circle. I remember a watery sauce, and a ton of soggy vegetables. I do not remember it well. When I saw this pop up on Food52, I had full confidence that if anything could turn my chicken cacciatore past on its head, this would be it. I was not wrong. This is a rich sauce, that is neither watery, nor laden with soggy veggies. Though it’s rich it’s bright, and it feels decadent, though it’s really a healthy option. Winning all around.
To make 4 servings* you will need:
- Olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large skillet with a lid
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded, cored, and sliced (ew, I never use green peppers, so I picked yellow here)
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored, and sliced
- 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces white or brown button mushrooms, sliced (I doubled this because, SHROOMS!)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- One 14- to 15-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 8 ounces chicken broth
- 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup torn fresh oregano leaves
- Grated parmesan for serving
- Cooked pasta or soft polenta for serving
- Coat the skillet with olive oil, up the sides of the pan about 1/4 inch, and heat. Dredge the chicken thighs in the seasoned flour and brown each side until golden. Remove the thighs and set aside.
- Drain the oil from the skillet and add the chopped bacon. Cook until almost crisp and then add the 2 peppers, onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Sauté for a few minutes.
- Stir in the dried basil, dried oregano, ground fennel, red pepper flakes, and salt. Continue to sauté until you can smell the garlic, another few minutes.
- Crush the plum tomatoes with your clean hands to break them up and add to the skillet along with the juices from the can. Add the tomato sauce and chicken broth.
- Return the chicken thighs to the skillet, skin side up, and bathe the sauce over the pieces. Bring everything up to a simmer and continue to simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.
- After the 30 to 40 minute simmer, stir in the fresh basil and oregano. Serve a chicken thigh and some of the sauce with peppers over spaghetti or some soft polenta. Shower a little Parmesan over the top and enjoy!
*If I was making this to freeze, I’d probably double it, and either freeze in two portions, or eat one that night, and freeze one for later.