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Hunter’s-Style Chicken

From the book The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 by and
Serves 4 to 6

Culinate recipe editor’s note: The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 is a compilation of recipes from the website of the same name, an online community of cooks and recipes overseen by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. This recipe is a “wildcard winner” from lastnightsdinner who lives in Brooklyn and describes herself as a “desk jockey by day, home cook and food blogger by night.”

This is a terrific dish, easy to adapt, which I did following suggestions from both the editors and the community users: I substituted 3 pounds of chicken thighs (skin and bone) for the whole chicken, and added half a cup of chopped, smoked bacon to the sautéing vegetables. The sauce was so fantastic, I immediately started contemplating other versions — such as losing the chicken and serving the sauce over pasta, or adding a hunk of beef for a killer pot roast.

Introduction

A riff on chicken cacciatore (brushing up on our culinary Italian, we learned that cacciatore means “hunter’s style”). A few details set this apart from other braised-chicken dishes you may know: the subtle perfume of the sweet vermouth (we recommend pouring yourself a nip while the chicken simmers away), the sauce-bolstering grated carrot, the one-two punch of dried porcini and fresh cremini.

As lastnightsdinner noted, “There’s a bit of prep involved at the start, breaking down the bird, browning it in batches, soaking the dried mushrooms and sautéing the fresh, and building layers of flavor in your pot, but once everything is in the oven with its parchment cap in place, you can kick back with a Negroni and enjoy the aromas wafting your way.” Serve with your favorite comfort carb — polenta, mashed potatoes, or couscous would all be happy landing pads for the rich, warming sauce and tender shreds of chicken.

Ingredients

~ One 3- to 3½-pound chicken, in pieces, or an equivalent amount of skin-on parts of your choice
~ Kosher or sea salt
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
~ Grapeseed oil
~ Extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
¼ cup sweet (Italian/red) vermouth
2 cups chopped white or yellow onions
1 small carrot, peeled and grated (about ½ cup)
3 cups chopped ripe plum tomatoes (or an equivalent amount of canned San Marzano plum tomatoes)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste, preferably double-concentrated
~ Pinch of red-pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs [I used a mixture of thyme, savory, and flat-leaf parsley]

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Arrange the chicken pieces on a platter and pat dry. Season well with salt and set aside.
  3. Cover the porcini with 1 cup boiling water and let steep until the mushrooms are soft, at least 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid and finely chop; strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter to remove any grit, and set aside.
  5. Heat a glug of grapeseed oil and a glug of olive oil over medium heat in a heavy ovenproof pot (such as a large enameled cast-iron Dutch oven) and brown the chicken in batches, starting skin side down, until the chicken is browned and crisp-skinned. Remove the chicken pieces to a plate or platter and set aside. Pour off all but a thin layer of the rendered fat from the pot.
  6. Add the cremini mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides. Add the chopped porcini and vermouth, and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
  7. Add the chopped onions to the pot, along with a sprinkle of salt and a little more oil if necessary, and cook until soft and translucent. Add the carrot and stir, then add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, red-pepper flakes, wine, and reserved mushroom liquid. Stir well, and bring to a simmer.
  8. Toss the chopped herbs with the mushrooms and add to the pot, stirring well. Nestle the chicken pieces on top — being sure to add any juices that have accumulated — cover the pot with a parchment lid (see Note, below), and transfer the pot to the oven.
  9. Cook for at least 1 hour, preferably more, until the chicken is falling-apart tender and the sauce is thick and reduced.

Notes

From lastnightsdinner: “The parchment lid is a tip I picked up from Thomas Keller and Michael Ruhlman (from Ad Hoc at Home and The Elements of Cooking). You make a parchment lid with a circle cut out in the center to cover your braise rather than the pot lid. I haven’t tried it with a stovetop braise, but it works like a dream in the oven, allowing the liquid to reduce nicely without steaming the chicken skin and losing all that nice browning you worked so hard for! It’s also really easy to peek in and see how your liquid is reducing, and add more water or whatever if needed. It’s a pretty neat trick, and I’ve been really happy with the results.”

This content is from the book The Food52 Cookbook, Volume 2 by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.

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