Last night, I don’t know why, I just had a hankering for chicken cacciatore, the tomato-ey chicken braise that was popular along with cheese fondue, celery boats with crème cheese, Jell-O ambrosia and pretty Braniff air stewardesses. (If that wasn’t a trip down memory lane, then google up the word stewardess. And once upon a time the pretty stewardesses brought you a hot meal on an airplane, and you got to eat it with a real knife and fork. Who knew that was the Golden Age of air travel??)
I decided to do a little searching and see what sort of history I could dig up on chicken cacciatore. Most recipes are kind enough to explain that cacciatore means hunter in Italian, but that’s about the only thing they agree on. With mushrooms, without mushrooms, red wine or white wine or no wine, peppers show up in most recipes, as does oregano. A nice woman named Sara has a YouTube video on how to make the dish, which is all well and good, but the best part is the comments where everyone has ‘their’ own correct way of making the dish. Which come to think of it, is actually a very Italian point of view. However the guy that insists that you must never, ever brown meat in olive oil, well, that’s just wrong. Dictionary reference.com says that its chicken cooked in the Italian way. Good to know! Narrows down just about nothing. It was actually pretty entertaining to see all these references spout off about ‘authentic’ recipes, which just goes to show you that some dishes belong in the general public domain, and that’s ok.
My take on the origin of the dish is that it probably was made with rabbit, hare, pheasant or any other unlucky game animal, unless the hunter got confused and started shooting the animals in his courtyard. Mushrooms would have been added in the fall, which also coincides with hunting season. Peppers probably got added to the recipe when the game turned into skinned chicken breasts.
If it’s suddenly chic, or PC to know the source of your food, shouldn’t you be curious about the origin of the recipes as well?
And just for the record, I’ll probably make this again the next time I have a craving for celery sticks and cream cheese. It’s good, but there are better things to be done with chicken legs.
My ‘authentic’ recipe is available upon request. OK, now who is thinking about the joys of Jell-O ambrosia??