I spent my youth in a huge house overlooking my hometown Perugia. My parents where civil servants and in their free time took care of the large garden, the olive trees and the pets.
To be precise, my father took care of breeding the pets and my mother fought against the proliferation of pets. We had a dog and a cat and the occasional gold-fish of course. Even a guinea pig once.
That was fine with my mum.
The dog and the cat were actually treated to pasta al ragù just like us. Even with a sprinkle of Parmesan on top.
The problem was, my father had pet chickens. They were allowed to do anything they wanted. He talked to them. They kept each other company. They – the chickens – ravaged the geraniums.
We never ate them. You don’t kill your pets do you? Occasionally he would deem one of the oldies suitable for a meal. They were so tough they were invariably only good for stock. For a roast or a stew like this one, she went to the market and bought a good free-ranger from her favorite butcher.
And planted new geraniums.
POLLO ALLA CACCIATORA IN BIANCO
- 1/2 free-ranging chicken cut into serving pieces
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- 1 tablespoon capers,
- 4 tablespoon spoon good quality olives, not pitted
- 1 sprig rosemary,
- a handful sage leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- zest of 1/4 lemon
- juice of 1/4 lemon
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
“In bianco” means with no tomato sauce. If you use chicken of excellent quality, there is no need of a thick sauce to mask all flavors.
If you have time, buy the chicken one day in advance and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a few sprigs of rosemary, a garlic clove and keep refrigerated. Take out of the fridge one hour before cooking.
Using a large thick bottom or non stick pan, sear chicken pieces in one tablespoon olive oil until golden on all sides. Good quality chicken should not produce any fat, but if it does drain it and wipe clean the pan before proceeding.
Turn heat to low, return chicken to the pan, add onion and stir frequently until caramelized. Add minced garlic cloves, capers, olives, rosemary and sage leaves.
Please don’t use the inexpensive, pizza style, bland black olives. They are generally unripe green olives that have been dyed with iron salts (ferrous gluconate) after artificial ripening.
Season with just a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.
When everything is fragrant add one cup of wine, cover and simmer very slowly until the chicken is tender. This might take 45 min to 1 and 1/2 hours depending on size and quality of the bird. Add some water if the sauce gets too dry while simmering.
When ready to serve add the lemon juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. Taste and add more lemon if desired as it brings out the flavor of all other ingredients.
This dish is lovely with a side of steamed greens dressed with a fruity extra virgin and a splash of lemon juice if you like. If you need your starch, accompany it with homemade potato puree or polenta. Italians would never serve it on pasta or rice.
Serves 2-4 depending on initial size of chicken.
In 2016, this recipe has been published by Julia Moskin in The New York Times and was listed among the most popular chicken recipes of the year.