Do you ever start cooking dinner only to have someone from the peanut gallery whine about not wanting to eat (fill in the blank) and being faced with one of two choices: scrap everything so people will actually eat what you’ve spent time and effort on or just continue with your original plan? Initially, this recipe was supposed to be a brined roast chicken with seasonal vegetables. Apparently I was the only one who wanted roast chicken for dinner.
After nearly saying “screw it, I’ll eat a chicken quesadilla for dinner,” I remembered that I had been holding onto a bottle of wine to enjoy alongside some sort of Italian dinner. Simply put, dinner became all about the wine and bringing out the absolute best characteristics within the wine—it was a $60 bottle of wine from local favorite, Chateau Margene, that I wasn’t about to serve alongside plain old spaghetti and meatballs. It needed something with a little more oomph such as my chicken cacciatore recipe. This isn’t your traditional chicken cacciatore recipe—it takes maybe an hour to cook but the results are fantastic.
Back to the wine: Super Tuscans are no doubt my favorite wines to pair with Italian dishes. They can handle the acidity from tomatoes, and depending upon the blend can really highlight some of the earthier ingredients within the recipe itself. Sangiovese is a stand alone wine that will be enjoyable along any tomato-based dish, but for this particular dish, I’d go out on a limb and say it needs a little help when it comes to all of the flavors in this chicken cacciatore. Look for a mostly Sangiovese blend, with a bit of merlot and cabernet franc like the bottle I opened. Since you’ll also be adding some of the wine to the sauce, choose a moderately priced wine made with precision and care aka not a $8 bottle you picked up at the grocery store—unless it’s the best damn wine you’ve ever tasted. If you have a quality wine shop in your town, simply ask for a super tuscan blend. If you don’t, I’ve included some recommended wines below the recipe.
Fortunately, I was able to use my brined chicken and I don’t think I’ll ever not brine the chicken prior to making this recipe ever again. THE WHITE MEAT WAS NOT ONLY TENDER, IT HAD FLAVOR!! Recently I’ve been all about brining chicken, it’s a great way to keep the chicken moist and flavorful.
For the brine:
- 1 chicken, approximately 6 pounds, giblets and neck removed
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- 4 cups boiling water
- 6 cups cold water
Using a brining bag, add the salt and boiling water. Stir to help the salt dissolve prior to adding the chicken and the additional cold water. Place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
For the Chicken cacciatore:
- 1 tablespoon high quality olive oil
- 4 thick cut bacon slices, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
- salt and freshly ground pepper, plus more for taste
- 1 onion, diced
- 10 ounces sliced white mushrooms
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 fresh oregano sprigs
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1/2 cup quality red wine (tip: use the wine you plan to drink with dinner)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes, such as Hungarian Hearts
In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook, periodically stirring until the bacon is brown and crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up some of that grease.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the olive oil and bacon grease mixture in the sauté pan. Brown it on all sides and transfer to another plate. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
In a stock pot or Dutch oven, add the chicken stock, wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, chicken, oregano, thyme and onions. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through and falling off the bone.
Suggested Wine Pairings
Fattoria del Cerro Manero 2014 is a Sangiovese and Merlot blend for under $10. It’s on the lighter side of the spectrum and would also taste great alongside grilled red meats.
Il Palagio Message in a Bottle 2013 is a very powerful blend made of Sangiovese, Merlot and Syrah. It’s got a bit of structure, cedar, leather and black fruit and under $20.