Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Tutor with Manu's Menu

Chicken Cacciatore
Pollo all Cacciatora (Chicken Cacciatora)


Each Tuesday I ask a friend to be my tutor for a day. I select one of their original recipes, I follow my friend's recipe instructions, I snap a multitude of pictures, I sample the results - and then I share everything I love about my friend's recipe. Learn More



Guess how I first met Manuela? It's an easy question and by now you're probably sick of hearing me say this. I discovered Manu's Menu through the Food Fetish Friday series. I know. Who haven't I discovered through this series?!

But what I love about Manuela's blog is the extensive mix of recipes that are often new to me - yet so appealing. For example, when I think of Italian food, I generally think of all the classics like lasagna, marinara, bolognese, alfredo and tiramisu - and the American-ized versions at that! Yet Manu's Menu has introduced me to a whole new world of authentic Italian dishes, flavors and combinations and dishes I've never even heard of. Yet I almost always want to want to try them. Like today's Pollo alla Cacciatora (chicken cacciatora) - simple, rustic and so different from what's served at most places.

Manuela is such a sweet and warm blogger and I loved getting to learn more about her as part of today's post. So please give a big welcome to Manuela - Welcome, Manuela! And thank you so much for being my tutor!



Manuela from Manu's Menu
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Manuela, the creator of Manu’s Menu, was born and brought up in Milan (Italy) by Sicilian parents. After moving to Australia, Manuela decided to create a blog to share her passion for food and to spread the concept of authentic Italian home cooking through step-by-step tutorials.

Featured Recipe: Pollo alla Cacciatora


More About Today's Tutor
  1. My blog is about authentic Italian food, but I also share international recipes and I have a soft spot for Indian food in particular. My husband is of Indian origin and I try to cook some Indian food too, so that our daughters can grow up appreciating both cuisines (and they do!).
     
  2. As Italian food is very much linked to the territory, I try and share regional recipes that may not be very well known outside of Italy. I always say that Italian cuisine is so much more than what you get at your local Italian restaurant and it is all about local ingredients and traditions. Some recipes have very ancient origins that can be traced back even to the Roman times! I guess that’s why Italians are very protective about their food and the way it is cooked around the world: it is a part of our history and culture.
     
  3. Since I started blogging, I discovered the amazing world of food photography. I still have a lot to learn, but I am enjoying the journey. I just wish I had a bit more time to set the table and style the food. The truth is, I often have my little ones running around asking me when they can finally eat!!! And that’s a lot of pressure, believe me!
     
  4. I love spicy food but it was hard to get used to it. I still remember the first Indian meal I had with my husband. I ordered tandoori chicken and found it out-of-this-world spicy! Now, I eat my food spicier than my husband’s.
     
  5. When I cook traditional recipes, I try to be as precise and authentic as I can. I never change things. If I make pesto, I make it the way it is meant to be, the way they have been making it in Genova for a couple of centuries. I do however like to experiment as well and I love to invent my own recipes and share them on my blog!



How to Make: Pollo alla Cacciatora
For a printable recipe and complete list of ingredients and steps, see the original recipe

Yellow Onion, Halved
Peel and dice 1 medium yellow onion.

Diced Yellow Onion
I used my chopper gadget for all of the chopping in this recipe.

Carrots and Celery
Peel/clean and finely dice 2 carrots and 3 celery stalks.

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley and Rosemary Sprigs
Chop a small handful of Italian flat-leaf parsley. You will also need two sprigs of rosemary. If you don't like chewing rosemary needles, you can optionally strip these needles off the rosemary twigs and chop the needles...

Cloves of Garlic with Garlic Press
Mince or press 1 clove of garlic.

Diced Fresh Tomatoes
Chop 400 grams (a little over 3/4 pound) of ripe tomatoes.

4 Pound Whole Chicken
Cut a 3-4 pound chicken into pieces (or ask your butcher to do it for you).

Chicken Cut into Pieces
I butchered my own chicken with a really sharp knife and it only took about 5 minutes.

Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
You will need a large, wide-bottomed pot with a fitting lid to prepare the chicken. I used my enameled cast iron dutch oven.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Dutch Oven
Pour enough extra virgin olive oil into the pot to cover the bottom (I used about 1/4 cup). Heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.

Chicken Pieces Added to Hot Oil
Add the chicken pieces (skin-side down to start) to the hot oil. Watch out for splashes!

Browned Pieces of Chicken, Turned
Let the chicken brown on one side for about 5 minutes, then use tongs to turn each piece and brown for another 2 minutes on the second side.

Diced Onion Added to Chicken Pieces
Add the diced onion to the chicken, stir through, and let cook for 2-3 minutes.

Diced Carrots, Celery, Garlic, Parsley and Rosemary Added to Chicken
Add the prepared carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, rosemary, salt and cracked black pepper. I used about 3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper and 2-3 teaspoons of kosher salt. Stir everything together and let cook 5 minutes until vegetables have softened.

1 Cup Red Wine
Add approximately 1 cup of red wine to the pot.

Red Wine Added to Chicken
Stir the red wine through and then increase the heat to medium high and reduce until most of the liquid is gone (about 6-8 minutes).

Diced Tomatoes Added to Chicken
Add the diced tomatoes and stir through. Cover the chicken with the fitting lid and let cook for 30 minutes over low heat.

Pitted Green Olives
After 30 minutes, add 10 large green pitted olives. I used olives without any stuffing, but use what you like.

Green Olives Added to Reduced Sauce
Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes or so after adding the olives. I simmered mine uncovered as the sauce was a bit too watery for my taste. Simmering uncovered will help thicken things.

Chicken Cacciatora Closeup
Serve immediately or cover and keep warm over very low heat until you're ready to serve. Manuela recommends serving with mashed potatoes, although I enjoyed the dish on its own.


Thoughts while scarfing...
  • When I think of Chicken Cacciatora, the first thing that comes to mind is Every Body Loves Raymond's Marie Barone and her secret cacciatora recipe (which she refuses to share and ultimately sabotages). In fact, I think of secret, family heirloom recipes in general - with secret techniques, secret ingredients and secret success. Yet what I discovered from Manuela is not so much of a secret recipe, but rather simple (and often forgotten) common sense. Simple ingredients, simple methods and a complete lack of fuss. This is the kind of delicious, rustic meal you can make without fear of failure.
     
  • When I've had chicken cacciatora at restaurants, the tomato flavor is very in-your-face bold. In fact, it often smothers the flavor of the chicken and competes with the rosemary. But Manuela's recipe doesn't do that. The tomato flavor is more delicate and melds with the other ingredient flavors to form a deliciously balanced sauce that's neither sharply tomatoey nor bland and weak. And it's perfect for the chicken...
     
  • I butchered my own chicken (and by butchered, I don't mean I did it properly!) but I recommend asking your butcher to do it for you. It's a lot easier than hacking away at bone with your own knife or meat clever. Although, if you own a meat clever (I don't) then this would be a great time to use it. I suppose you could instead buy drumsticks and chicken thighs for the recipe, but I really like all the variety in the meat, textures and flavors that results from starting with a whole bird.
     
  • Prep all of your ingredients before you start fussing with the chicken. Once the chicken is in the pan, things move pretty quickly. That's not the time to realize you still need to scrape your carrots, wash your celery and uncork a bottle of wine.

12 comments:

  1. Kayle (The Cooking Actress)June 25, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Ahhhh when there's authentic Italian food I am haaaappyyy

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  2. I knew you would be, Kayle :) So glad you enjoyed...

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  3. Cutting up a chicken is a great skill to learn. I don't do it much anymore, but once you learn, you'll never forget - and it'll only take a minute or two. Anyway, great dish, and one I haven't had in years. Terrific tutor this week - thanks so much.

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  4. I honestly think I did more butchering that cutting it properly. I managed to get the drumsticks and wings removed successfully and the breasts came off mostly intact. But there was some serious sawing the chopping at points :/ I'm so glad you enjoyed, John, and I was lucky to have such a great tutor...

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  5. THANK YOU so much for having me over Mark! It was a real honour to be your "tutor" this week!!! I love this recipe... just the way my mum would make it! You have done a terrific job with that chicken as it looks perfect and so YUMMY! :-)

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  6. I'm so pleased to have learned how to make this delicious chicken cacciatora, Manu! It was so tasty and I loved getting hands-on with a real authentic Italian recipe. Thanks for the kind words and I'm so glad you enjoyed...

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  7. Nice job, Mark! Manu is one of my favorite bloggers-shes's amazing! Try her panna cotta recipe, it's SO easy and so delicious!

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  8. kellie@foodtoglowJune 26, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    Really lovely recipe and profile of Manuela. And the first of your 'thoughts while scarfing' certainly strikes a chord with me: common sense is often one of the secret ingredients of heritage recipe. A sensibility based not on the current vogue of needing to impress with 'fancy' techniques and ingredient combinations. Funny about Marie of ELR show too. I do wonder if anything was ever in that covered pot!

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  9. kellie@foodtoglowJune 26, 2013 at 4:34 AM

    PS I don't often 'do meat' but I will bookmark this for making soon! I used to make something very similar but I like to try new ways, and this looks so good.

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  10. I'm so glad you enjoyed, Christina, and I'm very grateful to have had such a wonderful tutor! I will have to try her panna cotta - I've made a version once before and it was so good now you've given me a craving for it!

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  11. I do sometimes get caught up in the whole "current vogue" of things as you describe (hard as I might try not to) and it's always refreshing to make a recipe that just works because of the simplicity! I'm so pleased you enjoyed, Kellie, and I definitely recommend trying this chicken if you're going to do chicken...

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  12. I made Manu's Panna Cotta on my blog using powdered gelatin, so you can check it out at christinascucina.com as I've made the conversion for the US (since we don't get gelatin sheets here-at least I've never seen them.)

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