"White" Chicken Cacciatore

My Mother and Father were intensely fond of this recipe. I was 6 years old, and we were going to Europe on the Cristoforo Colombo. Dad always wanted to do a “Grand Tour” of Europe, and in 1967 he was 56 and had multiple hotels in small towns in Arizona, was finally secure and wanted to do the big trip and visit his homeland and relatives in Crnagora (Montenegro).

On the way over, a Chicken Cacciatore was served and Dad really thought is was the cat’s pajamas. He had the habit of getting up at the crack of dawn, and he loved talking to cooks and kitchens, and had a way of just getting along with everyone, everywhere and could completely relate at a level that I just don’t have the talent for.

So he talked the chef out of the his personal Cacciatore Recipe, promising never to publish it and only use it in his restaurant in Miami, Arizona.

Which he did. Dad’s been gone since Halloween in 2000, the Cristoforo Colombo has been shredded into razor blades, file cabinets and other metal parts. I don’t know if the chef is still alive, and if he is, I’m sorry in advance, but this is such a good recipe, I want to share.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 Chicken Thighs
  • 2 cups of Crimini Mushrooms, chopped into wedges
  • At least one cup of chopped parsley
  • 1 cup of Marsala wine
  • 1 stick of butter (I’m not kidding!)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil, but you’ll probably use more.
  • spaghetti, the thick stuff works best
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of corn starch to deglaze.

Preparation

  • Melt the stick of butter in a pan until it begins to brown.  Salt and Pepper the chicken thighs and stick them in to slowly saute.  When they start to brown, add enough olive oil until it starts to get deep in the pan; about halfway up the meat.
  • Add the mushrooms and chopped parsley.
  • Bring down to a low simmer, then cover and let the thighs cook.
  • Boil water for spaghetti.
  • When the thighs are cooked, bring the heat up and add the marsala wine.  Flame it if you like.
  • Deglaze with 1/4 tsp of cornstarch.
  • Put the thighs on low and cook the Spaghetti
  • When everything’s done, serve the dish with the Spaghetti, thighs on top, then the butter/olive oil/marsala wine sauce with mushrooms and parsley on top.
  • Lotsa Parmesano Reggiano.
  • Serve with a good Tuscan White.

This is the way it was passed down. I’ve made this dish a ton of times, and through my experience, I prefer:

Variations on a theme.

  • White Vermouth for the Marsala wine. The White Vermouth has lotsa herbs and tastes great.
  • I like Shallots, but don’t overpower the light flavors.
  • I also like Cayenne with the salt on the thighs, but not too much.
  • Forest mushrooms for the Crimini Mushrooms.  If they’re small enough, don’t chop them.
  • Oregano vs Parsley — you decide.   Tarragon’s too strong in my opinion.
  • Pasta switch — go find some Strozzapreti
  • Or go with some Fava Beans or Risotto!

Have fun with the recipe.  It’s a lucky one for me, and it came from a lucky ship.  The Cristoforo Columbo was the sister ship to the Andrea Doria and served for decades on the Italian Line with little or no mishaps until airlines finally did them all in.  Dad wanted me to have made a “crossing” in the old-school way, and I hope that sharing this recipe will pay my gratitude forward.

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4 thoughts on “"White" Chicken Cacciatore

  1. Looks very tasty. Two questions,

    1) Do you ever turn the thighs or just cook them straight through?

    2) By de-glaze with corn starch, do you mean to thicken the sauce? Sub question, are you adding the corn starch dry or dissolved in a little liquid?

    Thanks for any clarification.

  2. I like the thighs browned all around, so I turn them. I think with the long cooking times it’s not a definite “must do”, however.

    As far as the corn starch, I do mean “thicken” in the sense that 1/4 cup of corn starch will thicken all that buttery, olive oily, winey goodness. If you look at the liquid when it’s cooking, it will have a certain sheen, or glaze on it. When you add the corn starch (disolved is fine), you’ll see this shininess taken off and a creamier look and texture to it. It’s amazing how little corn starch this takes, and it makes the sauce “stick” to stuff, like pasta, just that much better.

    Hope this “clarifies”….

  3. Not sure how to get this message to you.

    Danilo,

    I shouldn’t be giving career advice to someone I don’t know but here goes. You need to help the Moto Guzzi group at Piaggio in NY with their Guzzi website (yours is much better than theirs) and also start writing for the MGNOC paper (it has too little about the Guzzi bikes themselves and too much about group rides for me). I just wish you would get a hold of and ride a Stelvio as I already have a 2004 EV1100 with a Velorex sidecar and need some direction on whether it’s really worth $15,000 or should I just buy a Vee Strom for ½ the price.

    Ed Ohlin
    Robins, Iowa

    PS: Mark is a great guy as I used to live in Palos Verdes and would go and see him once a month. Did you ever meet B.J. out in Hesperia?

  4. Dano,

    Made your chicken cacciatore last night. Very, very good. I’ll be tweaking it a little, but it is a keeper. For starters I need a bigger pan.

    Now if only the rain would stop and I could go for a ride, hopefully Monday.

    Thanks,

    -AJ

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