You won’t have to hunt high and low to find a delicious meal today: it’s simmering right there on your stove if you’re celebrating today’s food holiday. October 15 is National Chicken Cacciatore Day!
This classic Italian dish, meaning “to hunt” or “hunter style,” originated during the Renaissance period in central Italy, when only the wealthy could afford to cook with poultry. Cacciatore is traditionally made with braised chicken or rabbit, and usually includes tomatoes, onions, herbs, bell peppers, and wine (red if you’re in southern Italy, white if you hail from the north). Though we’re not the least bit Italian, chicken cacciatore has long been a family favorite. My parents, who are from Trenton, New Jersey (with a large Italian population), served it at their wedding; my mom’s recipe (taken from a now-defunct eatery called the Italian-American Sportsman’s Club) was a little less traditional since it contained no tomatoes but did have plenty of mushrooms (a popular addition when cooked in the autumn months), and was served with rice. It’s what I grew up with, and is delicious. But a few years ago I wanted to try a more authentic version, so I looked up Emeril Lagasse’s recipe, and have been hooked ever since. During my bachelor days, this is the dish I made to impress the ladies. In fact, the first time I cooked for Tara when visiting her in Ely, I made chicken cacciatore and served it by candlelight. There’s something about this meal that is sexy, hearty, and inviting.
I had every intention of making this version tonight, but came down with Tara’s cold and was in no mood to cook. So she gamely stepped up to the plate and asked if she could make dinner tonight, using a new (read: unproven) recipe. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. After all, Emeril’s recipe is really good. But I was too busy hacking up a lung to argue much, and I let her take the reins. It turned out delicious!