Dear readers: please be advised that some may find this post objectionable as it skirts the very edgy topic of guns. No, I’m not writing about the latest gun-related tragedy nor is it a rant on gun control. I’m just waxing nostalgic, because guns have not always been defined by mayhem and murder.
I grew up in the mid-part of the 20th century when guns were a big part of our existence. My dad was a marksman, an avid hunter, and was very proud of his gun collection and the many trophies that surrounded us. We belonged to a gun club where we regularly took turns at target practice and skeet shooting. He saw to it that I had my own .22 rifle and later a .410 shotgun; I learned how to care for them, to use them responsibly, and I became a pretty good shot. It never occurred to me that they could be used for violence against another person. At our house, guns were a form of recreation and largely related to delicious food—our freezer was well stocked with bear, deer, quail, pheasant and whatever else was fair game that year.
My mom was an excellent cook and prided herself in knowing how to best prepare whatever game came through the door. Those meals were highly anticipated events and deeply appreciated by everyone. As I think about it now, one of my particular favorites was her Pheasant Cacciatore.
Since pheasant can be quite lean, she would soak the pheasant ahead in an herb and red wine marinade to moisten, tenderize, and remove any potential gaminess. Sometimes she would start with a bit of bacon and then brown off the pheasant. She’d proceed to develop a hearty sauce with plenty of mushrooms, onions, carrot, tomatoes and capers—perhaps she’d throw in a little green pepper, celery, or olives. I suspect she’d combine the pheasant and all the trimmings in a heavy covered pot and gently braise it in a moderately slow oven.
The recipe has long since been lost, but that’s my best recollection. I recently reflected on those fabulous meals while preparing my easy mid-week Chicken Cacciatore.
It is made effortlessly with this Instant Pot treatment, yet it is a distant second to my mom’s ‘classic’ version. When nearly done, mine became a one-pot meal with the addition of a few handfuls of penne pasta! Still, with those flavors and few favorite pieces of plumb chicken, you really can’t go wrong.
Chicken Cacciatore, PC
Although this is presented in Instant Pot format, directions are included for standard stove top preparation, too. If using dry penne pasta on final, more liquid maybe required.
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 to 6 chicken thighs (bone-in)
1 onion, slice
1 carrot, chop
2 ribs celery, chop
1 pasilla pepper, seed and chop
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, mince
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ pound mushrooms, trim and slice
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken stock, water or other liquid
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons capers
2 cups approximate, dry penne pasta
Garnish: ½ cup parsley and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- If using an Instant Pot, set it medium Sauté, and heat 2 tbsp. oil. Pat the chicken dry, season with salt and pepper, and place in the hot pot. Brown 4-5 minutes per side and remove to a holding plate. Pour off excess fat.
- Add the remaining tablespoon oil and sauté the onion until soft. Add the carrot, celery, pepper, the fennel, rosemary, thyme and red pepper flakes, and cook 4-5 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper to the pot. Stir to loosen the fond in bottom of pan with the liquid released from the mushrooms. Increase to medium if necessary, cook 6 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in 1 cup chicken stock or water, the tomatoes and the capers.
- Return the chicken to the pot, nestle the pieces into the tomato mixture to barely cover them and bring to a simmer.
- Lock the lid, set pot to high Pressure for 12 minutes. (If using standard stovetop preparation, cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is tender.) When time is up, turn off the pot, disconnect, and let rest 10 minutes. Carefully release any remaining pressure and open.
- There should be enough liquid in the pot to also cook the penne pasta. Set the pot to medium Sauté and bring back to a simmer. Add 1 handful of pasta per serving (about 2 cups) and simmer for 10 minutes, until al dente. Adjust seasoning and dust with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serves 4