The chicken tastes even better if this dish is made a day ahead. Sliced cooked sausage can be added. (Maren Caruso)
You may know this dish by other names, like chicken cacciatore or “hunter-style” chicken. This was my dad’s favorite dish, and I loved cooking it for him. No matter what the season, he loved chicken in a rustic tomato sauce with lots of peppers. I like to serve this in the cooler months since it is a substantial dish.
There are many versions of this classic Southern Italian dish. This one is particularly zesty with the addition of mushrooms, sweet peppers and pitted olives. I like to use chicken breasts but you can also use a whole cut-up chicken or thighs, if you prefer. The chicken holds up and tastes even better if the dish is made a day ahead.
You can alter the recipe with these suggestions:
■Omit 2 chicken breasts and add 1 pound sliced cooked sausage.
■Use white wine instead of red for a lighter flavor.
■Use boneless chicken breasts cut into 2-inch pieces and cook for about 10 minutes in step 4 instead of 20 minutes.
If you can’t find fresh sweet peppers, use bottled, rinsed peppers and add them when you add the marinara sauce. This make-ahead dish just needs to be gently reheated before serving. Serve with a simple pasta tossed with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
To drink? Sangiovese absolutely sings with tomatoes, peppers and Italian herbs. An Italian Barbera will also make a delightful match with its bright acidity and lively fruit.
Braised Chicken with Tomatoes, Peppers and Red Wine
6 chicken breasts halves, about ½ pound each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 ½ pounds sliced cremini mushrooms
1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups dry red wine
1 bottle or can (24 ounce) favorite marinara sauce
2 cans (14 ½ ounce) fire roasted diced tomatoes with juice, pureed
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried leaf basil
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup pitted black olives, kalamata, green olives or your choice, optional
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan large enough to fit the chicken. Sauté the chicken, about 3 to 4 minutes turning to evenly brown. (You may have to do this in batches) Remove to a side bowl and cover.
Add the remaining oil and sauté the onions, about 5 minutes or until softened and lightly browned. Add the mushrooms and peppers and sauté another 3-4 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
Pour the red wine into pan. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up the browned bits. Add marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened and no wine taste remains.
Add the reserved chicken and braise on medium heat for about 20 more minutes or until the chicken has no pinkness and is heated through. Add the balsamic vinegar and olives, if desired, and cook another 3 minutes or until the olives are heated through. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve on a platter and garnish with parsley.
Advance preparation: May be prepared up to 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before reheating and gently reheat until the chicken is heated through and the sauce is bubbling. Serves 6.
Per serving: 586 calories; 27 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 41 percent calories from fat); 26 g carbohydrates; 143 mg cholesterol; 1,160 mg sodium; 59 g protein; 4 g fiber.
Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks, and a James Beard award-winning radio show host. seriouslysimple.com.