Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms & Black Olives (Tuscan Cacciatore) + Polenta with Fontina

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Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms & Black Olives (Tuscan Cacciatore) + Polenta with Fontina

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Rach calls this Tuscan-style chicken cacciatore «a cheap, cheerful and very forgiving dish.» She adds that you might be more familiar with American-style cacciatore, which generally has lots of peppers and onions. In Italy, though, it’s often made with mushrooms, which hunters gather while they are in the woods, hence the name of the dish (cacciatore is Italian for «hunter»). Rach likes to serve it with creamy polenta flavored with fontina and Tre Colore Salad. It’s a perfect combo. Kick off the meal with John’s Lambrusco Spritz.

Pro Tip from Rach: If you can find farina per polenta tradizionale (polenta with a little buckwheat mixed in), that’s a great choice, but regular slow-cook or instant polenta is fine, too.


    12 large boneless, skinless chicken thighsSalt and pepper2 ounces dried, sliced porcini mushrooms2 ½ quarts chicken broth or bone stock6 tablespoons olive oil1 pound mixed fresh mushrooms, such as cremini and hen of the woods or maitake, sliced2 bay leaves1 teaspoon juniper berries½ teaspoon ground cloves or 3 whole cloves3 sprigs of rosemary, about 2 tablespoons finely chopped2 large shallots or 1 onion, finely chopped4 large cloves garlic, sliced or chopped¾ cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely choppedA big splash of brandy 1 cup red wine2 cups tomato passata or puree1 package coarse polenta (500 grams)3 tablespoons butter12 ounces fontina Val d’Aosta, small dice or grated on large-tooth grater

Yield Preparation

Season the thighs with salt and pepper on both sides and preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.

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Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms & Black Olives (Tuscan Cacciatore) + Polenta with Fontina

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Place the dried mushrooms in small pot, cover with a couple cups of stock and warm to plump them and flavor the broth.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, to skillet and brown the chicken on both sides, 8 minutes or so, then remove to platter. Add more oil and all the fresh mushrooms and bay leaves, then add the juniper, cloves and rosemary. Once the mushrooms are brown, add the shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper and stir for a minute. Add the olives and deglaze the pan with brandy. Add the red wine, porcini mushrooms and porcini stock and passata and let simmer gently.
Slide the chicken back into the sauce right before serving.

For the polenta, bring the remaining stock to boil with a couple cups of water. Add polenta, reduce to low and simmer, stirring, for 30 to 35 minutes, adding up to 6 cups water as needed. Season with salt and add butter to finish. Stir in half to two-thirds of the fontina, then transfer to serving bowl and dot the top with remaining cheese.

Remove bay leaves and serve the chicken from the skillet and the polenta from serving dish. To plate, use shallow bowls and use the polenta to make a nest for the chicken.


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