Friday 20 August 2010

Rich Chicken and Bacon Cacciatore with Buttered Couscous

By no means an authentic version of the Italian classic (of which a million variations exist anyway), this impromptu version of pollo alla cacciatore or "Hunter's chicken" was something I quickly whipped up using leftover ingredients for a warming lunch earlier today.

Chopped bacon gives the rich tomato gravy an added intensity and smoky flavour that really elevates it in my opinion- feel free to go the more traditional route with wine, olives, mushrooms and peppers, or splash in some balsamic vinegar or Worcestershire sauce if desired.

Serve with lots of gravy alongside buttered couscous (recipe below-by far the fastest easiest thing to cook ever!), rice, rustic bread or pasta.

Rich Chicken and Bacon Cacciatore
Serves 2-3

Cut up about 250g cooking bacon (or use pancetta/any other fatty bacon you prefer) into small cubes. Dry fry without oil (both the bacon and chicken will be oily enough) over high heat in a large pot, stirring constantly until the fat starts to render and the cubes begin to go golden.

Turn the heat down to medium and add:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large cooking onion, cut into thin strips
A few bay leaves

Stir and allow to cook in the bacon fat (sinful I know!) until fragrant. Don't worry if at this point things stick to the pan- the addition of chopped tomatoes and water later will deglaze everything nicely.

Throw in 1 kg skin-on chicken thighs/ drumsticks and brown for about 5 mins on both sides, then add:

1 can (400ml) peeled plum tomatoes (bash them a bit to break up the whole pieces). If preferred, regular chopped tomatoes or sieved tomato passata works great too
1 tbsp tomato puree (I used double concentrated)
A bit of water
Good sprinkle of dried mixed herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sliced carrots (or whatever vegetables/beans you desire)

Cover and simmer on low heat, stirring occassionally for 15-20 mins or until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thickened to a deep rich red.

Serve hot with plenty of gravy alongside buttered couscous (below) or your carb of choice :)

Buttered Couscous with Herbs and Raisins
Serves 2-3

Stir together in a small pot:
About 150g dried couscous (roughly 50-80g per person)
Sprinkling of dried mixed herbs
1 bay leaf
Small handful of raisins
Salt and pepper

Pour in enough boiling water to cover the entire mixture (water level should be about 1 cm above the surface of the couscous), then cover and leave to stand for about 3 mins until all liquid is absorbed.

Add a knob of butter (which will melt in nicely as you stir) and fluff up the couscous grains with a fork. Done!

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