Attentive readers will remember that I joined a cooking collective while I was in college. I did not attend Berkeley in the 1960s; rather, this was a group of friends, mostly women, who got together once or twice a week at an on-campus apartment to share food ’n laffs. They, lucky they, had been taught to cook by their mothers and/or “housekeepers.” I was eager to join them partly to learn one of life’s most basic self-preservation skills and partly to delay a return to my own off-campus apartment, where my mercurial, alcoholic, older (but not by much!) boyfriend dwelled.
This chicken dish is a very basic chicken cacciatore and one of the first things I helped make with them. This is super-simple and very economical, just the thing for the thrifty scholar trying to get by on a tight budget. With the cost of food rising ever higher, 2022 is the perfect time to revisit it.
A caveat: this recipe doesn’t come from my decades-old notes. Rather, I found it online (source now unknown) and memories of making this all came flooding back.
Feeds 4, maybe as few as 3 or up to 6 depending on what you serve with it.
8 chicken thighs on the bone, skin-on
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large head of garlic, chopped
1 20-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
A couple of sprigs of thyme, rosemary, maybe some chopped chives, something
Rice or pasta for serving, whatever’s on sale at that crappy rip-off supermarket that extorts the captive, car-free university community.
Pat the chicken thighs dry. Shake a lot of salt all over them and push the salt in with the palms of your hands. If you’re worried about your sodium level (and few 20-year-olds are) skip this. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pan with high sides over medium heat, so like a cast-iron skillet. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. You might have to do this in two batches because you don’t want to crowd them too much at this stage. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of fat in the pan.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently so it doesn’t char, until you can smell it, about a minute. Add the canned tomatoes, chicken stock and a large pinch of salt, and turn the heat up until the liquid comes to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon as they loosen up. Add the thyme or whatever you have and then arrange the chicken thighs skin-side-up in the sauce.
Partially cover the pan and turn down the heat so that the sauce is at a low simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Make the rice or the pasta around this point. Assign someone to go at a fast trot to the local liquor store because you have already run out of wine and this is a little concerning since it’s a Tuesday evening around 6 PM.
If you think the sauce is too thin, take out the chicken, put it on a clean plate and keep warm while you turn up the heat for a few minutes so that the sauce simmers. This will thicken it up, but, don’t let it cook down too much, because you want this to be liquid-y, not like a paste.
Return the chicken to the sauce and heat through before serving over the rice or the pasta.