Validating my cookbook collection, one damn recipe at at a time

16: Chicken Leg Cacciatore with Sweet Peppers, Fennel, and Green Olives — Urban Italian

16: Chicken Leg Cacciatore with Sweet Peppers, Fennel, and Green Olives — Urban Italian

You know that thing where you have a really good day… and you know that can only mean your luck is about to drop out from underneath you?

Hello. And welcome to this week’s installment of “I don’t know what goes through people’s heads sometimes, and that includes myself.”

The Assignment: Chicken Leg Cacciatore with Sweet Peppers, Fennel, and Green Olives from Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman

I realized after including this book in my initial 30-cookbook project that I technically HAD cooked from this book before — scroll to the bottom if you want that story — but it was too late to remove it. (OK, fine, I’m stubborn and 30 is a nice round number.)

I was looking for a meal to make and bring to a friend and her hubs, and since I’m a sucker for multitasking, I figured this would be a safe bet. Chicken cacciatore, one of those classic braised one-pot style dishes. Hearty, full of protein and veggies. And that kind of dish often tastes better the day after. Nice and easy. Perfect.

Except that Andrew Carmellini, like Tina Turner I discover, never ever does nothin’ nice and easy. He does it nice and rough. This man is a serious restaurateur and, though he defends putting a dish as simple as chicken cacciatore on a restaurant menu, he also does not do it straightforward.

Let me now say that I really like this cookbook, it’s a great resource, and full of recipes I’d like to make. But also, fuck this cheffy chicken cacciatore and fuck me for not reading the recipe carefully beforehand. “It’s a braised dish!” LOOK AGAIN, MOTHERFUCKER — this dude has created a cacciatore wherein you roast the chicken separately, then roast the bell peppers, and use them in a stew base cooked on the stove that you add the chicken to at the end!”

But that shouldn’t cause too many problems, right?

The Recipe (directly from the cookbook, which you should buy if you’re up for it):

Things to Note About the Recipe:

First off, most of what went wrong was not the recipe’s fault. Here’s a list of things that went awry:

  • Ralph’s was out of parsley. All of it. Fennel? Had fennel. No parsley.
  • LOL, I did not brine the chicken.
  • My broiler sucks ass. It’s too busy sucking ass to broil.
  • I wanted to use turkey sausage instead of pork, but they didn’t have the spicy stuff, FUCK IT, I’ll add chili flakes.
  • Me at the store, looking at the list I made: “Huh, I’m surprised this cacciatore doesn’t call for white wine. It usually needs white wine.” Me arriving home and checking the recipe: *puts coat back on and heads back out to pick up white wine*
  • What do you mean, I’m out of oregano? Because I refused to go back out a third time, I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, since it just needed to season the chicken. It was fine.
  • For whatever reason, I got it into my head that this recipe HAD to be calling for 6 whole chicken legs, as in thigh + leg. Why? I DON’T KNOW. But I do know that I got very frustrated at the lack of quartered chicken at Ralph’s, decided I’d get thighs and make do, and it wasn’t until things were taking WAY longer to cook than indicated that I realized, yeah, legs probably just meant legs. Genius.
  • Roasting bell peppers is easy. Peeling them is messy AF. (Roasting bell peppers is also easier if your broiler doesn’t suck ass.)
  • My future memoir may well be titled “Nothing Is On Fire, I Promise, I’m Just Cooking.” Also, my smoke detectors work very very well.

More useful notes based on the actual recipe and not just my frazzled brain:

  • I only needed 2 bell peppers rather than the 3 indicated.
  • The recipe doesn’t indicate whether to or not, but I included the sauce/juices in with the canned tomatoes, and I’m glad I did.
  • The recipe says to cook the stew in a large saucepan. I used my Dutch oven — you know, the kind of thing I thought I’d be making chicken cacciatore in — and it worked great. Very spacious.
  • I remember now why I thought it couldn’t be 6 small legs — the recipe calls for 6 legs but serves 4? HOW DOES THAT MATH??? 1.5 drumsticks per person is a weird-ass portion size. This is probably something that got skewed in translating down from a restaurant recipe. I stand by my previous skepticism.
  • ONE CLOVE OF FUCKING GARLIC????????????????????????????????

Let’s take a moment for this. Because this is the kind of direction I typically fully disregard. But because I had to play so fast and loose with so much else here, I figured FINE. FINE, I will add ONE CLOVE OF GARLIC to an entire pot of food. Will you even taste it? Is it even there? Is it sad and lonely without 5 more garlic cloves to keep it company? Who’s to say.

And as for the roasting of the chicken and adding it to the stew, it’s not the worst idea in the world. It spares one from having to render your chicken skin in the pot beforehand. If I’d had a functioning broiler (and had bought chicken legs instead of thighs), I might have achieved the mix of textures that Carmellini mentions in his book. Alas, ’twas not to be.

********

THE VERDICT

How did it taste?
It was good. It would have been better had I gotten the chicken right. But it’s still good. It’s also fussy as hell for a dish that all ends up thrown together.

Would I make this again?
Nope. At least not following the recipe.

Do I recommend this book?
I recommend that you check it out. It’s not the easiest book around, but I’m very into a lot of the recipes. Challenging but not intimidating.

What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book? 
The gnocchi. (Again.)

********

All things considered, I’m really glad I had that open bottle of wine. This damn recipe is DONE.

**Here’s the story: I’d made the gnocchi from the book, which turned out pretty good, but they stressed me out and were part of a Valentine’s Day dinner 3 or 4 years ago that I basically ruined myself — not because I fucked up the meal, but because I was so bent out of shape that it hadn’t come out exactly the way I wanted to that it was pretty hard to enjoy my presence or the meal. (Hi. I’m fun.) The meal was totally fine and actually really good. And then the next day, my fridge died, taking with it all the leftover gnocchi I’d frozen for later, which melted into one large glob, and then my brain did the same.



2 thoughts on “16: Chicken Leg Cacciatore with Sweet Peppers, Fennel, and Green Olives — Urban Italian”

  • I feel this so hard. I have gotten A LOT better about this over the past year, but I am infamous in my house for not reading through recipes all the way and then realizing I forgot to put something on the grocery list or I messed up a step and it’s crapshoot whether or not I’ve ruined the recipe. I have done this dozens of times. It feels like a literacy disorder at this point.

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