Autumn Colours, Pumpkins, Slow Cooked Meals - three things that I love about Fall. As it gets cooler outside I tend to cook warmer, heartier meals. Turning on the oven when it's cold outside does more than take the chill out of the air in our kitchen, it warms us inside and out! This Sunday I did my big cooking spree and made a pot of curried split pea soup, roasted zucchini and squash and I tossed together a chicken and pumpkin cacciatore. I added in carrots and pumpkin puree to bulk up the sauce and replace the mushrooms that this hunter's sauce traditionally contains. Using the pumpkin puree was not just my October recipe trick, it was a good treat that served a wonderful purpose; the pumpkin thickened the tomato sauce perfectly. My one gripe about traditional cacciatore sauces is that the sauce is thin but the ingredients are chunky like in a stew. Sometimes the sauce is thickened with a roux but that makes it heavy and gummy. The pumpkin solved the problem and added another vegetable to the mix w/no added fat. The hardest part about making this dish? The wait. You clean and chop your veggies, toss them into the slow cooker or Dutch Oven Pot and let it cook for a few hours.
This dish was slow cooked in a Dutch Oven, at a higher temperature in the oven; it will work well in a crock pot too - reduce the water by half if cooking in the crock pot. Left overs freeze beautifully for up to 4 months. I even turned last nights cacciatore sauce into tonight's pizza topping! Schmered the sauce, sans carrots onto grilled whole wheat pizza dough then topped it with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and shredded Mozzarella Cheese.
Chicken and Pumpkin Cacciatore Ingredients:
- 2 Tablespoons Olive or Vegetable Oil
- 2 Medium/Large Onions - Cut in half and half-moon slices
- 4 Medium Carrots - Cut into Large Oblique Chunks
- 2 Large Celery Ribs - Large Dice
- 2 Red and 2 Green Bell Peppers - Cut into 1/2-Inch thick slices
- 5 or 6 Garlic Cloves - Roughly Chopped
- 6 to 8 Chicken Thighs, or a mixture of Thighs, Legs and Breast with all Skin Removed
- 1 16-ounce Can No-Salt Tomato Sauce or Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 Cup Dry Hearty Red Wine (such as Chianti or Merlot)
- 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree
- 1 Cup Water
- 1/3 Cup Dry Italian Seasonings (oregano/thyme/parsley/basil/dried garlic & onion powder or flakes)
- 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 2 or 3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar - for optional seasoning after the dish is done
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, if using a 5 to 7 quart Dutch Oven or a heavy, oven-safe heavy bottomed pot with oven-safe tight fitting lid. Otherwise, pull out your large crock pot or electric slow cooker. Pour two tablespoons of oil into the bottom of the Dutch oven or slow cooker. Set aside.
- Wash, peel and chop all the vegetables, onions through the garlic, and place them into your cooking vessel.
- Remove the skin from the chicken parts and discard the skin. Boneless and skinless chicken parts can be used too, however, chicken on the bone has more flavor. Removing the skin will ensure a lower-fat dish. Add the chicken to the vegetables and submerge half-way under the vegetables.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, red wine, pumpkin puree, Italian seasonings, water and water, combining thoroughly. Pour this mixture over the chicken and vegetables. Season with the salt and pepper. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place in the oven; cook for 2 & 1/2 hours, remove lid, stir carefully and cook for another half hour with the lid removed, or until the liquid has reduced and thickened. If using a crock pot, and depending on when you want to finish, place the lid on the crock and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
- Cool slightly before serving, removing the chicken bones and shredding the cooked chicken. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding in more bit salt, pepper, red pepper flakes or even a few dashes of Balsamic Vinegar to brighten and enhance the flavors.
- Serve the cacciatore hot over a hearty or wide noodle pasta such as pappardelle, fussilli or orecchiette. Serves 4 to 6. Cacciatore will freeze well for up to 4 months.