August 19, 2022

A la Carte: Take Time to Make Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

Lee White

I have been to the beach exactly three times since the end of May, each time for less than an hour and a half.

One day it was blistering hot and humid. As much as I like summer, I really dislike humidity to the point that I can stay in my condo for two days just because I have central air conditioning.

I remember that my mother could stay in her apartment for the exact opposite reasoning: she hated winter. She tried to spend as much time in Florida or, later in life, Arizona, just to avoid cold weather.

My father never complained about weather: he would play golf as soon as Daylight Savings Time began, so he could close the store by 5 p.m. and get in 18 holes in before it went dark. On weekends he’d play 27 holes on both Saturday and Sunday.

I like it cold in the winter (with my thermostat at 60) and I turn the central air on in late May, turning it off in early October. (My condos have heat pumps and, although I cannot understand how it works, I just turn “cooling” to “heat” and vice-versa twice a year.)

I like to cook what I want whatever the weather. I just ordered packages of Wick Fowler 2-Alarm Chili Kit to make chili in August and today found a recipe for Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore.

I foraged into the freezer and hauled out two, unthawed freezer bags of chicken thighs. No reason to heat the oven; dinner tonight will be this new recipe.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

From Food Network Magazine, March, 2017

Yield: Serves 4 (and freezes beautifully)

¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms (about ¼ ounces)*
1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, mined
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for topping
14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, crushed (fire-roasted tomatoes are fine instead)
½ cup dry red wine
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup white rice

Soak the mushrooms in 2/3 cup hot water, 10 minutes. Strain through a paper towel-lined sieve, reserving the liquid. Rinse mushrooms and finely chop.

Toss chicken and carrots into the oil in a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker, season with salt and pepper. Top with mushrooms, garlic and basil sprigs, the pour in the tomatoes and their juices.

Whisk red wine with flour, tomato paste and reserved mushroom liquid in a bowl until smooth; add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low, 7 hours. 

About 10 minutes before chicken is done, cook rice as the label directs. Uncover the slow cooker and stir, breaking the chicken into chunks; let stand, uncovered, until sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Discard basil sprigs and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve chicken with rice and top with torn basil.

*If you have fresh mushrooms, any kind, use them instead.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.