Roman-Style Chicken Cacciatore Recipe and Chablis Fourchame Jean Durup 2018
Gentle reader, do you ever consider the best way to pair food and wine? For me, without a doubt, I get the best pairings when I am in a good restaurant where the sommelier has tried all the dishes in advance and has personally selected the wine. A certain kind of magic happens at that point and the sum becomes greater than the parts. As you get to know your own wines well that kind of magic can also happen in the comfort of your own home. Then again, if you have a new bottle of wine to try, even if you taste it before you make a recipe, you may well find the pairing isn’t quite what you’d hoped it would be – especially if you are learning. This Chablis and chicken pairing is a good example of a ‘could do better’ pairing in my view. And not through any fault of the food or wine! Chicken Cacciatore is best known as a rich chicken dish with tomatoes, onions and wine – hunter’s chicken. But, from the north of Italy comes a Roman-style Chicken or Guinea Fowl Cacciatore which is flavoured with rosemary, garlic, white wine and anchovies.
It’s thought to be an ancient recipe that pre-dates tomatoes being imported to the Western World. The use of anchovies is a substitute for Garum, a fermented fish sauce that was popular in Phoenicia, ancient Greece, Rome, Carthage and Byzantium. You can still buy it from specialist food companies – but since I had none in my larder, I opted for a jar of anchovies in oil instead. I thought it might make a great pairing with a rather special bottle of Chablis that I was sent to try. Chablis 1ière Cru Fourchame from Jean Durup, Pèreet Fils is described on the bottle as being recommended to serve with fruits de mer, fish, or white meats. From the north of Burgundy, the appellation Chablis stretches over more than 140 hectares of the Durup vineyard, on the best slopes surrounding the valley of the Serein. We opened the bottle about half an hour before we were ready to eat and tried a little. A fresh light mouthful, it has a good minerality and light fruit notes. It is vinified in glass or stainless steel tanks and is not oaked. And, it is light and fragrant. For me, not really the best pairing with our Chicken Cacciatore, even though the recipe is a lighter version than the better-known tomato-based Cacciatore.
Here’s the chicken cacciatore recipe I used, based on one from Leite’s Culinaria. I’ve reduced the amount of white wine vinegar in the recipe and I make the same dish with guinea fowl, as they suggest. I also like the addition of some black olives. For the first version, with chicken, I was using boneless chicken breasts portioned into 2 pieces per breast but with the skin left on and chicken wings which I’d intended to use for stock but added to the pan to provide some of the richness and depth of flavour you get from brown meat on the bone. The chicken breasts were particularly fine, from Lake District Farmers, who aim to provide top quality meat products from family-run fell farms in the Lake District. They work with over 50 Cumbrian farms and everything I’ve tried from them has been excellent quality. I’d hesitate to use supermarket chicken breasts here because they are prone to drying out in the pan and for me, at least, lack real flavour. When I made the same dish a few weeks later but with guinea fowl, I added a handful of black olives which I personally loved. The main point of this recipe though is a slight sweet-sour note from white wine vinegar and an umami kick from the anchovies. That was just too much for our lovely wine in my view and we saved a good part of the bottle to enjoy with our cheeses later on that evening. If I am lucky enough to acquire another bottle of the Chablis 1ière Cru Fourchame I’ll be trying a fish pairing. Dover sole perhaps or even a grilled lobster. And, for a chardonnay to enjoy with the Roman style chicken cacciatore, I’ll be picking one that is lightly oaked.
Meanwhile, on to the recipe itself.
- For two people, you will need a total of 6 pieces of chicken. If you joint your own bird, you can use the thigh, drumstick and wing (which is what I did for the guinea fowl version of the dish. If you are buying chicken pieces, I would recommend having at least some chicken on the bone. So, if you have boneless chicken breasts then use a couple of chicken wings as I’ve done in the first version of the dish. Your chicken pieces should be left skin on.
- Good quality olive oil works well for this dish.
- You’ll need a clove or two of fresh garlic and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary.
- 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar and about 75 ml of white wine.
- 2-3 preserved anchovy fillets. I’ve used the type that is preserved in oil. If you use salted anchovies make sure you rinse them well
- 15-20 black olives (optional).
- You’ll also need a large frying pan with a lid
I didn’t use the very lovely Chablis 1ière Cru Fourchame to cook with. But, I did use a chardonnay grape wine, just something that was left-over from a couple of days earlier. And, then I had all the Chablis to drink – enough to pair at the end of the day with some cheeses – which actually worked rather better
If you’d like to try for yourself here’s the recipe
Chicken or Guinea Fowl Cacciatore with white wine and anchovies and no tomatoes
- 6 pieces chicken if you are using chicken breast, cut into two portions
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 2-3 preserved anchovies
- 15-20 black olives optional
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Season the chicken portions with salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan
Add the rosemary and garlic and fry over a medium heat for a few minutes till the garlic starts to soften and the aromatics from the rosemary are released.
Remove them from the pan
Put each of the chicken pieces in the pan and cook on each side for a few minutes till the skin is golden brown and the meat is sealed
Pour in the vinegar and wine and bring to the boil. Allow the liquid to reduce for a few minutes
Add the anchovies to the pan along with the garlic and rosemary
Put the lid on the pan and reduce the heat. Cook for between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on the cuts of chicken used. If you have chicken breast pieces off the bone then a maximum of 45 minutes or the chicken will be over dry.
Adjust the seasoning and serve
A mixture of chicken breast off the bone and wings will work well or alternatively any chicken portions on the bone.
This dish also works very well with game birds. A guinea fowl or pheasant, carefully jointed into eight is the perfect size for two people, while a solo diner might enjoy making the same recipe with a partridge jointed into 2 halves.
And, the Chablis pairs beautifully with cheese. I happened to have some Golden Cross goats cheese and Manchego Curado from Paxton and Whitfield, both of which worked really well with the wine.
This wine comes from a member of the Vignobles & Signature, a club which brings together 18 winegrowing families in France with shared values, each with a history of winemaking going back several generations. It comprises a total of 1,550 hectares of vines, 11,500,000 bottles, 375 employees and a turnover of 84,000,000 euros, with members belonging to the leading family producers from France’s chief appellation areas. I’ve been trying three of their wines over the last few weeks and, as I’ve found when I’ve been lucky enough to go to one of their London tasting events, there’s a consistency of quality across everything they offer. Check their website for more about Vignobles & Signature wines.
Lake District Farmers meat can be purchased from their website
Looking for something a bit different? Why not try my recipe for healthy lemon chicken