In my sophomore year of college, one of my professors, knowing my love for food and lack of money, recommended me as a server at her friend’s dinner party. She was an older woman, a widow, who still enjoyed entertaining. Her life was exactly how I envisioned my retirement going (except from the widow part) with a nice house, dinner parties, cultured friends and enough money to hire a personal waitstaff. She asked that I wear black slacks and a white button down to appear professional. Unfortunately, I did not own black slacks and a button down, so imagine her disappointment when a taxi driver dropped off a young-looking blonde in black jeggings and a white collared shirt that didn’t fit (courtesy of my roommates).
Despite my semi-professional attire, I worked hard chopping, dicing, plating and serving a meal to eight of her closest friends. I forget most of the menu, but what I do remember is what was bubbling in the Crock pot and filling the house with aromas of an Italian cucina. I lifted the lid and a waft of steamy tomato and Italian spices warmed my senses. It was chicken cacciatore. A dish I had never heard of, and later found out could not spell. It was the only thing I ate all night. I praised her for the dish, and she modestly lamented that she had used frozen chicken and wished it had not ended up so stringy. But since it was the first time I had had chicken cacciatore, I thought it was great with pulled chicken rather than solid pieces. It made it more of a stew to blanket over rice or noodles.
Most recipes take hours to make, and there are several variations. So this recipe is a hybrid of all the recipes I found online, made all in one pot.
Alexia Detweiler is a freelance food writer based in Lancaster, PA. She recently married her high school sweetheart and is now learning the importance of a crock pot.
Serves 4 with leftovers
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
about 12 chicken tenders
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 32-ounce can peeled tomatoes with juice
1 16-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Lightly coat bottom of pot with olive oil over medium heat. Cook all of the chicken tenders until no longer pink but now brown.
Add onion, garlic, red pepper, celery and mushrooms. Season with salt and sweat the vegetables until they are softer.
Add peeled tomatoes and tomato sauce. Refill the tomato sauce can with water and add that to the pot.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Add dried parsley, basil and oregano and simmer for about ten minutes. If you want to make the broth thinner, add more water or stock.
Serve over rice or noodles — or all by itself!