Ok, I am calling this dish Italian Chicken Stew. It really is a version of Chicken Cacciatore but I have a recipe for that already on the website. This one does differ in many ways, but I know that people cook the other version so I need to differentiate.

Truth be told, I prefer this Chicken Stew version. It really does pay to cook meat on the bone, the depth of flavour is so much more concentrated and the meat is so meltingly tender you could eat it with a spoon. In this version I also used leeks instead of onion which was an absolute masterstroke. The thin, softened strands helped to thicken and bind the sauce so that every mouthful was a tangled web of rich, winey, herby flavour. I added pancetta for smokiness, anchovies for seasoning (don’t fret, you won’t taste them) and red wine instead of white for depth. I used the same zesty garnish but omitted the garlic as experience tells me it doesn’t need it.

That is what this dish has revealed to me (apart from the pure joy of eating it). The knowledge I have gained in the 6 long years since I posted the first version and the 500+ recipes I have posted in between.

What a ride. What a privilege.

Prep time: 20 Minutes

Marinating time: Minimum 1 hour, the longer the better

Cooking time: 2 Hours (6 hours in low slow cooker, use same browning method to begin)

$$ Medium Budget

Serves 4

For the Chicken Stew:

Extra virgin olive oil for frying and drizzling

4 free range chicken thigh cutlets, skin on & bone in

4 free range chicken drum sticks

2 tbs of plain flour

2 leeks, ends removed, halved, washed and sliced

4 garlic cloves, 2 minced and two sliced

3 anchovy fillets, finely sliced

3 sprigs of rosemary, 8 sprigs of thyme and 3 fresh bay leaves, tied in a bundle

8 slices of thin pancetta, roughly diced

2 cups of good, dry red wine

1 tin of diced tomatoes

1 cup of water

1 cup of kalamata olives (pitted if you prefer about 6 per person)

1 tbs of tomato paste

1 heaped tsp of sugar

Sea salt and cracked pepper

1 cup of Italian Parsley, finely chopped

Rind of 1 small lemon, peeled, finely sliced and then finely diced (once in thin strips, chop together with the parsley)

Serve with steamed greens of your choice

For the Parmesan Mash:

4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (Cream delight are great for mashing)

30gm of butter

1/2 cup of milk

2 heaped tbs of grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt and white pepper (black pepper is fine too, white has a much sweeter flavour)

To marinate the chicken, pour the wine into a shallow dish and add the crushed garlic and the bundle of herbs. Nestle the chicken pieces down in the wine mixture, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, turning the pieces after half an hour. If you have time, marinate for longer as the flavour of the wine in the chicken will definitely intensify.

Once marinated, remove the chicken pieces from dish (save the marinade) and pat dry with paper towel. Place the plain flour on a plate and season generously with salt and pepper before dusting the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off any excess.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Heat a large, heavy based, oven proof casserole and add a good drizzle of oil. Fry the chicken on all sides until golden and crispy, you may need to do this in batches.

Remove the chicken and set aside and in the same pan, fry the pancetta until starting to brown and then add the leeks and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes, until the leeks are starting to soften, then add the anchovies and chilli flakes before pouring in the marinade, herb bundle and all. Allow the wine to reduce for a minute or so and then add the tomatoes, water, olives, tomato paste and sugar. Mix well to combine and the return the chicken pieces to the pan, using a spoon to immerse them in and spoon over the sauce. Bring to a simmer, cover with a sheet of baking paper, nestled right down so steam cannot escape and cover with a tight fitting lid or foil. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and rest for a few minutes before serving.

About half an hour away of the chicken stew being ready, place the potatoes in a pot of salted water and bring to the boil.  Boil for approximately 20 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife.  Drain the water and mash well until lump free and place back on the stove on a low heat.  Add the butter, milk and parmesan and season with salt and pepper.  Whip until smooth over the heat.  

To serve the chicken stew, divide the mashed potato between four serving plates. Make a little well in the centre of the potato with the back of your spoon and rest a thigh cutlet and leg in the well before spooning over the sauce, dishing out an even amount of olives. Drizzle over a good lug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle over the parsley and lemon rind garnish. Serve immediately with steamed greens.