Though people now take chicken for granted in both Italy and the United states, in the past chicken was a festive meat for Italians who didn’t live on farms, and even those who did only ate hens that sickened or were too old to lay eggs.
This variation on the classic and very simple pollo alla cacciatora is from Brianza, a town not far from Milano, and is drawn from Ottorina Bozzi’s Vecchia Brianza in Cucina. It will serve about 6.
– 1 large chicken, cut into pieces
– 1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste, diluted in a cup of water
– 1/4 cup (50 gr) unsweetened butter
– 1 ounce pancetta or seasoned lard, diced
– 1/2 ounce (10 g) dried porcini or more to taste, steeped for 20 minutes in hot water and then sliced, or 3/4 pound (300 g) fresh cultivated mushrooms, sliced
– A small onion, sliced
Flour the chicken pieces.
Sauté the sliced onion in the butter until it begins to brown, then add the lard or pancetta and the chicken pieces, and brown them over a brisk flame.
Stir in the water and tomato sauce (If you’re using dried mushrooms, you may want to use the water they steeped in, filtering it lest it contain sand), cover, and cook the chicken until it’s done (the meat will begin to pull back along the drumsticks), stirring the pieces around every now and again lest they stick down and burn.
10 minutes before the bird is done stir in the dried mushrooms. If, on the other hand, you’re using fresh mushrooms add them five minutes before the bird is done, and cook uncovered over a slightly brisker flame so the water they give off will evaporate.
Note: This will also work with rabbit.