I’ve never been a fan of traditional chicken alla cacciatore – something about chicken and tomatoes together doesn’t appeal to me – and I recently learned, neither was my maternal grandpa. Rocky came to the U.S. from Italy as a boy and sadly died before I came on the scene. But I’ve heard lots of stories about him from my mom, including that he liked to braise chicken in sherry, hold the tomatoes (which may disqualify it from being a cacciatore, closer to marsala actually, but hey that’s what he called it). He used canned mushrooms, which I’ve swapped for shitake. I also added a shallot and a couple more glugs of sherry, but I think Rocky would approve. —Midge
cloves garlic, thinly sliced
chicken, cut up (I always ask the butcher to cut the chicken breasts in half, otherwise choosing a breast seems like such a commitment)
Pat chicken dry with a paper towel to minimize splattering while browning. Season with salt to taste.
In a 12-inch skillet or Dutch oven with a cover (and roomy enough to accommodate all the chicken pieces in one layer), heat bacon fat on medium heat. Sauté the garlic chips until they start to color, remove with a slotted spoon/spatula and reserve.
Crank heat to medium-high. Working in batches, add chicken and sear until golden on all sides. Transfer to plate.
Pour off all but about one tbsp of fat from skillet and deglaze with sherry, scrapping the bottom of the pan.
Nestle chicken back into pan in one layer and sprinkle garlic chips on top. Bring sherry to low boil. Lower heat and simmer partially covered for about an hour to an hour and a half, until chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, warm olive oil over medium heat and sauté shallots and mushrooms with a pinch of salt, deglazing skillet if need be with a little of the cooking liquid from the chicken.
Transfer chicken to serving platter, scattering shallot-mushroom mixture on top (tent with foil to keep warm). Turn up heat under sherry liquid to reduce (if necessary) to about ¾ cup. Whisk in knob of butter until blended. Ladle sauce over chicken and top with parsley. Serve with soft polenta.
I’m a journalist who’s covered everything from illegal logging in Central America to merit pay for teachers, but these days I write mostly about travel. I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in some far-flung locales, where poking around markets and grocery stores is my favorite thing to do. Cooking, especially baking, is my way of winding down after a long day; there’s nothing like kneading bread dough to bring you back to earth.