”Cacciatore” in Italian means hunter. ”Cacciatora” would be the hunter’s wife.
”Alla Cacciatora” therefore means ”prepared in the manner of the hunter’s wife”.
The most famous alla cacciatora dish is certainly the chicken: Pollo alla Cacciatora, various chicken pieces simmered in a tomato sauce, with onions, garlic, and often, peppers. There are many variations, however, as many as there used to be hunter’s wives, and some variations do not include tomatoes.
Why hunter’s wives needed to cook chicken – or beef – is a bit of a mystery. Maybe they would surprise their family with this on a slow hunting day… or maybe, it simply means that it is flavourful enough to suit the most robust appetite. I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that this steak was superb. It is easy enough to prepare on a weeknight, but I would not hesitate a second to entertain with this.
Steak with porcini mushrooms and marjoram
Ingredients: (this recipe makes enough sauce for 4 to 6 persons)
28 g (1 oz) porcini mushrooms
1 steak per person, use a cut you like
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in one cup hot water for 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, getting rid of excess moisture, and chop them finely. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and reserve.
2. In a cast iron skillet large enough to accommodate the steaks, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until they are golden, then discard. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes on each side, turning once, until they are done to your liking. Transfer to a plate, tent loosely with foil and reserve.
3. Lower the heat to medium-low. In the same skillet, add the chopped porcini mushrooms, the juniper berries, the marjoram, the tomato paste, the wine and a few tablespoons of the mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil and reduce for a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the skillet, until the sauce starts to thicken.
4. Turn the heat off. Add the butter and stir until dissolved. Check seasonings.
5. Return the steaks to the skillet, along with the accumulated juices, and turn them once or twice in the sauce, just to coat them. Alternatively, serve the steaks on warm plates and spoon the sauce over them.