Cacciatore is loosely translated as “hunter’s stew”, and is commonly made with chicken, although rabbit is often prepared in this way as well. In Italy, where the dish originated, cacciatore is made differently depending on the region. Some recipes call for peppers, some call for mushroom, some call for white wine. Almost all call for a base of onion, garlic, and tomato. In this version, I included a mild Italian sausage, and accentuated the fennel flavour by using fennel pollen, the extremely flavourful dried spice hand collected from the wild fennel plant. I highly recommend you sourcing fennel pollen; its flavour is unreal and packs a super punch in a small amount. However, if you can’t get your hands on fennel pollen, you can use ground fennel seed and double the volume.
Note: The recipe calls for a whole rabbit cut into six pieces. Ask your butcher to do this for you, as the job is best accomplished with a large cleaver.
Serves 4 to 6
3 sweet bell peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole rabbit, cut into six pieces (legs, saddle, and shoulder)
3 mild Italian sausage
1 sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced
1 cup red wine
½ tsp fennel pollen
2 tbsp capers
1 tin (400 gr) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
to taste salt and pepper
- Roast the peppers to peel them. You can do this in a variety of ways. If you have a gas stove, you can roast the peppers directly over an open flame until they are black and charred. Alternatively, you can roast them on a tray in a hot oven, turning until all the sides are well cooked. When charred, place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow the peppers to steam. Let sit for an hour or until they are cool enough to handle. Rub the skin off the peppers (do not run them under water), and carefully pull the core and the seeds out with the stem. Remove as much of the seeds as possible, then slice the roasted peppers into 1-inch strips.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a large skillet over a medium heat, heat the olive oil. Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper, then place the pieces one by one in the pan to brown. Do not overcrowd the pan as that could cause the meat to steam. Turn the meat over to brown on both sides before removing and setting aside. Continue until all the rabbit is golden, then brown the sausages in the same pan. Once browned, set the sausage aside as well.
- Add the onions, garlic, and carrots to the same pan and cook for ten minutes, or until softened. Deglaze with the red wine and reduce by half. Add the fennel pollen, roasted peppers, capers, and chopped tomatoes, and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rabbit and sausage back to the pan to snuggle into the vegetables, then add just enough water to cover the meat. Cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven to cook for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the rabbit meat is starting to fall away from the bone.
- Remove from oven and taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Serve with soft polenta or pasta on the side.
Before Drake proclaimed that we all live in The Six, Toronto’s original alias was Hogtown. A number versus a pig; The Big Apple we ain’t. But we sure used to slaughter a lot of pigs.
Sanagan’s currently carries pork from three Southern Ontario family farms. Like all Sanagan’s suppliers, our pork farmers value small scale, humane animal husbandry. The pigs are processed at low volume facilities located near the farms. By contrast the abattoirs that inspired the name Hogtown were anything but small scale. So, while Sanagan’s embraces a different approach to the life and death of the pig, we’re proud to be selling great pork in Hogtown and thought you might be interested to know how the name came to be.
Sanagan’s heritage pork raised on Murray’s Farm
If the name Hogtown can be attributed to one person, it would be William Davies whose ascent from a single St. Lawrence Market stall in the 1850’s to the establishment of Canada Packers (now Maple Leaf Foods) firmly implanted the pig’s footprint on Toronto’s identity. Along the way the William Davies Corporation became the largest supplier of bacon to England, shipping out of North America’s second largest pork processing plant, located in the Don Valley at Front Street. Davies is credited with popularizing peameal bacon, making him the Godfather of Toronto’s signature sandwich. Eventually the animal world tired of Mr. Davies attentions. He died as a result of injuries suffered after being butted by a goat.
It’s not difficult to witness a herd mentality at Keele and St. Clair as shoppers descend upon Home Depot and Canadian Tire, but this area used to support actual herds of cattle, pork, and horses. The Stockyards, a 300-acre network of rail sidings, loading platforms, stock pens, and processors, including Maple Leaf and Swifts, was once North America’s largest livestock facility. The fortunes of the Stockyards rose and fell with the railroad. By the time trucking eclipsed rail as the most efficient form of livestock transport, and combined with the pressures of Toronto’s ravenous real estate market, the demise of the Stockyards was inevitable. The majority of processors moved from Toronto to Cookstown in 1994 but not after doing its share to consolidate our nickname as Hogtown.
Up until its closure in 2014, for many Torontonians the name Hogtown was embodied by Quality Meat Packers on Tecumseth Street near Fort York. Even if you never saw the abattoir there’s a good chance you saw the trucks, loaded with pigs, driving towards it. I remember working at Fort York in my early 20’s. You either got the industrial beer smell of the Molson’s brewery or the raunchy not quite bacon smell of Quality Meats. Grimly, it felt historically accurate. There had been a packing plant on the site since 1914 in the form of the Toronto Municipal Slaughterhouse. This facility was bought in 1960 by Quality Meats. At its height, Quality processed one third of Ontario’s pork. While it defied animal rights protests and condo-mania it was eventually brought down by the cruel variables of the free market. The last straw was the piglet-killing virus of 2014. Thankfully for Sanagan’s, and the pigs, our small-scale pork farmers were unaffected by the outbreak.
The original site of Quality Meat Packers
Things change. The hogs have left Hogtown. Toronto’s de-industrialization has been rapid. But high quality, locally raised, family-farmed pork will never leave Sanagan’s and Sanagan’s, finger’s crossed, will never leave The Six.
Photos: Graham Duncan and Toronto Archives
Smoking a brisket is both a simple endeavour and a stressful one. You don’t want to overcook the brisket, or cook it at too high a temperature, as it can easily become dry and tough. However, there are a couple of tricks you can use to ensure a moist and tender brisket, rich with the flavour of smoke and spices. One is to brine the brisket for at least a day before cooking. I just submerge the brisket in a brine, while others will go to the trouble of injecting the brisket, much like you would with a ham. I suppose it depends on how much energy you have, or if you had an injection pump. I don’t. The other “trick” is something called the “Texas Crutch”, which is basically wrapping the brisket in heavy duty foil (or sometimes butcher paper) to allow the brisket to steam while it finishes cooking. At the end of the day, if you utilize both of these methods, and cook the brisket at an even low temperature, you will be rewarded with a delicious, meltingly tender, smoky slab of meat.
Note: You need to start this recipe two days before cooking. For the BBQ Spice, you can use your favorite brand. We make our own all purpose one at the shop; see recipe below.
Serves 6 to 8
½ cup sugar
½ cup salt
3 tbsp pickling spice
2 L water
5-6 lbs brisket (I prefer the fatty end, or “point”, but the leaner side, or “flat” is nice too)
1 cup BBQ dry spice rub (see recipe below)
- TWO DAYS BEFORE COOKING: In a large stainless steel pot over a high heat, mix the sugar, salt, and pickling spices with the water. Bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar, then take off the heat. Once the water is cool to the touch, submerge the brisket in the brine so it is totally covered. Place the pot in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, remove the brisket from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine. Place the brisket in a non-reactive (glass or stainless steel) pan, and season it liberally with the BBQ dry spice mix. Cover and place back in the fridge to marinate overnight.
- The next day, prepare your BBQ. Soak four to five cups of wood chips in water for 30 minutes. If using a propane or gas grill with a smoke box, light only one burner and preheat the grill to 250°F to 275°F. Place a handful of the soaked wood chips in the smoke box and put the box on top of the one lit burner until it starts smouldering. If using a charcoal grill, light the coals and pile them on one side of the grill. Close the lid and adjust the intake and exhaust damper to get the temperature to around 250°F to 275°F, then sprinkle a handful of soaked wood chips on the coal to begin the smouldering.
- Place the brisket on the indirect heat side of your BBQ, and close the lid. Maintain the temperature and smoke (adding woodchips and/or charcoal as needed) throughout the duration of the cooking process. After two hours, flip the brisket over. After another two hours, take the brisket out of the BBQ and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil so it is completely wrapped. Place it back on the BBQ, close the lid, and continue cooking for another 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the brisket reaches around 190°F, and feels soft to the poke of a fork.
- Remove the brisket from the BBQ and let it rest in the foil for 45 minutes before unwrapping, slicing thinly across the grain, and serving. I like to serve brisket with seasonal boiled corn and potato salad.
BBQ Dry Spice Rub
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sweet paprika
3 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp rubbed dry thyme
4 tsp dry rosemary
1 tbsp ground black pepper
Mix all the ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Store in an air-tight container for up to two months.
- Pour the bone broth into a sauce pot and add the star anise, peppercorns, bay leaves, and the chicken legs. Bring to a light simmer over a low heat. Add the celery, cover, and poach at a very low heat until the chicken legs are cooked through (about 40 minutes). To know when the chicken is cooked, use an internal thermometer plunged into the thickest part of the leg until it reads 165°F. Remove the chicken and celery and set aside.
- While the chicken is poaching, rinse the rice under cold water to remove the excess starch. Soak the rice in cold water until the chicken is cooked.
- After the chicken and celery are cooked and set aside, strain the broth, then measure and pour 2 cups back into the same pot. Quarter the celery lengthwise and place in a small bowl. Pour any excess broth over the celery and place the bowl on your stovetop (off the heat) to keep it warm until serving time.
- Strain the rice and add to the pot with the broth. Bring to boil over a medium heat, then lower the heat to a bare simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked and has absorbed the broth. Take off the heat and let sit for an additional ten minutes.
- Preheat the broiler to high.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the chicken legs, skin side up, on the sheet. Place it under the broiler until the skin is golden brown (about one minute or two).
- To serve, place a scoop of rice into four shallow bowls or plates. Take the celery out of the broth and set on the rice, then place the browned leg next to the celery. Pour a tablespoon or two of the broth from the celery bowl over the chicken leg. Season with salt and pepper if desired, then sprinkle 1 tbsp of the blue cheese and green onions over each dish. Serve immediately.
- Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper, then lay it in a shallow dish with the smashed garlic and thyme. Marinate for 30 minutes while your grill is getting hot.
- Prepare your grill so that one half has a high-heat flame and the other half is unlit. If using a charcoal grill, combine your hot coals in either a small pile on one side of the grill, or better yet use a charcoal box that fits under the grill, and set it only on one side of the grill. If using a propane grill, only light one element and set it to high. Close the lid to preheat the whole grilling area.
- Set the marinated steak on the cool side of the grill and leave the lid open. The steak will slowly get warm – this process can take up to an hour or more, depending on a few variables (thickness of steak, type of grill, etc). Keep your eyes on the steak, flipping occasionally. Use an internal thermometer to check the internal temperature. When it’s five to ten degrees lower than the desired temperature, remove the steak from the grill.
- While the steak is cooking, make the salsa verde. Place all of the ingredients except the shallot in a food processor and puree until emulsified. Stir in the shallot and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Make sure the grill’s “hot side” is screaming hot before searing the steak right on top of the fire. Grill for one to two minutes per side to caramelize the exterior, then remove the steak and rest the meat for five minutes.
- When the steak has rested, slice it and place on a serving platter with the salsa verde in a small bowl on the side.
- Using the “High” “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil. Season the chicken legs with salt and sear in the oil until lightly golden all over. 5-6 minutes. Remove the chicken legs to a plate.
- Reduce the “Sauté” to “Low” and add the butter, onions, garlic, bay leaf and ginger with a pinch of salt. Sauté lightly until the onions are translucent and everything is aromatic. 5-7 minutes. Add the ras el hanout, cinnamon, cumin, pepper and sauté 1 more minute. Turn the “Sauté” function off.
- Add the saffron and its soaking water. Return the chicken to the pot and pour in the ½ cup of water. Lock the lid of the Instant Pot in place and set it to cook 25 minutes under low pressure. Once the cooking timer has gone off, allow everything to cool and the pressure to release itself by just leaving it alone for a further 30 minutes. This process will take about an hour start to finish; just let the instant Pot do all the work.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt and blanch your kale for 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove from the water and let cool. Squeeze all the excess liquid from the kale, really squeeze it, forming a tight ball. Finely chop the kale and save it for later.
- Once you’ve let the pressure release naturally from the Instant Pot (at least 20 minutes after the cooking is done) remove the lid and lift the chicken legs out of the pot. Allow them to cool enough to handle. Just leave everything else in the pot.
- While they are cooling, peel and grate your potato. Don’t do this in advance as the potato will oxidize quickly. I just grate the potato on a classic cheese grater…. nothing fancy.
- Add the grated potato, tomato, apricot and pistachios to the spiced onion-y liquid in the instant pot. Turn the ”Sauté” function back on “Low” and bring everything to a simmer. Check the seasoning and add a little salt if required. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. The potatoes will dissolve and thicken everything up. Stir from time to time to prevent the bottom from burning.
- Pick the chicken off the bone, discard the bones and skins (or save for bone broth)
- Once the sauce has thickened up nicely, turn the heat off and fold in the honey, followed by the chicken and kale. Adjust the seasoning if required and balance it with a little bit of lime juice to taste. Transfer to a container and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to develop.
- The next day, remove the phyllo pastry from the fridge and reserve between two damp towels while you’re working with it. You can make small individual pies if you like and have small ring moulds or pie plates (disposable plates work). I made 1 large pie in a 9” spring-form pan. The spring form makes it easier to remove after but isn’t necessary. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Brush your pie plate or mould with olive oil. Brush 1 sheet of phyllo with oil and lay it so that the oiled side is down and covers the entire bottom and then drape it over one side (see photos below). Brush the side facing up with oil too. Lay another sheet over the bottom and offset the remainder of the sheet draping over the side next to the first. Brush the top side of this sheet with oil too.
- Continue to lay sheets in this manner going around the mould until you have created a star pattern with the phyllo and all the sides are covered with lots of phyllo draped to cover over the top too. The base should be layered about 6 sheets.
- Fill the pie with the chilled filling. Now start to drape the overhang from each sheet over the top of the pie, brush each with olive oil after you lay it over the top. You should have enough overhang to easily enclose all the filling and make a top layer about 6 layers deep as well, if you need to you can add another sheet or two on top to cover……. This is difficult to explain in words, but not actually difficult. See the attached photos or YouTube “Making a Pastilla” for clarity if required.
- Once the pie is fully enclosed, transfer to the preheated oven and bake until the pie is crisp and golden. Approx. 35 - 40 minutes.
- Let the pie cool about 5-10 minutes then transfer from the mould by flipping it out onto a plate or opening the springform. Garnish with chopped pistachios and loomi. Let cool at least 30 more minutes before serving. It will stay crisp for 3-4 hours. If you want you can pop it back into a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes before serving and it will crisp right back up.
- In a small bowl, soak the dried figs in the Madeira for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- In a work bowl, mix the ground pork with 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, the clove, nutmeg, and white wine. Mix well. Using a slotted spoon, remove half of the figs from the Madeira and mix them into the pork. Reserve the rest of the figs in Madeira.
- Form the ground pork into a football shape, then stuff it into the cavity of the glove-boned chicken. Fold the drumsticks in an “x” around the back of the bird, then loop and tie a piece of twine around the equator of the chicken to truss it.
- Place the stuffed chicken breast up on an elevated rack on a roasting pan. Season well with salt and pepper, then smear the 3 tbsp of soft butter all over the bird. Add the thyme and the liter of chicken stock into the roasting pan, then cover with tin foil. Place in the hot oven and roast for three hours, or until an internal thermometer reads 155°F. Take the roasting pan out of the oven.
- Turn the oven up to 400°F. Remove the foil from the pan, and using a spoon or ladle remove and reserve the roasting juices. When the oven is hot, place the chicken back in and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until an internal thermometer plunged into the center of the chicken reads 165°F, and the chicken is golden brown all over. Remove and rest for ten minutes, covered.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small pot over a medium heat, bring the remaining figs and Madeira to a simmer. Reduce by ¼, then add the roasting juices from the chicken. Bring to a simmer and taste for seasoning, adjusting with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness.
- Whisk the cornstarch and water together to make a slurry, then whisk it into the fig sauce to thicken. Reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Pour the sauce into a gravy boat.
- To serve, first carve the chicken. Cut away the drumsticks and the chicken wings, then slice the bird in ¼ inch slices. Arrange artfully on a platter and serve the sauce on the side.