What Do You Feed a Visiting Baby? Chicken Cacciatore?

We have friends coming to visit tomorrow and their bringing their 15-month old baby.

Today, I went to the grocery store to make sure we had some food in the house for when they're here. I am notoriously bad at keeping food in the house for guests. (Boyfriend would argue that I'm notoriously bad at keeping food in the house period. I have high anxiety when there are too many perishable goods. "Quick! We have to eat all that kale before it wilts! Hurry!")

Luckily, we live in a neighborhood with enough bakeries, delis, bodegas, and produce markets that in a pinch, we can always run out and grab something to nosh. But I was stumped on what to put in the house for the baby.

On the one hand, I don't want to buy anything that the little guy is not going to eat. It would be absurd to stock up on zwieback and instant baby food rice porridge. On the other hand, we really should have something suitable at the ready in case he's cranky.

We have a package of crackers, so that's a start. There are a bunch of bananas, though some of them are still quite green. Should I buy Cheerios? Babies love Cheerios. But what if he's got some kind of food allergy that I don't know about.

I realize that often what I think is a "problem" is not in fact a problem, like having to throw out four leaves of kale. That is not a problem. Feeding this baby is not a problem. I'm sure his mom and dad will bring snacks.

Still, shouldn't I make something?

My solution was to cook a huge batch of chicken cacciatore. If he doesn't like that, he can eat the green bananas.

Chicken Cacciatore (American style)
2 pounds chicken pieces, skin and fat removed (thighs, drumsticks, breasts)
1 cup flour
2 cups canola oil
1 tablespoon diced pancetta
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (or water, or a combination of water and stock)
1 tablespoon capers
4 sprigs fresh thyme (for Maremma-style cacciatore, use rosemary)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Heat oil in a large skillet, Dutch oven, or deep fryer over medium heat until it reaches a frying temperature. To test this, stick a chopstick or wood skewer into the oil and press it against the bottom of the pan. If a few small bubbles rise, the oil is ready. If many bubbles rise very quickly, lower the heat a bit, wait three or four minutes, and then test again.

Stir together flour and salt in a shallow bowl.

Dredge chicken pieces in flour and shake off excess. Fry chicken in batches, turning as it browns. Set aside on paper towel.

When all the chicken has been fried, set a Dutch oven or deep and heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it is fragrant. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Pour in the crushed tomatoes. Nestle the chicken pieces into the tomato sauce. Add stock or water to barely cover the chicken. Drop in the thyme sprigs, parsley, and capers, and stir gently to lower them into the sauce. Lower to a simmer. Cook partially covered about 30 minutes. Remove thyme sprigs before serving.