Kitchen Fun: Rootin’ Tootin’ Chicken Stew


The name says it all. Let’s go a little southwest with some nummy things. It snowed nearly a foot of heavy mashed potato-style stooooopid snow yesterday in the middle of April, and I need to make some comfort food.

Follow along at home and make your family happy. If you don’t live with a family, open your windows a little while you’re cooking and make the neighbours jealous. It’ll be fun.

You’re gonna need:

pork bacon

chicken (I’m using thighs; you can use any boneless piece except the starfish)

white/yellow onion, thinly chopped

fresh garlic, smashed and thinly chopped

white or pink wine

one can of plain mixed beans (hence, “tootin'”)

one can of sliced mushrooms

chicken stock paste

sundried tomatoes

pearl barley

carrots

celery

salt

pepper

cumin

oregano

Cut the bacon into chunks while you heat a large, deep pot over medium heat. You won’t need the lid to make this stew. I’m using seven slices of bacon because that’s what was in the fridge. Cook your bacon slightly, making sure to pull it off the heat before it starts to brown. It’s ready when the fat is translucent. Drain the fat off, and let the bacon rest on a couple of paper towels on a plate.

I know the bacon is done when the fat is the same colour as my pasty winter legs.

While the bacon is cooking, cut your chicken into chunks. I used six thighs. This stew is going to cook for a while, so you want to avoid cutting the meat into little bitty pieces that will break down too quickly. To me, a stew needs a robust presence. Season your chicken with black pepper and a couple pinches of cumin. Don’t add salt yet, because the chicken is going to brown in the same pot we used for the bacon, and we don’t want a briny stew.

Toss the chicken into pot (remember, the bacon is resting) and let it sizzle there on medium heat, stirring every two or three minutes until it’s golden and beautiful. While that’s going, peel and chop your onion. when the chicken is nice and brown, toss the onions on top and let them steam for a minute before stirring them in. Peel your garlic (I used two cloves today) and cut the stem parts off the cloves before smashing them flat under your knife. Chop the smashed garlic finely.

If you’ve never smashed your garlic before, do it like this:

1. place the peeled, stemless cloves on your cutting board

2. lay your broadest knife with the side of the blade flat on the garlic

3. smash the heel of your hand sharply straight down onto the flat of the blade

Once the garlic is smashed, it will release more flavour into your food. It’s a similar idea to a garlic press, but there are no tiny holes that you will have to attack with a toothpick later.

Mix in the onions and let them rock with the chicken for a couple of minutes before you add the garlic. Garlic browns quickly and tastes gnarly if it gets burnt, so watch it carefully. Wait for the onions to be mostly cooked and starting to pick up browning off the chicken.

It smells divine by now!

Pour in some wine. It’s ideal if the wine is one finger’s width deep on the bottom of the pan. Let it simmer until the boozy smell stops floating up, probably two or three minutes. If you don’t have wine, use chicken broth. Let it bubble a couple of minutes, either way.

Pour in water to cover all the stuff in the pot, and add your chicken stock paste. It’s the only stock or soup base I’ll use if I’m not making the stock myself. I had a heaping teaspoon full: I would have liked about twice that much, but the jar was done and I was out of luck.

Alas, the jar gave its all and came up short.

Add the stock to your pot. Drain the beans and the mushrooms and mix them on in there. Yeehaw! This is starting to look like something you could serve to people now.

Sundried tomatoes are going to give this stew a little zing and a lot of depth. They can be bought dried, which I use because I’m cheap, on packed in oil. Mine had been in the cupboard too long, and were really difficult to chop, so I tore them into little pieces with my fingers. Stir those guys in, turn your burner down to just a touch above low, and go do something else for half an hour. If you’re feeling virtuous, start (or fold) a load of laundry. If you’re feeling exhausted and like you deserve a rest, go call your bestie and talk about the awesome recipe you’re trying out. Feel free to drop the web address. I need all the free advertising I can get.

When you’ve let it simmer for at least 30 minutes, fill the empty bean can with water and add it to the pot. Repeat and then toss in two full handfuls of pearl barley. Stir it all up and give it about fifteen minutes to cook while you prep the last couple of ingredients. Peel and slice three carrots, and dice up four stalks of celery. Clearly, you could use more or less of either, but make sure you put the carrots into the pot first because they take longer to cook. Allow them a couple of extra minutes.

Ready to add some veggies! Mmmmmm.

After the veggies are partially cooked, add cumin, oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste. If you’re feeling a little spicy, toss in a pinch or three of cayenne. I recommend adding the cumin slowly because it’s a punchy flavour, and you don’t want to overpower all the other delish flavours that are simmering away. Let it cook on low heat until the veggies are tender enough for you and the barley is beautifully plump.

Clockwise from top left, oregano, cumin, cayenne. I included a toonie for size reference.

Let your stew cool off for a while and tuck it into your fridge with the lid on for the night. This is definitely a second day stew, and you’ll thank yourself for waiting until tomorrow to enjoy it.

I would serve it with a dollop of sour cream and perhaps some minced fresh parley or chives on top. This stew has lots of flavour and lots of fibre, and really is a meal by itself. Try it with some sliced raw veggies and dip on the side to create a nice contrast of temperatures and textures.

I can't wait for lunch tomorrow!

I’m so glad you could hang out in my kitchen today!

copyright 2011:  http://bluespeckledpup.com

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