Recipe: Winter Food in the Spring – Chicken Stew

So I have been honing a great recipe that I love, but I mostly make it in the winter out of cans. I was just thinking that all the canned goods could be mostly be substituted for fresh foods as they become available.  I will give you the recipe I use and perhaps some suggestions for fresh substitutions:

Chicken Stew: (original)

Ingredients:

Olive Oil

Chicken – 1- 2 chicken breasts or 3 chicken thighs (my preference because dark meet is so much juicier and tender)  To make this vegetarian you could add another can of beans – like black beans and make it a bean stew.  You could also substitute tofu.

1/4 to half an onion  – the only fresh food that seems to remain consistently good year round.  I have used in a pinch a hand full of dried on flakes.  Not as good but passable.

2 – 3 carrots – peeled and chopped into bite size pieces.  Carrots are usually good year round.  If the carrots are small you may need 4.  If they are pretty big only use 2.

2 stalks celery – chopped into bite size pieces.  Most of the time you can good celery year round.

cans: tomato paste (you’ll only use 2 tbls. so if you can find the tubes which aren’t available get that, otherwise you’ll have a partial can of tomato paste available for something else),white beans (any white beans but garbanzo),petite diced tomatoes (as long as the can says diced tomatoes it should work fine.  You could get whole tomatoes in juice and then squish them up before adding, but why make more work for yourself?) mushrooms (mushrooms are also good fresh year round – substitution is easy for fresh)

Liquid – I have used a can of tomato sauce, 1 cup of chicken stock.  You could also use vegetable or mushroom stock.

cans

Dried herbs:  I’ve used herb’s de Provence (spelling?)  but I have family members who didn’t like it but I loved it.  I now use Oregano and Thyme which is my favorite herb combination by far.  Rosemary also works well but you must chop it up first pretty fine other wise people will be picking little sticks out of their teeth. Use on of those choppers –

Oxo Food Chopper at Amazon.com

I couldn’t cook without mine because my knife skills are horrible, I have no idea how to sharpen my knives and this saves my fingers.  They are cheap and they have so many uses.  You can get them practically any where – Target, Fred Meyer, I’ve even seem them in grocery stores in the cooking aisle.

So on to directions.

1.  You need a pretty good sized pan.  Something bigger than an 11″ skillet.  Something with a lid and sides.  If you have one of those fancy dutch ovens that would work.  I don’t but I have a stainless steel pan that works.  Heat up maybe 1 – 2 Tbls of olive oil in your pan on medium low heat.  You just need enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your pan.  You don’t want a lake of olive oil.  When you put your hand just above the oil and it feels hot then put your chicken in the pan.  If you are using chicken thighs put them skin side down. Forgot – put some salt and pepper on them first before they go in the pan.  Chicken breast if it is boneless and skinless can go in any old way.  The thighs are going to take awhile because they have a bone in them them.  I would them at a fairly low temperature and set a timer for 10 min. and let them cook.  The chicken breast if it is boneless and skinless only needs about 8 minutes per side.  After you turn the chicken thighs turn the temperature down a little and set the timer for 15 min.  The thighs are not going to finish cooking.  They will finish cooking later.

2.  While the chicken is cooking, carefully cut up the onion you are going to use into big chunks (knives are dangerous!)  If you like onion use half an onion, if you are just so so use only a quarter.  If you are using dried I’ll tell you when to put that in later.  Know this is when the chopper comes in handy – use the chopper to chop the onion into fine pieces.  Or if you want to get fancy with you knife you can chop the onion into fine pieces.

3.  When the chicken is done (or partially done) take it out of the pan and put it on a plate.  Using a good wooden scrape the bits on the the bottom of the pan up.  If there doesn’t seem to be much liquid in the pan you can add another tbls of oil but you probably will not have to.  Add the onions to the pan.  You can add 1 tsp of salt and stir into the onions.  Cook on low to medium low heat for 5 min stir regularly.  You do not want the onions to burn.

4.Here is when you start to add flavor.  Add 1 tbls of rosemary if you are going to be using it and stir into the onions.  Dried rosemary is tough and cooking it longer helps get its flavor going.  Add in the carrots and celery and stir. cook another few minutes.  Now stir in the tomato paste.  This I learned from America’s Test Kitchen, so don’t trust me on this – this is from the professionals.  At first it will just seem like a glob but use a wooden spoon to kind of mash it in and keep stirring.  It will mix in.   This is where you stir in your fresh mushrooms and let them cook.  Everything will be red.  The point is to cook the tomato paste for awhile – the flavor will be amazing!  If you are not using fresh onions put the mushrooms (canned or fresh) in pan after the chicken and then add the tomato paste.  Cook for 3 – 5 min – keep stirring because it might stick.  It will seem dry – that’s ok.

5.  I usually drain my beans.  I don’t like the liquid they come in.  It is actually seasoned so you could dump them in without draining them.  Add the beans.  Stir.  When they are completely mixed in (coated in red) add the tomatoes.  A word about adding fresh (dried?) beans – I have no idea.  You would have to soak them I would suppose.  I think with beans the way to go is canned.  Tomatoes could be added fresh.  The can says it contains 1.25 cups of tomatoes (and juice) so would that be like 2 – 3 roma tomatoes diced?  I wouldn’t worry about the skin – they’ll get cooked down pretty well and if they’re diced well enough it should be fine.  So stir in the tomatoes.  I forgot that at this point I also sometimes stir in half a can of black olives chopped. You could also add kalamata olives if you wanted.  Add the dried onions if you are using them.

6.  Now add the spices.  I add them by the palm full because tomato flavor is really intense and needs strong seasoning.  A palm full of thyme, a palm full of oregano.  Probably a tbls more of the chopped rosemary if you adding dried rosemary.  If you are adding fresh spices you can wait and add them closer to the end and in smaller amounts.  Probably a Tbls of each after you add the meat and liquid and it has been cooking awhile.  If you are using herbs de provence then add probably 2 tbls at this point.

6.  Now nestle in the meat.  Try and push it so that it is somewhat covered by the other ingredients.  Now add your liquid – this should be enough to cover almost the meat.  Tomato sauce, a cup of stock of any kind, I suppose you could add a cup or so of wine if you cook with wine.  You can make this more of a soup by adding more liquid.  Then you kind of stir it all in around the meat.  Now cover and set the timer for 1/2 hour.  Cook on a low to medium to low heat.  Make sure the liquid is bubbling before you start the timer.

7.  If you are using chicken thighs or chicken breast on the bone you will want to check the temperature of the meat after 1/2 hour.  You need to get it 165 degrees.  I sometimes have trouble getting chicken thighs up to temperature.  I would stir and really scrape the bottom at this point to make sure nothing is sticking.  If the chicken is not done set the timer for another 15 min.  keep checking until the meat is done.  Also put a fork through a few carrot pieces – they should be soft and you should be able to break them apart with the fork.

8.  You can serve with the meat whole, or you can shred the meat and mix in (which is wonderful).  This is good with biscuits, french bread, a salad.   You can also great parmasean (I can’t spell today) cheese on individual servings if you want but it doesn’t really need it.

This makes a wonderful hearty one dish meal.  It can be made in winter with canned ingredients and a few fresh staples.  I think it could be made entirely with fresh ingredients except the tomato paste.  You could also make it vegetarian pretty easily.   Have a great day!

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