Saturday, 7 January 2012

Old-fashioned Chicken Stew

It's interesting how the flavours we grow up with influence our taste buds.  My taste buds definitely tend towards the British, I think, since a lot of Canadian cuisine is basically British-influenced.  I love all things in gravy and sauce, casseroles and creams and this is no exception.

Growing up, my mom loved convenience.  She was no slave to the kitchen.  Our dinners came from the freezer in boxes and were accompanied by packages of "noodles and sauce" or "rice and sauce".  Sorry mom, you know its true.  But what she did right was boil down every chicken and turkey carcass to make stew.  When my kids were little, I started adding Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup to mine to make them creamier, so since I no longer eat that, I kind-of miss that creamy thickness I'd grown used to.  In this recipe, I tried adding canned coconut milk (because I'm avoiding dairy right now).  I love coconut milk, but it was a bit too strong for this mellow stew, so then I ended up doubling the spices to compensate, and voila, came out just right in my opinion (and everyone gobbled it up).  I also learned something after this recipe--you can save those chicken skins, cut them into thin strips and fry them in the pan--they crisp up like bacon!!  They're called cracklings and they are awesome and I will never waste another piece of chicken skin again!!

Serves 4
Total time:  About 1 1/4 hours


2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/3 large Spanish onion, chopped
hand full carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 package button mushrooms, chopped
2-3 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp celery seed
pepper and salt to taste
hand full sweet peas (c'mon live a little!  Or omit if this is going to keep you up at night)
2-3 cups chicken stock, or 2-3 of those little stock flavor packets if you're brave
1 can full-fat coconut milk--I like the red label Rooster brand


Heat dutch oven over med-hi heat (if you don't have one, use a fry pan then move it all to a soup pan after adding some juices to lift all the good crispy stuff off the pan, because you want those flavours in the stew!).  Throw in whole chicken thighs and fry, turning often, until skin is a bit crispy and all kinds of chicken juices have come out--the meat should be at least halfway cooked.  Then remove chicken to a plate.  In those chicken juices, saute the onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms.  While veggies are cooking, pull the skin off the chicken (and set aside for re-frying if making cracklings).  When the veggies are halfway done, add the spices--thyme, rosemary, celery seed, sage, some salt and pepper.  When onion is translucent, place the skinless thighs back on top of the veggies and add chicken stock until it is all just barely covered with liquid.  Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fully cooked through, close to an hour.

Once chicken is done, use tongs and lift chicken back out, careful not to lose any cartilage parts in the stew.  Shred chicken using a couple of forks, making sure you get all the cartilage out of the meat.  Return chicken to pot, add peas and coconut milk, add a bit more liquid if necessary, and bring back to a simmer to heat through.  Remove from heat and adjust seasonings to taste.

BTW:  You can save those chicken bones--just freeze them, and later make chicken stock/bone broth in your crock pot when you have enough saved up.

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