Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Winter, Season for Stews

Though stews can be enjoyed at any time, I personally enjoy them more during winters.  Stews easily can bring warmth to one's body thanks to the piping hot meat, vegetables and thick broth as well as the hearty nature of these dishes.  Stews can also bring warmth to one's home as they simmer on a stove for a length of time.  Stews can take some time before they're ready to eat, especially if you use more ingredients, but they are comfort food and worth the time spent in making them.  Also, for a bachelor like me, making one batch of stew guarantees at least one or two more dinners later in the week.  With windchill hitting the -40's on Tuesday and with limited time to make dinner the next few days, it was a good time to make some stew.

When possible, I now have been adding wine to my stews to bring an extra angle of flavour.  This time, with chicken being the main ingredient in my stew, a white wine was in order (I got my hands this time on a 2009 Inniskillin Niagara Dry Riesling).  I also have used chicken thighs in my chicken stew as dark meat is more flavourful than breast meat, and using thighs only  allowed me to avoid the tendons and the rogue spine-like bone in the drumsticks.  Though removing the skin is healthier, I've tended to keep them on to minimize the sticking of the thighs to the bottom of the pot as they were being seared.  As for potatoes, I've preferred starchier varieties like Russet as they've helped thicken the stew.

This recipe is more of a guide; be liberal with the choice of vegetables (for example, some nights I'd add celery, other nights I'd add leeks).  Flavourings can also be altered by substituting herbs, but personally I've stayed with stronger herbs like sage or rosemary.  Also, cutting back on the amount of liquid used will result in an even thicker broth, though be careful to not let the potatoes burn on the bottom of the pot.

Andrew's Chicken Stew
4-6 chicken thighs
5 medium carrots
2-3 Russet potatoes (or equivalent in starchiness)
1 medium onion
8 white mushrooms (may be substituted or augmented by other mushrooms)
1 can whole-kernel corn
Optional vegetables (e.g. celery, leeks)
1 tbsp. dried, strongly aromatic herbs like rosemary or sage
1-2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
Up to 500mL (2 cups) chicken broth/stock
75-125mL (1/4-1/2 cup) dry white wine
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
  1. Slice garlic and mushrooms, and chop onion.  Combine and set aside.
  2. Peel potatoes and carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces, combine and set aside.
  3. If using other vegetables, also cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Aromatic vegetables should go with the garlic, mushrooms and onion.
  4. Clean chicken thighs and trim fat (and skin if preferred).  Season one side of thighs with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat some olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Sear the thighs, seasoned side down, for up to two minutes.  Season other side of thighs and sear for up to two minutes.  Remove from pot and set aside.
  6. In the same pot and still over medium heat, add mushrooms, onion and garlic, as well as any other aromatic vegetables.  Add half of the wine and let cook covered for 4 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and add herbs, remaining vegetables, thighs, the remaining wine and up to half of the total broth/stock to be used.  Bring to boil covered, then simmer at medium-low heat, still covered, for 15 minutes.
  8. Stir stew, add 1/4 of the total broth/stock to be used and continue simmering covered for 15 minutes.  Repeat with remaining broth/stock.  To help quicken the thickening of the liquid, break some of the potato pieces while stirring.
  9. Remove from heat and serve.

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