We took a jaunt up to Hudson, New York this past Saturday, the cutest little town up along (duh) the Hudson River. After being lumps on the couch and in bed for hours after returning, it was time for a little one-pot sustenance.
I love whole chickens, they are the gifts that keep on giving during a busy week. Roasted, they can take on a main course, be a welcome addition to a weekday salad, and be stashed away for stock when you’re feeling ambitious and leisurely. Stewed, they become the ultimate comfort food, warming, soothing and a good dose of healthy luxury.
I have a few stew recipes that I’ve cycled through for the past few years, but lately, I’ve been honing in on my own personal combination of two of my favorite recipes – Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Dumplings and Dave Lieberman of Food Network’s Hearty Chicken Stew. Miz Drummond’s version is adapted originally from the now-defunct Gourmet magazine, but always makes me feel a little guilty because 1. I am not one bit Southern / I don’t get dumplings and 2. there aren’t enough vegetables. The slightly unorthodox additions of apple cider, a little cream and turmeric however, win me over completely. Dave Lieberman’s version is a great simple chicken soup (read broth with stuff) but doesn’t have enough heft to make it a stew. It does however abstain from using a broth base (just water!) which I love and extracts a huge amount of flavor from a few very simple ingredients.
Behold a hybrid, plus a few extra jingles.
1 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup flour (By the way, was just reading a fun little book called 52 Loaves. Did you know that bleached flour is carcinogenic?? Fun.)
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (extra points for free range, organic, etc. you know the drill.)
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
6 cups water
1 handful of fresh thyme springs
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped roughly
Salt and pepper, as needed
Sprinkle chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper, then dredge lightly in the flour.
Melt butter in a pot over medium-high heat along with the olive oil. In two batches, brown chicken on both sides and remove to a clean plate. Don’t crowd the pan when you are browning – crowding leads to steam and steam leads to grey…not that golden brown we’re looking for. Once the chicken pieces are evenly browned, put them aside.
Into the same pot, add all the garlic, diced onion, carrots, and celery, along with a generous pinch of salt. Stir and cook for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat.
Stir in the turmeric, which will give the soup a nice golden hue and a little somethin’ somethin’ in flavor. Pour in the water and apple cider, then add the chicken pieces you’ve patiently browned.
Using kitchen twine, tie together the fresh thyme and bay leaf and throw into the mix, making sure it’s submerged beneath the surface.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let the pot simmer for about an hour, discarding any scum to makes its way to the top. Gross. The chicken should come off the bone easily. Depending on how finicky (or young) your eaters are, you can take out the chicken pieces, pull the meat of the bone and roughly chop before putting the meat back in the pot. OR just leave the pieces as is. Your call.
Add the half and half and give it a good stir. This will give the soup a little bit of mysterious silkiness. Add salt if needed, and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Chicken stew and black pepper are like peas and rice. Or Jenny and Forrest. Scotch and fireplaces. Bread and butter. Yum.
Aaaand…that is all. Dish that shit up.
This stew is a decent amount of initial prep, but I promise you that it will be worth the time and the wait. However, if you decided you needed a shortcut or two, and used a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead, I wouldn’t judge you harshly. If you do, add some flour in when you cook the vegetables and maybe use chicken broth instead to make up for some lost flavor oomph.