Hello again Cook-letes!
Anyone else here love the Fall? I know I do. Besides Christmas, the autumn is my favorite time of year. For one thing, it’s when Football season begins- and if there’s one thing you guys should know about me, it’s that I’m a MAJOR college football fan. Michigan State University Football, to be exact. Alumni 2013. Go Green! Go White! You get the idea.
In autumn, the weather here in Mid-Michigan is usually not too hot from August, and it’s not yet gotten to the point where it’s too cold in December. Plus the trees begin changing into the most beautiful shades and colors.
My birthday is in autumn (September the 27th). I know, you guys missed it. But it’s okay. You can get me something next year. I’m not too hard to please. Kitchen gadgets and cook books will do. Also money. My bill collectors for my student loans would appreciate money as well.
But even as great as all those things are, I think I love the autumn the most because of the ‘autumn food’. You know what I’m talking about. Apples. Pumpkin. Cinnamon. Chili. Food that sticks to your ribs and warms you on the inside. It’s the food with the best flavors to cook and bake with in my opinion, so I’m really excited to share some of my recipes with these ingredients with you guys.
I thought we’d start with one of my favorite fall foods: stew. Thick, chunky chicken stew with vegetables and mushrooms. Guys, this stuff is good for what ails ya. Really good. Move over Dinty Moore. Campbell’s can shove it. Hungry Man who? That’s pretty much the attitude you’ll have when you try this. Not only is it made completely from scratch, it also isn’t loaded with sodium and extra unpronounceable ingredients like the canned stuff, which makes it pretty good for you too.
Now, is it alright if I pause here and climb on a mini-soapbox for a minute? I wanna give my two cents about something that kinda ticks me off. I know you guys will understand. I’m sure you all hate it just as much as I do. It can pretty much be summed up in two words:
I hate watery stew. I hate stew that is watery. I’ve read a lot of cookbooks and perused a lot of recipe websites and every time I look at recipes for different types of stew, I inevitably see pictures of huge chunks of meat, and vegetables swimming/drowning in a thin broth. And I hate it. Now don’t get me wrong, there can still be a great flavor in the broth of a watery stew. But to me, if the consistency of the stew is watery, then it may as well not be called a stew at all. There’s another word in the culinary dictionary that would be far more befitting…we call it a SOUP. Heck, call it a Chunky Soup if you want to, but it’s NOT a stew. Doggone it.
So having gotten that off my chest, I knew that when I made my stew, it had to have just the right consistency to it. Not too much liquid, but not so dry that it didn’t have any moisture or body to it either. Think of the inside of a pot pie, only SLIGHTLY less thick. Dredging the chicken in flour, cornstarch, along with a combination of cooking the stew low-n-slow while uncovered on the stove top gave me exactly what I was looking for.
I’ve always loved the kick that beer gives to chicken when marinating and grilling, so I saw no reason not to include it here. As far as vegetables go, I just went with my favorites; sweet potatoes, corn, cipollini onions and carrots. I also added some baby bella mushrooms, which gave it an even richer, meatier flavor. I’m not a big fan of celery, I hate peas, and I prefer sweet potatoes to white. But feel free to swap those in your stew (or any other veggies you like). If you’d like to stretch the stew out a little more to save money or make it last longer, you could definitely serve it over some egg noodles. It also goes great with My Grandma’s Angel Biscuits (because you gotta eat stew with bread. There’s got to some place in the world where it’s an official law, or something). Enjoy guys!
Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew
Yield: 8-10 servings
* 2 and 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless, thinly sliced chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks (You can always pound them out thin yourself)
*1/2 cup flour
* 1 Heaping teaspoon of garlic powder
*1 Heaping teaspoon of onion powder, plus 1/2 tablespoon
* 1 large sweet potato, cut into equal bite sized chunks
* 8 oz of cipollini onions, cut in half
* 8 oz of fresh or frozen corn
* 8 oz of baby bella mushrooms, stems and gills removed, caps roughly chopped
* 8 oz of carrot chips
* 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, divided
* 1 and 1/4 cup of stout beer
*3 cups of low sodium chicken stock
*1 cup of water, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
*2 1/2 tablespoons of honey
* 4 tablespoons of corn starch
1. Mix the flour, onion powder, garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of pepper together in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken chunks to the bag, seal, then toss to coat thoroughly, so that there is an even layer over meat.
2. Coat a large pot or Dutch Oven with olive oil. Brown meat over medium- high heat. Don’t worry about it cooking all the way through, just cook long enough to give it some color. Don’t worry about the thick layer that forms on the bottom of the pot: it’s supposed to be there.
3. De-glaze the pan with the stout beer. Once the bottom of the pot is no longer sticky, add the chicken stock, water, honey, sweet potato, onions, carrots, mushrooms, corn, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to low and simmer stew covered, for 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, if need be.
5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 4 tablespoons of cold water and add to the stew. Cook uncovered over medium heat for an additional 30 minutes, until thickened. (If stew still has not thickened after 30 minutes, you can add 1 additional tablespoon of cornstarch. It’ll thicken. You’ll see.)