My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

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Can I ask a random but still perfectly serious question?

Why do people make/eat/like watery stew?

I don’t get it.

Whenever I see a dish given the name of a ‘stew’ with chunks of stew and vegetables literally swimming, no DROWNING in a broth bath I just cringe. It really hurts my feelings, guys. Because I know that person is selling themselves short and settling for something that I reallllllly wouldn’t call a stew.

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Call it a soup. Maybe even  call it a ‘stoup’ like Rachael Ray does. Just don’t call it a stew, k? That’s kinda disrespectful.

For me, if I could put it in one word, the biggest difference between a soup and a stew really does come down to as TEXTURE. The base of a good stew just has a different texture than a soup. It SHOULD have a very different feel to it both when you stir it up in the pot, and when you’re eating it. If you can’t tell the difference between a soup or a stew, or a stoup and a stew, then it’s very likely that your stew’s texture is…off.

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Should it be pasty thick? No. After all, it’s not a pot pie filling. However, it does need to be robust and have some body. It’s got to be thick enough where the liquid coats the back of the spoon when you dip into it. You shouldn’t be able to ‘slurp’ it up like a broth, but at the same time it should be loose enough where you can dip biscuits and/or rolls in it and soak up the extra goodness.

If all this sounds a little complicated, well…good. Now you realize how serious this is. Watery stew is no laughing matter. A good chicken stew was one of those things that when I was learning how to cook, I knew I wanted to nail early on. And I really do think that at this point, I have.

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My chicken stew is one of the recipes on the blog that three years after I first posted it, still gets some of the most traffic. And you know what? I don’t mind blowing my own horn a tad bit by saying that I really do understand why.

It’s a damn good stew. It’s become a staple dish in my house and my family is always very enthusiastic when I make it. It’s pretty easy to do, coming together in about an hour. It’s one of those dishes you can make a huge batch of and have enough to last throughout the week. Not only that, it’s also a perfect comfort food dish for this time of year.

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So why am I doing a revamp? Well for one, I think you guys deserve better pictures of it than the bunch I churned out three years ago when I knew jack-squat about food photography.  Second, since then I’ve added a few ingredients to my chicken stews that I make now that I think make it taste even better than the original. Third, I’ve also made a new provision in the recipe for those of you out there that don’t have the time or inclination to chop your veggies. Because yes, sometimes even Jess uses those bags of veggies on the frozen foods aisle. No shame in my game.

This stew is everything I love about fall and comfort food; thick chunks of chicken (breast, cause you guys know me by now), a medley of my favorite vegetables: sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, mushrooms– all simmered together in a rich and robust gravy–NOT A BROTH.

Because we know better. Right? Of course right.

Happy Fiesta Friday #142, co-hosted this week by Elaine @ foodbod and Michelle @ O Blog Off.

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My Favorite Thick and Chunky Chicken Stew

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 pounds of skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, cut into bite sized (about 1 inch) chunks
  • 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 (one medium size yellow/sweet onion diced will also work fine)
  • 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 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
  • 1-2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons of corn starch

Note: The vegetable options for this dish are very flexible. If you don’t feel like chopping them up yourself, I’ve used a 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed veggies with this recipe before with perfectly fine results. Use what works for you.

Directions

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.

Coat a large on-stick 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.

De-glaze the pan with the stout beer. Once the bottom of the pot is no longer sticky, add the chicken stock, water, honey, dijon mustard, sweet potato, onions, carrots, mushrooms, bay leaves, corn, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stew covered, for 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste, if need be.

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.)

   

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

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There are certain important, iconic historic events that when they happen, you’ll always remember exactly where you were.

I was very young both times around, but I remember where I was when President Bill Clinton was elected. Both times in 1992, and in 1996: my grandparent’s living room, watching TV with my grandpa.

Strangely enough, I remember where I was the day that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murder of his wife: again, my grandparents living room watching the verdict unfold on Geraldo Rivera.

I remember where I was on December 31st/January 1st, 1999 when everyone was holding their breath, thinking the world was going to end in the year 2000. I was at my other grandmother’s house in Detroit with my Dad and sisters and we all were laughing about it.

I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001; my 7th grade English class. My teacher had left in the middle of class for a few minutes, then come back into the room and without saying a word to us, just turned on the TV and switched to CNN. I still remember that first image I saw of the smoke billowing out from the World Trade Center, and not fully realizing what it was I was really seeing.

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I remember where I was when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005; I was visiting my Aunt in Atlanta and was horrified at the images and video footage the news was reporting, not just from the hurricane itself, but also from the aftermath. The first few weeks when I got back to high school, several of the student organizations I was apart of were collecting food, toiletries and clothe donations to send down there to help out.

I remember where I was when President Barack Obama was first elected; in 2008 me and Jas were in our dorm room, watching the election results on our tv through tears of joy and near disbelief. To date, that night is one of the best nights I’ve ever had in my life. (I remember where I was the night of his re-election in 2012 too, but that night in 2008 will always and forever be particularly special to me)

I remember where I was when I found out that Michael Jackson died in 2009. I was in the kitchen cooking and my Mom came in and told me that the story was trending on the internet. I refused to believe it for a really long time. When it finally was confirmed as true, I felt an unexpected sadness and depression that lingered with me for a few days.

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Right up there with all those super duper important, iconic historical events I’ve lived to see, I’m gonna go ahead and add another to that list.

I’ll always remember where I was the day that I first made pork carnitas. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was in the kitchen, while my mom and sister Ashley were watching the tv show The Blacklist in the living room.

Yep. This recipe is that important and life-changing to me.

You have to understand, I’ve never done this before. I didn’t even really know what I was doing, I just knew that carnitas was something I’d always wanted to make for myself.

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So when my grocery store finally put their pork butt (shoulder)on sale, I just went out and bought one of those bad boys, along with some basic ingredients that I knew were traditionally used in making carnitas.

The first good sign was the smell coming out of my slow cooker when I woke up on Sunday morning after letting the shoulder do it’s thing overnight. It was friggin glorious, people. I went in the kitchen and pressed my face up against the glass lid like a kid looking through the glass of a candy store, trying to see what ind of magic was going on in that crockpot that smelled so delicious. The steam and heat had created too many bubbles for me to see unfortunately, so I had to exercise an INCREDIBLE amount of self-restraint from yanking off the lid and let it keep cooking for another few hours. I wasn’t taking any chances. I wanted to make sure I had that type of pork that’s been cooked to low and slow perfection. It needed to practically melt off the bone with little to no force or resistance.

Kinda like the way I get after watching “The Avengers” and seeing Chris Hemsworth’s arms and Chris Evans work a punching bag.

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Good things come to those who wait. I found that out when I finally couldn’t take it anymore and lifted my crockpot lid. The steam from the pork hit me in the face. It was like, the best kiss I ever had

Okay, maybe not the best kiss I ever had. But pretty darn close. I wanted to break out in Snoopy dances when I took a fork and pierced the meat. I didn’t even have to pull, guys. I just touched it. And it FELL off the bone. Fell, I tell you. If I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was wrong. Because a few minutes underneath the broiler elevates these carnitas from mere mortal (albeit delicious) viddles, to the Food of the Gods.

Moist, fork-tender pork that literally melts in your mouth. A hint of crusty caramelization. This is living.

Something this simple to make really shouldn’t taste this good. It just shouldn’t. It almost feels like I’m cheating. Life’s not a fairy tale like that, am I right?!

So why did this dish turn out SO GOOOOOOOOD?!

I’m going to the Fiesta Friday #43, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tracy @Scratch It and Stephanie @The Cozy Cook. I’ll also be bringing these carnitas. See you there…

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Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Recipe by Jessica@Cooking Is My Sport

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Ingredients

  • 4-6 lbs. pork shoulder, slightly trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tbsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 oranges, sliced in half
  • 1 lime, sliced in half

Directions

1. Combine garlic salt, chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, and sweet paprika.

2. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the pork. Place pork in the bottom of a slow cooker (minimum of 6 quarts)*

3. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and limes over the pork. Place rinds pulp side down in slow cooker over the meat.

4. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours, or until pork is tender and falling off the bone. Use a fork to pull away from bone and discard it.

5. Preheat oven broiler. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and arrange pork in a single layer. Place underneath broiler until tips of pork are browned and slightly crisp, about 3-5 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it. Keep an eye on meat to make sure it doesn’t burn or become overly browned).

6. Serve finished pork in corn/flour tortillas, or over rice.

*I had to use 2 slow cookers too cook a 6lb. pork shoulder that I ended up cutting in half, so keep that in mind when buying your meat.

Bacon-Wrapped Blackberry Pork Roast

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Do you ever see something for the very first time, and immediately think: “I HAVE to have that”?

When I was little, I used to get that way about certain toys. There was this doll called Amazing Amy that came out in the 90’s that from the very first time I ever saw it, I knew I HAD to have it. She was this computerized doll that talked to you, telling you when she was hungry, thirsty, sick, sleepy, in need of a diaper change, or when she just wanted to change clothes. The doll came with a number of assort
ed foods/drinks, a medicine dropper,clothes and diapers, all fitted with computer chips. There were computer chips implanted in Amy’s mouth, back, and bottom so that when you gave her the food, changed her clothes or did ANYTHING to her, she would be able to identify what it was you were doing and tell you whether she liked it or not. It seems like a pretty basic toy now, but in the 90’s Amazing Amy was THE doll that I had been waiting for. Every time we went to the store, I wandered over to the toy section and gazed so longingly at that doll. It seemed like the coolest toy in the world. Did I need it? No. But I felt like I just HAD to have it. It took my mom a couple years to save the money (as it wasn’t very cheap), but she did finally buy it for us. Because she’s the best.

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Krispy Kreme opened a location in m hometown a few years back. From that very first day, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that I HAD to have a hot, freshly made Krispy Kreme doughnut. I.HAD.TO.

And I did. Actually, I had several. Every week.

The Krispy Kreme ended up closing, being put out of business by a chain of Tim Horton’s that simultaneously opened a few years afterward.

It was a messy end to the break up between me and those hot, perfect doughnuts. But it was for the best….at least that what my butt and thighs keep telling me.

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I was flipping through a Food Network Magazine a little while ago, when I suddenly came upon this recipe. It must have been some killer food photography, because the very first thought that entered my mind when I saw it was, “I HAVE to have that.”

Pork wrapped and roasted in more pork- and not just any pork: BACON?!

BAAAAACOOOOON.

I was making this dish. No ifs, ands or buts about it. I didn’t even do my traditional poll of the fam to see if they would eat it. There was no need for any of that. I knew they would.

We’re talking about bacon, here.

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I used a crappy knife to slice this roast, so I apologize for the sloppiness of the photos- but don’t let that throw you off. This dish was absolutely DELICIOUS. The marinade gives it a sweet/tangy flavor,while the bacon provides the perfect balance of saltiness, resulting in a perfect marriage of flavors. My instincts to make this couldn’t have been more spot on. It’s so good in fact, that I’ve decided to bring it to this week’s Fiesta Friday #36, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Selma and Elaine.

What’s one thing that when you see you just HAVE to have?

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Bacon Wrapped Blackberry Pork Roast

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup blackberry preserves
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (4 to 5 lb) boneless center-cut pork loin, trimmed
  • 1 clove garli, smashed
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 8 slice bacon
  • 2 tablespoons instant flour (such as Wondra)
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth

 Directions

1. Combine the preserves, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, mustard, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a small bowl.

2. Poke the pork with a paring knife, then rub with the garlic; season with salt and pepper.

3. Rub the pork all over with the preserves mixture, then transfer to a large resealable bag and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or overnight.

4. About 20 minutes before roasting, remove the pork from the fridge and preheat the oven to 325°. Put the red onions in a metal roasting pan and set a rack on top. Wrap the pork with the bacon (overlapping them slightly and tucking them under; tie a piece of kitchen twice around each slice to secure it). Set on the rack and roast until bacon is crisp and a thermometer inserted into center of pork reads 145°, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer pork to a cutting board; let rest for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make gravy: Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings from the pan.Place the roasting pan over 2 burners over medium-low heat and whisk in the flour until incorporated. Add the chicken broth and whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar and season with salt & pepper.

6. Remove twine and slice the pork. Serve with onions and gravy.

My Grandma’s Collard Greens

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Happy Fiesta Friday #31, all! I’m super glad to be headed to today’s party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener. I wanted to save this recipe for a Fiesta Friday because it’s not only one of the best things I’ve ever made, but also because it is very, VERY special to me and my family heritage. A few weeks back, I made a full-blown Southern Meal for my family with Triple Dipped Fried Chicken and Hushpuppies on the side- but as delicious as both the chicken and hushpuppies were, they just wouldn’t have been complete as a meal without this dish.My Grandma’s parents were farmers in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi. I was too young to be able too be there in their hey-day and see the farm as it was when they weren’t older and infirm, but I’ve heard plenty of stories from my Grandma, Mom and Aunts.

Even though they all lived in Michigan, every summer my Grandpa would take my Grandma and their three daughters down to Mississippi for the summer to visit my Great-Grandparents on their farm. My mom didn’t really like it, for a number of reasons:

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First, she was a self-described “city girl”. My great-grandparents’ farm was literally a on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Because it was the summertime in the Deep South in the mid 70’s, there was (of course) no air conditioning, and the majority of the windows were left open at all hours of the day and night in order to allow the breeze to cool down the house. My mom (having just read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote) was convinced that a serial killer was going to break into the house and murder everyone and tells me that she used to walk around the house, checking and re-checking doors and windows for intruders.

Second, my mom couldn’t get into the whole ‘ farm experience’. My great-grandpa’s enormous hunting dogs on the porch frightened her by running up to the car and surrounding it every time they drove up to the house. Apparently the chickens were demon possessed and chased her around everywhere. Plus, a lot of the food that got served on the table at my great-grandparents’ house came from the farm itself- including the meat. My mom had a hard time eating the chicken that she saw get shot, decapitated, plucked, and butchered just a few hours ago.

One thing she consistently talks about, are the big ‘Meetins’ that they all used to attend. For those who aren’t Southern or aren’t familiar with the Baptist tradition, the big ‘Meetins’ (you have to say it just like that, no ‘g’s allowed) consisted of large gatherings of the local Churches where they would all hold one, long service that LITERALLY lasted all day long, then conclude with a pot-luck style feast composed of all the dishes that each of the women would make before hand and bring to share.

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At any true Southern church meetin, you’re guaranteed to find a pot of greens. They’re almost like a symbol of the South itself. When you eat them, you can practically taste all the history and soul that they come from with every bite.

My Grandma’s greens are the thing of legend. Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, and (my personal favorite) Cabbage Greens. She does them all, and she does them all perfectly. I’ve said it before on the blog, and I’m gonna say it again: her greens would be on the menu of foods I would have to eat if I was on Death Row and given a last meal to eat. Give me a big bowl of greens and two hunks of her cornbread, and I don’t even need meat. They’re really that good.

The greens that she makes for the family come straight out of her backyard garden, but I’ve also made this recipe with greens that I’ve bought at grocery stores and farmer’s markets- however, if you know someone who grows greens or can get to a farmer’s market, then I do strongly recommend that you get them that way. The quality of homegrown greens is so much better than the ones you get in the stores.

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My grandma usually uses whole ham hocks to flavor her greens, but because I know that not everyone can get their hands on those (and because depending on where you live, they can get pretty pricey), I adapted this recipe so that it’s do-able for just about anywhere using regular bacon (note: you CAN also use turkey bacon, or even smoked turkey instead of the pork). This recipe is also one where you’re going to have to use your personal taste-testing skills to judge how much or how little seasoning you add. I judge what to add or not add by tasting the liquid given off by the greens after they’ve been cooking half-way through or so (we call that stuff the Pot Likker in the South, and it’s friggin awesome). When they’re done, i do have to emphasize that cornbread with greens is a must- one hunk for dipping in the pot likker, and another hunk for crumbling over the greens themselves.Oh, and if you have access to some zesty, jarred Southern Cha Cha (some people call it Chow Chow), then you need to sprinkle some of that on top too. It’ll send your bowl of greens and cornbread over the edge and into the galaxies of awesomeness.

 I’ve got this down to a science, can’t you tell?

Try this dish, guys. I don’t care if you have so-called ‘picky eaters’ in your house- I was one of those people growing up too. And I STILL couldn’t get enough of these greens.

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My Grandma’s Collard Greens

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 6 bunches of collard greens, washed, stems removed, and sliced into about 1/2 inch thick strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 16 oz. thick cut bacon
  • Onion powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt and black pepper
  • About 1 1/2—2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange bacon on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes. (The bacon is not supposed to be crispy– it’s okay if it’s still a little floppy or limp.)

2. Remove bacon from tray and roughly chop into lardons, or large chunks. Set aside.

3. Drain the remaining drippings and grease from the sheet pan into a bowl and set aside.

4. Place the greens in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the chicken broth, onion and bacon and mix together. Season the greens with onion powder, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cover and allow to cook until greens are tender and wilted, about 35-45minutres, depending on how tender or firm you like them. Make sure the liquid doesn’t get absorbed, or they’ll scorch!

6. Taste the juice the greens are cooking in and adjust for seasoning.