Lazy Sunday Dinner – Winter Chicken Stew
Lazy Sunday Dinner – Winter Chicken Stew
This past week was a crazy busy one for Boy With A Knife. We had a bunch of holiday cocktail parties, met a ton of new potential clients, and produced some food (dishes?) I am really proud of. That means Sunday was the only day this week I was able to actually cook a meal at home, and even then it wasn’t till dinner that I did. Sean and I started the day by heading out to the kitchen to unload an event I left in the van because I was too tired to deal with it the night before… oops. After that we picked up a few friends and went to Score on Davie for brunch and a few beers.
While at brunch Sean said he wanted to get a foot massage – as he has about a million times in the past. He is obsessed with foot massages and somehow convinced us to go with him this time. He has been trying to get me to go for about as long as I have known him. Thing is, I really don’t like to be touched… ever, so foot massages? Not really my thing.
We had to kill a few hours before getting our feet rubbed, so the four of us strolled around town for awhile. The Santa Clause parade was ending and there were all kinds of colourful people were out and about. I’m talking pink hair and neon tights everywhere. Maybe they weren’t even part of the parade, but it was delightful people-watching anyway.
Finally, it was time for the dreaded foot massage. After 60 minutes, I’m in LOVE!!! Turns out foot massages are NOTHING like what I thought they were. I have really ticklish feet and figured I would have ended up booting them in the face or something stupid. Instead they put me right to sleep, I was in heaven!! Now that we had gotten our Zen on and were completely mellow we headed home to chill and watch some Sunday evening TV. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home and picked up product to make a delicious winter chicken stew.
I started with bacon in the pot, getting it all browned and releasing the fat. I then removed the bacon and added my flour-dusted chicken thighs, browning them in batches and careful not to overcrowd my pot. Once the chicken was browned and removed, I added diced onions to the pot. (The onions go in on two layers of flavour). I scraped up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan, adding a few splashes of beer I was drinking. Once the onions were translucent I added in my chunked up carrot and celery, sautéing for another 5 minutes. To that I added dried tarragon, lots of fresh thyme and salt and pepper. I then added the chicken and bacon to the sautéed veggies, as well as a few spoonfuls of flour and stirred it up. I like to cook the flour for a few minutes as I find it helps the gluten relax and makes your gravy less ooogy. Once it was looking nice I added in some really good beef demi and chicken stock, stirring constantly to break up any flour bits and making sure it all dissolved evenly. I kept it moving around until it came to a simmer. (The flour will thicken your stock once it comes to a simmer). Once it was simmering I put a lid on and reduced the heat to low and let it do its thing for about an hour.
While the stew was simmering I got my parsnips prepped. I put a pot on to boil and blanched the parsnips for 4 minutes. (I always like to cook my parsnips separately from the stew because parsnips have such a strong flavour; I like to add them at the end otherwise the stew will be parsnip overwhelming). After an hour it was time to add the parsnips and a few glugs of whipping cream to the stew. I incorporated them and simmered for another 5-10 minutes.
At this point I like to play with acids, salts, sweets and heat… AKA balancing your dish. Sherry vinegar is my go-to acid. I love the sharp tang and very distinct flavour. I always have a really good bottle of sherry vinegar on hand – it’s my splurge item!! A few splashed in your dish just before serving adds that hit of acid to lift all the flavours in the dish.
About balancing: if you feel your dish is too spicy you can add some sweetness to counteract the heat. If you feel it’s too salty you can add cream. The cream will mellow the salt. If it feels heavy on your tongue, it needs some acid to lift the flavour and make them pop! Balancing your dish is what makes your dish go from basic to chef quality. It’s so important in all good dishes.
2 lbs chicken thighs – cut into 2” chunks
4 tbs flour – for dusting
salt and pepper
1 liter chicken stock
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup beef demi
3 parsnips – peeled cut into 2” chunks
2 carrots – peeled cut into 2” chunks
3 ribs celery – cut into 2” chunks
1 large onion – cut into 2” chunks
1 lb button mushrooms – cut in half
6 tbs flour
2 tbs dried tarragon
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
3-6 tbs sherry vinegar