Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chicken Stew with Okra and Herb Dumplings ("Chicken in the Pot")




It's been a long cold, wet spring on the East Coast. This dish would normally, to me, make a great fall/winter dinner. Since it's cold and damp, there's one last chance to prepare stew (and fresh sour dough bread!) for dinner.

This chicken dish is not the traditional chicken in the pot with egg noodles and matzah balls. The dish is made with a liberal amount of green herbs, roughly chopped vegetables and okra. The vegetables, except the okra, which helps to thicken the stew, can be varied to your taste. This is an easy to prepare comfort food that is easily adaptable to personal taste. The stew will serve 4-6 people.

Choreography:
It is easier to make this stew if all of the ingredients are prepped and ready to add. The use of ready made chicken broth makes this an easy to prepare dish. It is tastier if made a day ahead, chilled and then skimmed of residual fat before re-warming. The liberal use of fresh herbs give the stew a fresh flavor which dried or frozen herbs cannot provide.

Equipment:
Large stock pot
Cutting board, sharp knife
Vegetable peeler, sharp knife (for cutting up vegetables, dice herbs)
Measuring spoons
Kitchen scale

Ingredients:
For the "stew" 
4 lbs cut up chicken (this is an approximate weight, I prefer to use thighs, drumsticks and wings)
1-2 Tbsp oil (I use olive, but any cooking oil will work well)
2 large onions (roughly chopped, approximately 4 oz)
4-5 medium carrots (peeled and cut into thick slices, approximately 6 oz)
3-4 stalks celery (cut into thick slices, approximately 6 oz)
8 oz white mushrooms, roughly chopped
1- 6 oz can tomato paste
8 oz okra (trim off stem edge, leave whole)
1/4- 1/3 cup mixed chopped herbs (use any herb combination you like.  I use parsley and dill)
1 quart chicken broth (prepared or home made)
3-4 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

For the dumplings
1/4 c chopped herbs, any mixture you like (I use parsley and dill)
1/2 c melted solid shortening /oil (I use coconut oil)
1/2 c liquid -coconut milk, soy, water or broth (I use fat-free coconut milk)
1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 c (6 oz) all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

Procedure:
1. Prepare the chicken pieces, vegetables, chop the herbs.

2. Add a small amount of oil to the stock pot and begin to saute the chopped onions. Add several pieces of chicken and cook for a few minutes, turning over as the skin and surface begin to cook. You are not browning the chicken, but rather sauteing a bit on all sides. Remove partially cooked chicken pieces from the pan and continue to add other pieces until all of the chicken is partially cooked.
You will probably not need to add any more oil, as the chicken will release it's juices and the fat will begin to render and melt.

3. After the chicken is cooked, add the carrots, celery and mushrooms to the stockpot. Cook over medium high heat for a few minutes. Add the okra, stir and cook for 3-4 minutes more.


 

4. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth and bay leaves. Return the chicken to the pan. Add a bit of salt and pepper - you will be able to correct the seasoning later.

5. Cover and simmer  slowly for 30-40 minutes.

6. While the stew is simmering, prepare the dumplings. Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Melt the shortening, combine with the liquid, salt, pepper and chopped herbs. Mix in the flour, stir until thoroughly mixed. Chill the mixture for 15-30 minutes.



7. The chicken should be completely cooked through by this time. Remove the chicken from the pot and  continue to heat the vegetable mixture at a slow simmer. Stir the dumpling dough with a soup spoon and drop pieces of the mixture by the spoonful into the simmering soup. You'll have 12-15 dumplings. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes.

8. If you are serving immediately place a piece or two of chicken in a bowl, add a dumpling or two and ladle some of the remaining stew mixture on over the chicken and dumplings. If you are going to chill the stew first, cool the stew in the pot and pour over the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Skim any fat off before re-warming the stew.