So, this recipe was an experiment that started with the leftovers from the Snowstorm meal.   Usually I make chicken potpie with the leftovers from a roast chicken dinner.  I buy relatively small chickens, so I usually have around 4 cups of chicken leftover, but all in small pieces.   For some reason, eating the leftover chicken in that form isn’t terribly exciting to me.  What is exciting is the opportunity to turn the leftover bits into a stew and top it with pie crust.  When I’m feeling lazy, or just not up to rolling pastry, I serve it over biscuits.

So, for this version, I had leftover braised kale, which for whatever reason, also didn’t sound appetizing reheated.  So, I made my regular chicken stew, but added in the leftover kale.  The result was incredibly tasty!  The only thing I would do differently is to add the kale in at the very end.  I simmered it all together for 20 minutes or so, and the result was a very green stew.  Not terrible, but not necessarily ideal either.  If you didn’t have leftover kale, you could cook fresh kale in boiling water first, and then stir it into the stew for the last 5 minutes or so of cooking.   The best thing about this is that it’s easily adjusted to what you have on hand.   Depending on how much leftover chicken you have, you can scale back on the amount of broth and veggies.  I’ve used all kinds of veggies in this, but the classics are always good: corn, peas, green beans, etc.  But the kale was so good that I definitely encourage you to try whatever you have on hand – you never know!

A note on gluten content.  This stew could easily be gluten-free.  I thickened mine with a light roux (in this case, about 2 teaspoons of oil and 4 tablespoons of flour).  Just thicken yours with corn starch instead (I haven’t experimented with GF All Purpose Baking mixes…anyone know if they work for a roux?), and you’ll have a great GF version of this stew.

I served it over biscuits, but the boy, at least, believes that the biscuits are unnecessary.  Do what you will.  I like sopping. 

Chicken and Kale Stew

2 teaspoons oil or butter
1 small onion, chopped
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon ground pepper
4 cups of cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked kale
salt, to taste (mine didn’t need salt because the kale and the cooked chicken were plenty salty)

Heat oil or melt butter in a medium dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add chopped onion, and cook until translucent.  Add flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to remove all lumps.   Slowly add chicken broth, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  (this works best if the chicken stock is warm.  Since I keep mine in the freezer, I microwave it to defrost it, which results in a warmish stock).  Add bay leaves, bouillon cube, poultry seasoning, and pepper.  Add chicken and frozen vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes.  Check seasoning.  Add kale, simmer 5 more minutes.  Check seasoning again.  Serve immediately, alone or over biscuits.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have time to make chicken stock from scratch!  I felt exactly the same way.  I resisted for a long time, until a friend mentioned that instead of the traditional method, which requires a whole raw chicken and a bunch of veggies and herbs, she just used the unused bits of her roasted chickens.  Brilliant!  I skip pretty much all of the fussy steps.  After roasting a chicken, I take all the meat off the bird and save it (usually for a tasty chicken stew or chicken pot pie).  After that, pretty much all you have to do is boil.  It’s that easy.  I don’t skim it.  If you don’t get obsessive about it, it’s a really easy process.  Plus, I figure it helps justify the extra I spend on organic chicken, and it’s basically free!

All told, this stock probably require about 15 minutes of actual work (though it does dirty 2 largish pots…but the boy does the washing around here:)), and usually yields me 2-3 quarts of stock, depending on the size of the chicken. 

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

Remove all of the meat from your roasted chicken, reserve for tasty leftovers.  Place everything that’s left (bones, skin, etc), in a large stockpot and cover with cool water.  Bring water to a boil, reduce to a lively simmer.  Simmer for at least an hour (I usually do this right after we finish dinner, while the boy does the dishes.  Then I let it boil until around bedtime.), or as long as you have (3-4 hours should be more than enough). 

Remove from heat.  Place a colander in a large bowl or another pot (you can line it with cheesecloth if you want.  I never have cheesecloth, so I never do.  The stock still tastes just fine).  Pour the stock though the colander.  Discard chicken pieces, they’ve done their duty.  Ladle stock into canning jars or freezable plastic containers (make sure they’re also microwaveable, then you can easily thaw your stock).  Freeze.  (to do this, I usually try to let them cool, then put them in the fridge or freezer.  In the winter, I just put them outside overnight, then transfer to the freezer).   Should keep up to 7 days in the fridge, or 6 months to a year in the deep freezer.

Ok, the final piece of this snowstorm meal: potatoes.  Oven roasted, crispy, and delicious.  These are a bit of an indulgence, but the oil can be kept to a minimum, and oh boy are they worth it.  I’ll warn you, roasted potatoes and I have an ongoing battle.  Basically, I want them to cook quickly while sharing an oven with my chicken (wouldn’t that be convenient?).  They want an oven to themselves, slightly warmer than the chicken wants.  Otherwise, they are oh so slow to get crisp.  I usually split the difference: put the potatoes on a rack under the chicken, roast for the first 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees.  Pull the chicken out (time it so it will be done), turn the oven up to 400 or 425 degrees, and finish crisping the potatoes for 10-15 minutes. 

In the summer, when I have fresh herbs in the garden, I add chopped rosemary to this.  It smells heavenly and tastes good too!

Roasted Potatoes with Garlic

1-2 teaspoons olive oil or canola oil (you can also use cooking spray here, be sure to spray the foil and the tops of the potatoes)
2 lbs of red potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch cubes (leave skin on)
5-10 cloves garlic, papery outer skin removed, tougher peel left on
kosher salt

(if you’re not already roasting a chicken, preheat oven to 400 degrees)

Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil (non-stick is handy but not required).   Spread the cubed potatoes and the garlic cloves on the lined sheet pan.  Toss with the oil or spray, sprinkle liberally with salt.  Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, turning after 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

The Whole Snowstorm Meal:
Basic Roast Chicken
Braised Kale with Pancetta

This was the experimental part of our snowstorm dinner.  I honestly didn’t want to make it (after shoveling all that snow I was tired and, I’ll admit it, cranky).  But I’d bought a huge bag of kale, so we were going to eat it!  It’s actually very easy, and incredibly tasty.  It’s actually a revelation to me that cooked greens by themselves can be this yummy.  Growing up we didn’t eat greens like this.  My mom told horror stories of being forced to sit at the dinner table, watching a lump of spinach congeal, until she managed to eat it.  She never liked cooked greens, and such experiences didn’t exactly help.  So, growing up we never ate leafy greens unless they were raw, in salad.  As an adult my experiences with greens have been hit or miss…this one has converted me.  I want more greens!  It’s adapted from a recipe in Fine Cooking (mostly I just added less pancetta and oil and more chile flakes). 

So, eat your greens, and enjoy! 

Braised Kale with Pancetta
adapted from Fine Cooking

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pancetta, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 1/2 lb kale, stemmed, leaves torn
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
splash of lemon juice, to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add pancetta, onion, and chili flakes.  Cook until pancetta is golden and crispy, and onion is golden.  Add the kale, turning with tongs to coat with oil (you might have to do this a little at a time; my dutch oven is a 6 qt, and I couldn’t fit all the kale in and turn it to coat.  Waiting and turning between big handfuls of kale allowed it to wilt, making room for the rest.)  Once the leaves are coated, add the chicken broth, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes (the more tender the variety the shorter the cook time, I used the extra frilly kind, which is tougher, and it took about 13 minutes to fully cook).  Check the pan, tasting for doneness.  Add additional stock or water if necessary.

Uncover, add the minced garlic, and cook on high until all the liquid evaporates.  Add a splash of lemon juice if desired.

The Whole Snowstorm Meal:
Basic Roast Chicken
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic

Here in the midwest we had quite the snowstorm last night, and flakes are still falling today.  I braved the unplowed roads to get all the makings for a perfect roast chicken dinner.  After shoveling the driveway, the boy and I were more than ready for a hearty meal.  Also a side effect of shoveling the driveway was that I was completely exhausted, so I went with the simplest roast chicken possible.  Roast chicken is kind of a staple at our house.  It feels fancy and special occasion, but is really simple.  Also, once it goes in the oven, it requries no attention.  In the summer I use fresh herbs from the garden, but in the winter dried herbs work just fine.  Served with braised kale, roasted potatoes, and a glass of wine, this was a lovely meal for a dark and snowy night.  Last night I added a teaspoon or so of ground coriander, which was pretty good.  Play around!

Another plus of this meal is that as long as you have gluten-free spices in your pantry, it’s automatically gluten-free.  And with food this cozy and comfy, who’s missing the gluten?

A final note.  I’ve become obsessed with making chicken stock.  It’s so easy!  Ok, the way I make it is easy.  Follow the link at the bottom…for real, it’s easy and so worth it!

Basic Roast Chicken

1 3-4lb whole chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, quartered

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine oil, spices, and garlic.

Remove giblets from chicken (save for stock if desired).  Rinse chicken inside and out.  Place in roasting pan and pat dry.   Gently separate the skin from the breast of the chicken with your fingers.   Rub the oil and spice mixture under the skin, rubbing any extra over the top of the skin.  If you have a lot of extra oil mixture, place it inside the body cavity.   Place the quartered onion inside the chicken.  If you have kitchen twine, tie up the legs.  (I never have twine, and I never tie up my bird.  The world has yet to come to an end.)  Tuck the wing tips under the bird so that they don’t burn (or cover them with foil).

Roast chicken for 1-1 1/2 hours, until juices run clear and thermometer inserted between thigh and body reads at least 165 degrees.

The Whole Snowstorm Meal:
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic
Braised Kale with Pancetta

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

I’m back!  I know it’s been a year and a half or so….sorry.  😦  As you know if you’ve been reading the site, it’s been a rough couple years for me.  Way back in the fall of 2007 I started have weird symptoms (severe arthritis, mental fog, etc).  Those weird symptoms led to a long round of doctor’s appointments, tests (mostly inconclusive), and treatments (mostly ineffective).  Fast forward to winter 2010: I have a diagnosis, Behcet’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease.  Since last writing, I worked a full-time job as a visiting instructor at a small liberal arts university (not a ton of cooking got done during that time), took time off to write full-time on my dissertation, and have engaged in an ongoing struggle to get on a stable medication regimen.  I think we might finally be there.  A combination of methotrexate injections, plaquenil (actually intended to treat malaria – go figure), and folic acid seems to be working.  It’s still a struggle.  I have a maximum of 5 good days per week (one bad day when my methotrexate is wearing off, one when it’s starting to work and making me sick).  I’m mostly off pain medication, but I still hurt most days.   I’m losing weight (again – I’d lost some and then gained back more during a bout of depression), and even exercising.

More importantly, given the topic of this blog – I’m cooking again!  I finally have the energy to cook and enjoy food again.  It’s good to be back!  So, yesterday I had the brilliant idea to make indian food.  I wanted Chicken Korma, and I wanted it to be bubbling away in the crockpot when I came home from work.  Sadly for me, this recipe just doesn’t lend itself to crockpot prep.  Oh, I did it.  But it took me almost an hour to prep.  Granted, I move slower these days, but to me, that’s just unacceptable.  I happen to not go to work until 3 or 4 in the afternoon – but normal people?  Unacceptable.  So, I’m giving the instructions here for regular preparation.  Let me know if you’re able to prep it quickly and get it in the crockpot.

The korma though, was wonderful.  I used chicken thighs, which sort of shredded themselves in the sauce while it cooked all day on low.  This was not undesirable, if unforseen.  Just a disclaimer – this is not like the korma you get in restaurants.  As much as I’d like it to be, it’s just not.  I suspect (based on its source and a number of other cookbooks I own) that this is a more authentic version.  But still, not what you would get in most indian restaurants in America.  It is, however, richly spiced and delicious.

A note on ingredients.  I use whole spices when I can get my hands on them.  If you don’t have whole spices though, just use ground.  In place of the plum tomatoes, I used about 3 frozen tomatoes (I froze them when they were fresh last summer).  Also, I did not use heavy cream, and since I like this dish as creamy as possible, I used homemade cashew cream (recipe follows).   Serve with warm naan.

Quick Chicken Korma
(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking 2007)

Servings: 4

11⁄2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 bay leaves
2-inch stick cinnamon
8 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon whole black or regular cumin seeds
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1-2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks
1⁄4 to 1 teaspoon cayenne
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup cashew cream

In a blender, purée the ginger, garlic and 3 tablespoons water until they form a smooth paste.

Crush the cardamom pods lightly. (you can do this using the bottom of a jar or glass)

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high. When the oil is very hot, add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves and whole cumin seeds. Stir, then add the onion. Saute 3 minutes, or until the onion browns.

Transfer the paste from the blender to the skillet. Add the ground coriander and ground cumin, then sauté for a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté another minute.

Add the chicken, cayenne, salt and remaining 1 cup of water, tomato paste, and cashew cream.  Bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the cover  and cook on medium-high, stirring occasionally, another 10-15  minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Use a slotted spoon to remove and discard the cardamom pods, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves. Serve over rice if desired (I just served it with warm naan).

Well, here I am again…borrowing yet another page from Heidi Swanson.  This time it’s a special request from the friend who borrowed Super Natural Cooking.  So, I happen to have eaten this salad but never made it myself.  For that reason, I’ll just give you the recipe with little commentary.

Wheat Berry Salad with Citrus, Toasted Pine Nuts, Feta, and Spinach
from Super Natural Cooking, by Heidi Swanson, Celestial Arts, 2007

2 cups soft wheat berries, rinsed
6 cups water
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed

Citrus Dressing
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 generous handfuls spinach leaves, stemmed and well rinsed
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the wheat berries, water, and 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy, about an hour or so.  The berries should stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they’re done is to taste a few.  Drain and season to taste with more salt. 

To make the dressing, combine the orange zest and juice, lemon juice, and shallot.  Whisk in the olive oil and season with a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Toss the hot wheat berries with the spinach, pine nuts, citrus dressing, then top with the feta.  Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with a bit more salt if needed.

Serves 4 to 6.