Cook’s Illustrated is one of our favorite magazines. Published six times a year, Cook’s Illustrated often experiments with traditional recipes to make them better. More often than not they succeed and, for that, I am more than pleased.
In the November and December 2013 edition, Chef Dan Souza tries his hand at making a Chicken Stew. Dan is quite right when he argues that beef or pork is usually associated with stews. Chicken stew derivatives like coq au vin, tend to be more like a soup than a stew and while they are generally very flavorful often lack the substance of a “real” beef stew.
Dan’s goal was to make a chicken stew that was more robust and substantive and succeeded admirably.
The basic approach was to build a rich and flavorful gravy by cooking two batches of chicken: one for flavor and one for eating. In effect, he creates a rich gravy by extracting flavor (collagen) from chicken wings and then adds some big flavor boosters: bacon, soy sauce and anchovy paste to create a great chicken stew. (Editor’s Note: We ate the chicken stew last weekend and even granddaughter Corinne enjoyed it.)
Best Chicken Stew from Cook’s Illustrated
Ingredients (Serves 4 to 8)
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, halved crosswise and trimmed
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 3 slices bacon, chopped (please use Benton’s bacon)
- 1 pound chicken wings, halved at joint
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 celery rib, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine, plus extra for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (yes, I suggest King Arthur flour)
- 1 pound small red potatoes, unpeeled and quartered
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325º. Arrange chicken thighs on baking sheet and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper; cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fat renders and bacon browns, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to medium bowl. Add chicken wings to pot, increase heat to medium and cook until well browned on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer wings to bowl with bacon.
- Add onion, celery, garlic, anchovy paste, and thyme to fat in pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until dark fond forms on pan bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. Increase heat to high; stir in 1 cup broth, wine, and soy sauce, scraping up any browned bits; and bring to boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to sizzle again, 12 to 15 minutes. Add butter and stir to melt; sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in remaining 4 cups broth until smooth. Stir in wings and bacon, potatoes, and carrots; bring to simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
- Remove pot from oven. Use wooden spoon to draw gravy up sides of pot and scrape browned fond into stew. Place over high heat, add thighs, and bring to simmer. Return pot to oven, uncovered and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken offers no resistance when poked with fork and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes longer. (Stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
- Discard wings and season stew with up to 2 tablespoons extra wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
Money-saving comment from a guest chef
“I’ve made this recipe three times now. It is absolutely delicious. Here’s a money saving variation. Yesterday, I made baked buffalo chicken wings. I used the “flappers’ from the family pack of wings in place of the pound of wings. I prepared the gravy up to almost the end of step three. I put in just the chicken wing tips, covered it, and simmered for an hour. Took the wings out and put the gravy in the fridge overnight. It was nice and thick when I took it out of the fridge today. I reheated the gravy with a little more water, added the veggies and continued as above. Used a chicken part that usually goes to waste, and you’re not wasting good wings. Tasted identical to the batches I made with a pound of wings.”
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