Monday, February 7, 2011

Easy Week Night Chicken Stew

A few weeks ago my mother made a delicious chicken stew, complete with dumplings, which I was the lucky recipient of.  A nice big container became my lunch for a few days, and I enjoyed the warm and hearty decadence of a slow cooked stew, full of rich flavors.  A few nights after I had finished off the thick and delicious stew, I got a craving for more.  It was cold out side, and the stick to your ribs loveliness was the soul satisfying thing I desired.  It was a week night, I was tired, but I decided to try my hand a week night fast stew.

I assembled the typical ingredients:
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
3-4 chopped garlic cloves
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
Fresh Rosemary
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 tbsp butter
Vegetable Stock
7-8 Cremini mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
1 zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
Salt and Pepper

And then I found a little inspiration in my cupboard.  Several weeks ago I purchased a roll of pre-made polenta as "whim" purchase.  I decided that polenta might be the perfect way to top my stew in lieu of dumplings. 

Arugula Polenta Rounds
2 handfuls fresh Arugula
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

4-5 slices of Pre Made Polenta, or if you have more time- home made polenta, cooled and cut into 2 inch pieces.

I heated the butter into a large skillet pan, and then added the carrots, garlic and celery, sauteed until tender.  I added fresh chopped rosemary to this mix- really here I used a lot- because I love rosemary- add to your discretion or feel free to sub in a herb to your liking- sage and parsley would work very well.  Once the rosemary was fragrant with the other ingredients, I added the chicken pieces and browned them on all sides.  Once the chicken was cooked through, I began adding flour, teaspoon by teaspoon until the chicken and veggies were evenly, but not heavily, coated.  I probably used 3 tbsp in total, but thoroughly stirred in between additions to ensure that it was properly distributed.  Then, I began to add the vegetable stock in a similar fashion, stirring carefully watching as the flour incorporated into it and created a thick sauce.  Once the liquid reached my desired consistency (very thick soup) I added the mushrooms and zucchini and covered the pan, letting it lightly simmer over low heat.  

I turned my attention to the polenta rounds.  

I combined the arugula, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper into a food processor, and then blended while slowing adding the oil.  Once I reached a loose pesto feel for texture, I used the mixture to paint onto the polenta rounds.  I let them rest for a moment, and then grilled them on a flat top to heat them through, and lightly brown them.

Let me tell you- this was comfort in a bowl!  I spooned a nice big helping into a cheery bowl, and topped the strew with two polenta rounds, and then drizzled a little extra of the arugula dressing over the top.  I loved the contrast of the flavors.  The stew was thick, rich and hearty, and the arugula was a perfect bright and acidic compliment to it.  The polenta, mixed with the stew soaked up the wonderful flavors and was a perfect little topper.   This was a perfect week night meal. It included lots of nice veggies, it was simple to put together, and it allowed for creativity both in making it a little "gourmet" with the polenta rounds, but also in that it could easily incorporate other ingredients and flavors to completely transform it. I could see using beans, corn and cilantro for a Mexican themed dish and topping it with avocado.  Or you could hype up the parsley, basil and garlic and make it take on more of an Italian theme.  No matter how you go about it- this was a delicious and hearty meal on a cold week night! 


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