I made this chicken stew in the last week of October, two pots of it, and everyone loved it. There were no leftovers. When I made it again – repeat.
This stew is easy and once you’ve got your prep out of the way, it only takes about forty minutes to cook. I made it on the fly, I winged it…the only thing that stopped me from posting it sooner was getting the measurements down. Once upon a time, I used to measure spices with teaspoons and sometimes tablespoons but now I rarely do unless I’m following a written recipe. Most days I just eyeball the amounts. (Eventually I’ll start eyeballing the amounts for those written recipes, too, if I make them enough times to know the recipes by heart.)
Cold weather is setting in, the days are getting shorter and even on the sunniest of days, one still needs to bundle up. This is the weather that requires tucking into a warm bowl of soup or stew after coming in from the cold. Thanksgiving comes earlier in Canada, we celebrate it a month earlier than Americans, and last week we made a chicken chili instead of having the traditional turkey. (We would have used turkey, but my Mum didn’t have her readers on when she went to pick it up. To be fair, though, the chicken and turkey (both ground) were close together.)
This will have been only the second recipe for chili I’ve made so far, and it’s a good one. It was an instant favourite with my family – there were no leftovers – and it has the traditional chili flavours with bacon and ground turkey (or chicken, which is tofu-like in that it absorbs the spices and flavours of the ingredients) and the addition of cocoa powder gives it depth and a subtle flavour of its own. (I had not used cocoa powder before in chili and despite my doubts, I was pleasantly surprised and happy I went along with it.) We also used red and white kidney beans in celebration of Canadian spirit.
I think it was last week that I thought I’d made chowder and tweeted about it. Well, I think I simply replicated the flavour of the clam (and lobster) chowder I’d eaten while down in San Francisco and Anaheim, California but nonetheless I’d made something tasty and it was made again. As cooking is often less precise than baking, it took the second round for me to get down the measurements or at least a fair estimate so that I could share it here. As much as I am fond of those recipes that leave you to your imagination and being creative – in other words, recipes that serve more as guidelines – it’s always helpful to have some pointers so that – later on, if you feel like it – you can improvise and make it your own.
I tried my hand at doing a bit of food styling – at least, more than usual as I’ve lately been inspired by the Donna Hay magazine and Katie Quinn Davies of What Katie Ate. I did a set up with a bamboo cutting board (one of my birthday kitchen gadgets – a cutting board can be considered a gadget, right?) and I folded a striped blue dishtowel that I thought would compliment the bowl holding the stew. A spoon was added later. As for the stew itself, afterward I wished that I’d added a little extra colour to make it more interesting (even adding corn kernels would have added some of that extra something) but I don’t expect myself to hit all the marks of food styling on the first round.
This stew is very simple. While it’s thickened with cornstarch, most of the help comes from pureeing cauliflower – if you’ve made cauliflower soup before, you’ll then get the gist of it: pureeing until it’s a very smooth puree, ideally without any lumps. The flavour comes from the beef, which is stewed with onion and mushroom – enhanced if you use beef or chicken stock also – and is rounded off by a pat or two of butter. For a dairy-free and casein-free alternative to the butter, coconut milk would also work I’m sure. Continue reading