Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oh Sh!t Stew and Other Kitchen (Mis)Adventures

I CANNOT be the only one who has a toddler wake up too early, be cranky all morning, and when we get to the naptime upon which I am so desperately depending, toddler refuses to nap and in fact SCREAMS at me for two and a half hours no matter what I do to comfort her. It’s days like this where any dinner prep goes out of the window because I have a TOOMAH attached to my hip, and I cannot work with knives or a hot stove with said TOOMAH.
So, here is what I refer to as my recipe for “Oh Sh!t I Have No Time and My Husband Is Allergic to Tomatoes, Which Of Course Would Make Making Stew Easier” Chicken Stew. You can call it chicken stew for short if you want, but I think that leaves out of some of the flavor, n’est—ce pas?

(1) Chicken, thawed or even frozen and you’re like me and completely incapable of remembering to take the chicken out of the freezer.
(2) Can of beans (I like cannellini, but whatever kind you have is fine but for the love of all that is holy don’t use chili beans that are already seasoned)
(3) What I call “flavor” vegetables—that is, vegetables that give a flavor. I use onion, carrot, and garlic, but you could use celery or potatoes or mushrooms or whatever or even tomatoes if you are lucky and don’t have a husband who is allergic to tomatoes.
(4) What I call “pretty” veggies—that is, spinach or kale or something else with a pretty bright color, cut up to add color and probably more nutritional value that my daughter will send hurtling at top speed to the floor or the dog.
(5) White wine or chicken stock
(6) Spices you like—I use oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Oh, and paprika, because I put that on everything.
(7) Olive Oil
Coat bottom of stockpot with olive oil and begin sautéing onions and flavor veggies. When you get bored or they look done enough, whatever comes first, pour in some wine. No, I don’t know how much, because it depends on how much I think I might need in my stew depending on the kind of day I had. Yes, I know alcohol cooks off, why don’t you be quiet and go away KILL JOY.

Toss in can of beans, liquid and all, and then add chicken breasts. Yes! This is the glory of this recipe! It will cook fine even if they were frozen! Make sure there is just enough liquid to almost cover the chicken breasts. If not, add MORE WINE or chicken broth if you are lame. Or not out of it, like I always am. Don’t totally cover the chicken breasts, or you will have soup, not stew, but whatever. It’ll taste fine.

Add your spices.

When the chicken is done (seriously? I don’t know when its done. Cut it open and check yourself!), you can either leave the chicken whole or stab it into smaller pieces with a spatula, like I do. Yes. I stab it. It’s good stress relief.

Now add your pretty pop of color veggies. You need to save these for last, because the longer you cook them, the more color they lose. Also, if its spinach, it gets slimy when its cooked too long. Just stir them in at the end! Unless it’s cubed sweet potatoes. You should probably cook those longer, lest you lose a tooth.

VOILA chicken stew.

Bonus step: If you happen to have pasta or orzo or Amish Noodles (love those) or egg noodles, they help thicken the stew. Add them in when you add the chicken breasts, and just keep an eye on the liquid level to make sure the pasta hasn’t absorbed too much liquid. Too much liquid absorbed by the pasta? Add MORE WINE.

Seriously though, it turned out great, and it is really easy. From start (Vor: “Um, what are we having for dinner?” Me: Blank stare) to finish (food in mouth, silence from adults, screeching from toddler), it took 25 minutes.  It was very filling and made great leftovers.

That is honestly how I cook—very fly by the seat of the pants, rarely any planning ahead, almost never following a recipe. I don’t measure, I just eye ball it. I’ve tried following meal plans—it ends in disaster and tears. I’ve tried precisely following recipes, but I always end up picking it apart, questioning why they didn’t do it a different way, and then I end up doing it my way instead. This is not to say that I am a stellar cook, but I am pretty good.

What I am stellar at is baking. It’s dangerous. I make pies, pastry, croissants, and other desserts from scratch, and oh sweet Jesus hold me, but they are good. I bake mostly in the fall, because (1) pumpkin, (2) holidays, (3) cooler weather, (4) less crazy season in my job.
Some of my favorites are:
Pie (apple, peach, pumpkin, mixed fruit, chocolate bourbon pecan)
Croissants (almond, pecan, or chocolate)
Roll up cookies
Shortbread (plain, espresso chocolate, cranberry orange)

All of these can be ridiculously easy and in your kitchen in a short time, I promise. Be not afraid of flour.

So, brace yourselves for my upcoming baking adventures. There shall be apples and pumpkin and cinnamon OH MY.

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