Weekly Winner – What a Crock! (Pot Stew, that is)

I’ve been on a bit of a stew craze lately.  Must be the change in the weather.  The leaves start changing and I crave hearty soups, stews and chilis.  But while I’ve already made known my general indifference towards beef stews (with the exception of my Kerala Style Beef Stew https://donnasquickqi.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/weekly-winner-a-spectacular-stew/) I have always loved chicken soups and stews.  And this is one of the coziest ones around.  As an added bonus, it is made in the crock pot (I know, I know, they’re known as “slow cookers” now, excuse me!) so that you can build the anticipation with the wonderful smells that start filling your house hours before dinner.

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Stout Stew comes from Eating Well Magazine and it has been in my arsenal for quite a while.  And I don’t see it going anywhere soon.  It truly is a stew to savor.  The only variation I made to the recipe this time was that instead of Guinness, I used my new favorite beer, Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.  Yum!

Slow-Cooker Chicken and Stout Stew

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 pieces bacon, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups Guinness beer or other stout (14-ounce can)
  • 1 pound whole baby carrots or large carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 8-ounce package cremini or button mushrooms, halved if large
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed

Preparation

  1. Combine 6 tablespoons flour with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Dredge chicken thighs in the mixture to coat completely; transfer to a plate.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until well browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side; transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Reduce heat to medium and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and chicken thighs. Arrange the chicken in an even layer in the slow cooker.
  3. Add bacon to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup flour over the bacon and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes more. Add stout and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from      the bottom of the pan. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Add carrots, mushrooms, onion, garlic and thyme, spreading in an even layer over the chicken. Pour broth over the top.
  4. Cover and cook until the chicken is falling-apart tender, 4 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low.
  5. Stir in peas, cover and cook until the peas are heated through, 5 to 10 minutes more. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
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The Hoarder in All of Us

So, what is it that you stash in unnatural quantities?  I’ve always considered myself a very tidy person.  I abhor clutter.  I have never maintained “collections”.  My shelves are not packed with bric a brac.  But yet, my name is Donna, and I am a hoarder.  What is it that I pack away? What am I not able to help adding one more item to?  Food.  There I said it.  I am a food hoarder.

I came to this realization this week when I opened my freezer.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  As anyone who reads this blog knows.  I adore cooking. Cooking makes me happy.  I find great joy in planning menus, finding new recipes, discovering new ingredients… yada yada yada.  The thing is … there are only two mouths to feed in this house.  (As much as I have tried, The World’s Dorkiest Cat simply refuses any and all “people food”).  Most recipes make four to six servings.  Yes, I realize I can cut the recipe down for two servings but that is not always practical.  It’s hard to add half or one-third of an egg.  Besides, if I only made enough for that night’s dinner, what would I put in my freezer??  I do get great joy in opening the freezer and seeing all my tidy, organized storage containers carefully holding Weekly Winners of weeks passed.

So as I approached this week and realized that Hubby would be traveling for most of it and that I would be busy at work, I opened the freezer and realized that it was not necessary to cook at all this week.  The biggest problem was that I would actually have to decide which of the many treasures in there I’d need to defrost.  It was like I was viewing Weekly Winners On Parade!  That made me very happy.

I’m sure when the weekend comes around and Hubby is back home, I’ll get the itch to whip something up in the kitchen, but I am honestly looking forward to a little reprieve.   I’m prepared and I know I won’t be deprived.

So I ask you?  What is it that you hoard?  Because I think, deep down, there is a little hoarder in all of us.

Weekly Winner: A Midweek Trip to Provence … on a plate

I’ve made no secret of my love of all things French.  This salad is wonderfully Provencal and incredibly surprising.  The lentils are tossed in a mustardy vinaigrette, the pears are sweet and dessert-like, and then the Roquefort is its wonderful pungent self.  The flavors are crazy, complex and seemingly at odds with each other, yet they all come together on the plate to transport you to someplace very French.  Any lunch that can do that midweek in under an hour definitely gets my vote for Weekly Winner.  Perhaps most surprising of all is the source for this recipe … Redbook Magazine.  Goes to show, you just never know where a fantastic recipe will appear!

Provençal Pear, Roquefort, and Lentil Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Lentils

1 cup Puy (green) lentils

1 small carrot, quartered

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed

¼ tsp kosher salt

Dressing

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper Pears

2 firm-ripe Bosc pears, quartered lengthwise

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp packed brown sugar

3 oz Roquefort or Gorgonzola cheese, coarsely crumbled

Procedure

1. Lentils: Rinse lentils with cold water. Tie carrot, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf in a bundle with string. Place lentils, bundle, garlic, and salt in a medium saucepan and cover with 4 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain, and discard bundle and garlic.

2. Dressing: In a small glass measuring cup, whisk together all ingredients. While lentils are hot, toss with dressing in a large bowl.

3. Pears: Core pears and cut each quarter in half, lengthwise.

4. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears and sprinkle with brown sugar. Sauté on both sides until golden and slightly caramelized, 5 minutes.

5. Place lentils on a large platter. Arrange pears on top and sprinkle with Roquefort. Serve immediately.

Weekly Winner – A Spectacular Stew

I’m usually relatively indifferent about beef stews.  To me, they all tend to wind up tasting the same.  Not bad mind you, just similar.  There might be a few different spices or herbs.  Some might be beer-based, some wine-based but basically, it is stewed beef with vegetables.   Satisfying, but not exceptional.  Until now.

When I cut this recipe out of Bon Appetit magazine, I had no idea what Kerala-style meant.  I’m still not really sure I know, but what I do know is that this recipe is definitely a winner.  It is a mild-curry flavored beef stew that, thanks to the coconut milk actually winds up tasting a little creamy.  It is fragrant, cozy and spectacular.  It quite possibly will replace most of my beef stew recipes.

Kerala-Style Beef Stew

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 ½ pounds beef chuck, cut into 1″ pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 serrano chiles, seeded, chopped
  • 1 1×1-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • ½ pound small carrots, scrubbed or peeled, halved lengthwise
  • ½ pound baby red-skinned potatoes (about 1-1/2″-diameter), halved, or quartered if large
  • ¼ pound frozen, thawed pearl onions, halved
  • 2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • Cilantro sprigs (which I did not use – hate the stuff)

Preparation

Heat  1 1/2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Season beef with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches and adding remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp. oil between batches, add beef and sear, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer beef to a plate.

Stir in garlic, chiles, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add 1 tsp. pepper and turmeric; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth and reserved beef; bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 45 minutes.

Add carrots, potatoes, and onions. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 15–20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk.

Divide among bowls. Garnish with cilantro (or not, in my case)