This head cold has ramped up in the past couple days. You know when you get to that point where it’s as if you’re constantly underwater? Like that. I do feel a bit better today, but until about 3 o’clock yesterday I was in a fog. Drinking hot tea and browsing openings for remote work. I caught a little chill about 4 o’clock that could not be assuaged with anything but a scalding shower, after which I felt significantly better. Especially having gotten into the habit of putting my slippers on top of the baseboard heater (next to our cat, Nacho, who’s taken a liking to them as well), it felt so good to slip my recently defrosted toes into their toasty warmth.
The decision to make something for dinner that might help clear my sinuses (and chase the vestiges of sickness that might be lingering in My Honey’s) was an easy one. Browsing through my cabinets I found a can of chipotle chiles (smoked jalapeño peppers) in adobo sauce that my Dad had given me a few months ago. Despite my constant efforts to assure him that we can more than provide for ourselves, he gives us food in some form or other every time we visit. It’s his love language.
Jalapeño peppers have nearly twice the vitamin C of an orange and I’d already had some chopped fresh in my omelette so I figured that was a good start. I texted my Dad to see what he was up to as I often do during the day and to see if the chiles needed any special care; I said I was thinking about making a stew and mentioned the french bread rolls I’d made over the weekend.
“Make stuffing,” Was his response. “With beans and rice in it.” I laughed aloud to myself, that was not going to happen today. Even putting aside the facts that I didn’t have any beans in the house, only one box of chicken broth, and no patience whatsoever – I didn’t have time: it was already 5 o’clock, and I try to have dinner done just after 6. Beans by themselves, since I very seldom buy them canned, would have taken at least 2 hours! I explained that I was definitely not feeling up to it but thanked him for his advice (the last bit of it being to add at least a teaspoon of ginger to my stew, an excellent idea), switched my laundry into the dryer, and started pulling out anything I thought might go well in a stew.
I ended up with:
Olive oil for sautéing
2 small yellow onions
the can of chipotle chiles in adobo
half of a big green bell pepper (more antioxidants and vitamin C!)
6 raw chicken tenders
the aforementioned (unsalted) chicken broth
flour for thickening
and some sweet potatoes (2 big ones) I’d had lying around for a couple weeks (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants!)
From the spice cabinet:
onion powder and granulated garlic
herbes de provence
and ginger – of course
As I waited for a healthy drizzle of olive oil to shimmer in my stew pot, I chopped some of the onions very small and some in short thin strings because I wanted some to just about dissolve and others to provide a texture. Then I sautéed them in the olive until they were soft and transparent, I added a hefty teaspoon (probably more like a tablespoon) of minced garlic and stirred for another minute or so before adding the raw chicken tenders whole and all but 1/2 cup of the broth. I added my spices, gave it a stir, covered it, and left it to boil.
I wasn’t following a recipe of course, but for some reason I did pause to think about the fact that – unless I’m baking – I never measure my spices. Even when I am following a recipe. That being said, if you’re trying to follow these directions: onion, garlic, and ginger got a healthy sweep to cover the surface area in the pot, and cumin and ginger got half of the surface area. Oh, herbes de provence got half as well – but only because that was all I had left. I love herbes de provence so I would definitely have put more.
I popped the can of chiles and put half of it, I think it was about 3 peppers and half of the sauce, into one of the cups of my nutribullet with the reserved broth and pulsed them together until there were no chunks, it didn’t take long. I added this mixture to the pot, which was just starting to boil. This amount of chile is not for the faint of heart – if you don’t like it as spicy or you don’t have a way to blend the chiles up I’d just use a couple tablespoons of the sauce from the can or even toss the chiles in whole.
While my chicken boiled I thinly sliced and then chopped the bell pepper and sautéed it in a little bit of olive oil by itself just until it was tender. I did it this way because bell peppers can have a very strong flavor and I really wanted the chipotle to be the highlight in this dish. By sautéing them separately first I subdued their flavor so that they still brought a freshness to the stew without being overwhelming.
By now the chicken was boiling away and smelling amazing. The smoky scent of the chiles filled my kitchen, and probably the adjacent living room, but I was honestly just happy to be smelling something through this congestion. I gave it a stir and proceeded to peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. I would have cut them a little bigger, but I wanted them to cook quickly.
Setting them aside in a bowl, I stirred the now vigorously boiling chicken soup. Tasting the broth, I found that it was already how I wanted it (maybe even a touch too spicy) so I added about 2 cups of water because I still intended for it to reduce a bit and I didn’t want it to be too salty or too spicy in the end. I tilted the lid so the steam could escape and proceeded to clean up the kitchen a bit while it reduced, further tenderizing the chicken.
After about ten minutes I pulled out one of the tenders with a pair of tongs and twisted it a little over a cutting board to check it’s tenderness and make sure it was cooked through. (It definitely was, but I have a paranoia about this.) Since it more than met my requirements by falling into three pieces I pulled out the other 5 onto the cutting board. Then I added the sautéed bell pepper and cubed sweet potatoes to the broth, stirred, re-covered them with the lid tilted, and proceeded to shred the chicken with two forks – being careful to remove any tendons,veins, or slimy bits of fat. You don’t have to do this, but none of these are textures I want to find in my bowl.
I tossed the chicken back in and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes were tender. Then I made a slurry with about 1/3 cup of flour and about 3/4 cup lukewarm water by whisking them together in a little bowl (I used the one I had on the counter from the sweet potatoes) and poured it slowly into the soup while stirring gently, thus transforming it into a nice, thick stew. I let it cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes or so to cook the flour out, and then switched the heat to low to keep warm – right as my boyfriend walked in from work.
I threw the rolls into the toaster oven to warm, and was serving with a nice dollop of sour cream within ten minutes.
In total, “prep” included, this took about 45 minutes. The sour cream isn’t essential, but it does take the edge off the spiciness if you’re sensitive to that. And you may have noticed I didn’t add salt or pepper, I used to do both heavily, but my boyfriend doesn’t like very salty food (what a weirdo) so I’ve gotten out of the habit of salting, and this had enough of a peppery punch from the chipotle and the old bay. You could also probably make this even faster with a grocery store rotisserie chicken, just de-bone, shred, and go. I’ve already thought of a thousand variations with different potatoes, roasted potatoes, additional veggies, etc; but, as I already confessed, last night I just wanted something simple. Additionally, I would like to have garnished with chopped green onion, but I didn’t have any. I think the cat has been eating the ones I was growing on my kitchen windowsill…
Now to get in gear and run some errands. Let me know if you try this recipe and how it turns out for you!