Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chicken Vera-style, Part II

A delicious and hearty one-pot meal that can incorporate virtually any vegetable (and possibly any grain or protein) that you have on hand? Fact or fiction? Myth or reality? Unicorn or horse? Ask a Macedonian and he or she would probably say yes - it's the God-honest truth.

I am here to report back on Chicken Vera-style. See Part I below which includes the recipe given to me by my colleague Rachael who’s married to a Macedonian.

I decided to make the chicken stew on Sunday when I had more time. It’s not much work at all to put together (some light chopping and then basically putting a bunch of stuff in a pot) but the hands-off cooking time won’t work for a weeknight. My plan was to use chicken thighs – cheaper than breasts – but FreshDirect had whole chickens on sale. So I bought a chicken, cut it into six pieces, leaving the thighs and legs attached, and put it in my 8-quart stockpot. I added the celery, onion, garlic, potatoes, stock, and some water to cover and brought it up to a simmer. We didn’t have a multitude of vegetables in-house so I added only some carrots. Then I noticed a half-bag of dried chickpeas in the pantry and threw those into the water, crossing my fingers that they would be tender by the time everything else was. Instead of putting the pot in the oven immediately I let it simmer on the stove for a half and hour…while I ran to the store to pick up the can of tomatoes I forgot. Tomatoes safely added I put the pan in a 375 degree oven. I upped the temperature from Rachael’s recommendation for added insurance that enough liquid would be absorbed.

And two hours later it was! (It’s funny how after cooking seriously for about five years and even going to culinary school I’m STILL genuinely pleased and a little surprised when things turn out like they’re supposed to.) The potatoes, rice, and vegetables had absorbed some of the liquid, making the dish into a thick stew. The chicken was gorgeously tender and flavorful. My chickpeas still had a little bite to them, but were definitely edible.

When I told Dave that we were going to be eating a Macedonian stew for dinner he was, shall we say, skeptical. I reminded him that Macedonia had lots of Greek and Turkish influences and that the country’s food was probably delicious. When he tasted the stew he said, “This is more like an Italian dish, if you ask me.” Coming from Dave, that’s high praise indeed.

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