RECONSTRUCTION ERA CHICKEN STEW WITH A ROUX
What You Got In The House?
I decided on the very day that I wrote this blog that I wanted some comfort food. I had been subjecting my stomach to three straight days of either spaghetti and meatballs with tomato based sauce or a meatball sandwich with the same. That much acidic infiltration into my intestines made me feel somewhat uncomfortable, to say the least. I had been avoiding those types of meals for so long that I had the misguided impetus to give them a shot one more time. Bad decision.
Anyways, that was a bunch of verbiage that added little to the thrust of this blog, but I threw it in with the idea of pointing out how unhappy I was for that run of bad decisions and will avoid taking that path again. So, I opted for something that would help me get back on track, and that meant creating my own idea of comfort food: Chicken Stew.
Resounding Reconstruction Ramifications
Since my latest novel, THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT, is centered around the period of history that involves the Reconstruction Era that took place after the Civil War was over, I thought I would create something called Reconstruction Era Chicken Stew. Why I chose that name defies an explanation other than the fact that I had no idea what I was going to put together until I discovered what I had available in the house. So, I served up my pot luck mentality with the random choices I made for selecting ingredients as the inspiration for the name I settled on for my Stew.
Upon initiating my search, I first discovered a forgotten 10 pound bag of chicken quarters in the back corner of the freezer and used that as a starting point. Now if only I could come up with enough other ingredients to make something delectable, I might have an interesting dinner for a feast.
So, continuing on with this effort, I located a 1 pound bag of white corn and a 1 pound bag of sweet peas cropped up in the rear of that freezer’s vegetable drawer. Further efforts uncovered a 2 lb. bag of fresh carrots and a couple of medium sized white onions in the fridge.
The pantry helped my cause by yielding a 16 oz. carton of chicken broth along with a new jar of minced garlic. The garden gave up some fresh basil and the spice rack yielded some dried cilantro, paprika, tarragon, and sage.
The Nebulous Recipe?
Putting it as simply as I can, I must confess that ‘There Wasn’t No Recipe’ other than what was in my head. So I figured on throwing it all together and seeing what the concoction might produce. So, here goes my tale!
Step 1: I Prepared The Chicken Quarters
The first thing I did was defrost the sealed bag of chicken in warm water. Cold water is recommended, but I didn’t have the time for that. Then several hours later, I opened the bag and pulled out each leg/thigh piece (a.k.a. known as chicken quarters) and cut them apart. Then I set them aside in a large metal bowl.
Next, I poured the broth into the pot of a large pressure cooker and added about 4 tablespoons of minced garlic. After stirring the mixture, I carefully added and arranged the chicken pieces so the whole contents of the bag (about 10 large thighs and 10 large legs) would fit snugly inside the pot of broth (and boy, it was close).
I then cooked the chicken/broth combination in the pressure cooker with the timer set at 22 minutes. I knew this amount of time would cause the chicken meat to fall off the bones easily when done, but not become overcooked in the process.
Step 2: I Prepared The Vegetables
In the meantime, while the chicken was cooking, I cut up the 2 onions and shaved the carrots. After dicing them, I placed both ingredients into another large metal bowl, then added the 1 lb. bag of frozen peas along with the 1 lb. bag of frozen white corn.
Step 3: Making The Transfer
When the timer went to zero on the pressure cooker, I released the steam. Then I removed the cover, pulled all of the chicken pieces out of the hot broth, and placed them back in the large metal bowl.
With the hot broth still in the pressure cooker pot, I carefully added all of the vegetables along with the spices mentioned earlier. I didn’t measure the quantities, but roughly added about 1/2 tablespoon of each. After stirring this concoction thoroughly, I cleaned the release valves off on the cover with hot water and attached it to the cooker. Then I set the timer for 8 minutes and let her rip.
If you’re asking why I didn’t cook the whole batch together, I’ll tell you why. First of all, the chicken pieces (with bones still attached) nearly filled the pot. Since I had arranged them carefully, I still had room for the broth and garlic, but nothing else. However, that was okay as you’ll see. Secondly, the remaining ingredients only needed a timed setting of 8 minutes. If cooked for 22 minutes, those items would have turned to mush. So that turned out to be a favorable decision on my part.
Step 4: I Separated The Meat From The Bones
While waiting for the vegetables to finish I removed the chicken pieces out of the metal bowl, 1 by 1, and pulled the meat off of the bones while separating the skin and connective tissue as I progressed. That left me a large bowl full of pure chicken meat which I cut up.
Near the end of these endeavors, I had my wife help out by having her make a Roux, which is the term used for the base substance that creates the foundation for a really good sauce or gravy. It is made by melting a stick of butter in a frying pan and adding flour as follows:
Step 1: Start the Roux
Melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the flour (4 Tablespoons).
Step 2: Stir the Butter and Flour
Stir constantly with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight motion for even cooking.
Step 3: Brown The Roux
For a perfect Roux, you want a brown color, so continue cooking the mixture until that color tone is achieved. A good Roux takes time and patience, so just keep stirring. Use a whisk to help incorporate the flour into the butter and simmer the sauce to the desired thickness. After about 6 or 7 minutes it will smell a little nutty and turn a medium brown color.
Step 4: Let It Cool
Let it cool slightly before adding it to your stew (when the stew is finished and ready).
After the 8 minute time interval elapsed, I released the pressure and removed the lid. I then added back the cooked chicken meat into the vegetable medley, stirred up the concoction, and put the lid back on.
I left the pressure cooker on warm for 10 minutes to make sure all the ingredients were heated evenly throughout and the flavors blended together, but not cooked any more. Then we added the Roux to the Stew and stirred everything in so that all the ingredients were evenly distributed.
Then I served the finished meal in large soup bowls on plates with Focaccia Artisan Crackers from Town House. Voila! It was absolutely delicious, satisfying, and comfortable on my stomach as well as that of my wife’s who appreciated the fact that it was not spicy.
This type of meal takes a lot of work, but the quantity produced will satisfy the requirements for 3 to 4 meals for two people. That means no serious work in the kitchen for several days if you choose to go ahead make this concoction. If you do, Enjoy!
Historical Note: The Reconstruction Era of America was a very difficult time for the United States. Food, money, and jobs were hard to come by in the South. If you had enough basic ingredients to make a meal, you threw in the pot what you had, including leftovers. Hence an inspirational side note for the name I chose.
I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!