Life knows no vanity in the winter. It’s a time for windproof layers not suitable for magazine covers and hats that conceal every inch of your face.
Most importantly, winter demands stick-to-your-ribs chicken stew that warms you from the inside out.
WINTER IN THE MIDWEST CALLS FOR STEW
I live in an area of the country where winter temperatures regularly drop to 30 degrees below freezing. Toss in wind howling over the barren farm fields that surround my home and it’s not uncommon to reach those “feels like” temperatures of -20°F or worse, depending on the year.
And that doesn’t even account for the snow. Winter in Nebraska is no time for delicate flavors.
WARMING SPICES FOR THE WIN!
I broke from the traditional chicken soup flavors of parsley, thyme, and sage and borrowed from Asian and North African cuisines to create this chicken stew. It’s scented with turmeric, cumin, and harissa, the latter of which is a blend of many spices.
Look for harissa powder in your supermarket or specialty spice stores. For this recipe, you want the powdered version, not the paste-like version that comes in a jar or a tube.
If you don’t have it or can’t find it, substitute paprika and a pinch of chili powder. It won’t have the complexity of harissa, but it will add color and much-needed warmth to your stew.
HOW TO MAKE A HEARTY CHICKEN STEW
A few things make this chicken stew extra special — and extra hearty:
- I forego the thin broth of traditional chicken noodle soup for a thick and hearty roux. It gives the soup body—adding the texture of cream without using actual cream—making this stew a great choice for those who are lactose intolerant or otherwise don’t consume dairy.
- Roast the vegetables in the oven before adding them to the stew. It’s also an easy way to build complexity by concentrating the sugars, and deepening the flavors. For this recipe, roast all of the vegetables together on one sheet pan, but keep them in separate rows because the vegetables are added at different times. This way you can cook the vegetables and keep them out of the way while you work on other components of the soup.
I also use Yukon gold potatoes for a couple of reasons:
- I want to keep the skins on. I have a child with texture sensitivities and Yukon Gold skins are thin, which means the kids will eat the potatoes and I don’t have to peel them. Things like this make me incredibly happy.
- Some of the potatoes will be pureed into the stew along with the carrots. If you use a russet, its brown skin will create a dingy-colored stew base, which goes against the goal of this brightly colored dish.
- I want the vibrant yellow and orange colors of this soup to shine. The creamy yellow color of the potatoes goes nicely with the turmeric and other sunny hues.
BONELESS VS. BONE-IN CHICKEN THIGHS
You may be tempted to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I wouldn’t advise it—the bones add rich flavor to the soup and you need the fat from the skin to render in the stew in order to make the roux.
THE BEST STEW FOR A WINTER NIGHT
This stew is bursting with vegetables, chicken, and the kinds of warming flavors needed for the long, dark evenings of winter. It’s food that feels like your mom just wrapped a cozy blanket fresh from the dryer around your shoulders.
FREEZE THE STEW!
To freeze the stew, let it cool completely. Transfer it to a freezer-safe container. It will keep for up to one month. Reheat on the stovetop while stirring occasionally.
MORE HEARTY CHICKEN RECIPES
Hearty Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Stew Recipe
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, quartered
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cubed (about 5 medium-sized potatoes)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon harissa powder
- 4 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 6 cups (48 ounces) chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 large kale leaves (any variety), stripped from the stem and torn
1 Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2 Roast the veggies: Spread chopped mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes on a baking sheet in three separate rows, keeping each vegetable separate from the others—this will come in handy later when you have to add them to the soup in separate steps.
Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the vegetables, then sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon harissa. Toss each individual row to coat.
Roast veggies in oven for 20 to 25 minutes. When they are fork tender, set them aside while you finish the soup base. (Note: You don't actually want the veggies to brown too much for this recipe; you want the colors to stay vibrant.)
While the vegetables roast, cook the chicken and begin assembling the stew.
3 Cook the chicken: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed soup pot set over medium heat. Trim the chicken of excess fat and skin. Sprinkle the four chicken thighs with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the thighs skin side down. Cook the thighs for 7 minutes, until the skin has a nice golden brown color.
Flip the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes. A few bits of skin may stick to the pan when you flip. That’s ok.
After cooking, the skin should be crisp and golden, and you should have about a 1/4 cup of fat in the pan. (Just eyeball it; you’ll be fine!) The chicken will not be completely cooked, which is ok; transfer it to a plate.
4 Make the roux: Sprinkle 1/4 cup all-purpose flour over the chicken fat. Use a sturdy wooden spoon to stir continuously and scrape the brown bits (the fond) off the bottom of the pan.
Continue cooking until the color deepens and it looks like golden paste, about 6 minutes. This is the roux that will thicken your soup.
5 Cook the onion and garlic. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, turmeric, and cumin to the pan with the roux. Continue to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan. The roux will get crumbly, and the color will continue to deepen. That’s ok.
Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan for about 5 minutes until the onions are cooked through.
6 Stir in the wine and stock: Slowly add 1/3 cup of white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits, and stir for another minute.
Slowly pour in the stock, you guessed it, while stirring! Add the bay leaves and bring it to a gentle simmer.
7 Add the chicken and simmer: Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and discard. Add the thighs to the pot of simmering stock.
Cover with a lid, but leave it slightly ajar. Continue to simmer over medium low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t let it boil.
8 Add half the roasted potatoes and carrots and puree: Use tongs to remove bay leaves and chicken from the pot and transfer to a plate.
Add half of the roasted potatoes and half of the carrots to the pot (reserve the mushrooms). Use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables into the soup.
9 Finish the stew: After pureeing, add the remaining vegetables, including all of the mushrooms, and let them warm through.
When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, use two forks to shred it into bite-sized pieces. Discard the bones. Add the chicken back to the pot.
Stir in the kale. Let everything warm through over low heat for a couple of minutes and make sure the kale is wilted.
10 Serve: Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh crusty bread. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for about a week, or up to 1 month frozen.
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