YES, A STEW MADE WITH CHICKEN CAN BE GOOD
Despite what you might think, chicken (not beef) is king in the United States. Just look at the stats. Forty years ago, per capita beef consumption reached an all-time high of 95 pounds. That number now stands at 54 pounds, and falling. During the same period, per capita chicken consumption doubled to more than 80 pounds.
Whatever the reasons (cost, health, convenience), Americans are eating a lot more chicken. We fry it, roast it, and grill it. We turn it into soups, salads, and casseroles. But there’s one thing we don’t do with chicken—stew it. That still remains beef’s domain. But isn’t it possible to make a similar dish with chicken, one with succulent chunks of meat, tender vegetables, and a truly robust gravy?
It turns out the gravy is the real challenge when making chicken stew. Beef is practically made for stewing. Chuck roast (cut from the shoulder) can be simmered for hours until fall-apart tender, all the while remaining juicy. This treatment is made possible by the meat’s network of connective tissue, which slowly converts to lubricating gelatin during cooking. This turns the beef tender while the gravy is infused with rich beefiness and body—a culinary win-win.
Today’s chicken is butchered very young so even its thighs and drumsticks have little time to develop much connective tissue. As a result, you can’t simmer chicken, even dark meat, for hours and hours. That means you need a different way to build flavor in the gravy. Our recipe employs a novel approach—one that will convince even meat lovers that stewing is a great way to cook chicken.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
Chicken wings are relatively inexpensive and they have a decent amount of collagen. Browning a pound of halved wings and then cooking them in the stew (they are discarded before serving) adds rich body when the collagen converts to gelatin, and a lot of meaty flavor to the gravy. As for the chunks of stew meat, fattier dark meat in the form of boneless, skinless chicken thighs can withstand a relatively long cooking time and is therefore the best choice.
Big Flavor Boosters
A few strips of bacon, crisped in the pot before browning the wings, lend porky depth and just a hint of smoke. And while they may sound like strange additions to chicken stew, soy sauce and anchovy paste, ingredients rich in glutamates, are meaty and savory flavor enhancers that ensure this stew is not bland or boring.
Build a Great Gravy
A full-flavored gravy starts with the rendered fat from the bacon and the chicken wings. It is used to sauté the aromatics, thyme, and anchovy paste until a rich dark fond forms on the bottom of the pan. Then some chicken broth, white wine, and soy sauce are added to loosen the fond and boiled down until the liquid fully evaporates, leaving concentrated flavor as the base for the gravy.
Ring of Fond
Most stews are cooked in the oven with the lid on. In this recipe, the pot is uncovered so that some of the liquid can evaporate, thus concentrating flavors in the gravy. Leaving the lid off also browns the surface of the stew and leads to the development of fond on the sides of the Dutch oven. To take advantage of this flavor-packed substance, we deglaze the sides by wetting them with a bit of gravy and scraping it into the stew.
Browned bacon and collagen-rich wings are two keys to a memorable chicken stew.
Best Chicken Stew
SERVES 6 TO 8
- 45 minutes to build flavor base on stovetop (hands-on)
- 30 minutes to build flavor base in oven (hands-off)
- 5 minutes to scrape fond and add chicken thighs
- 45 minutes to simmer chicken thighs in oven (hands-off)
- Dutch oven (at least 6 quarts)
- Wooden spoon for scraping fond
Substitutions & Variations
- Mashed anchovy fillets (rinsed and dried before mashing) can be used instead of anchovy paste.
Use small red potatoes measuring 1½ inches in diameter.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, halved crosswise and trimmed Kosher salt and pepper
- 3 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 pound chicken wings, halved at joint
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 celery rib, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine, plus extra for seasoning
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 pound small red potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Arrange chicken thighs on baking sheet and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper; cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fat renders and bacon browns, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to medium bowl. Add chicken wings to pot, increase heat to medium, and cook until well browned on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer wings to bowl with bacon.
- Add onion, celery, garlic, anchovy paste, and thyme to fat in pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until dark fond forms on pan bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. Increase heat to high; stir in 1 cup broth, wine, and soy sauce, scraping up any browned bits; and bring to boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to sizzle again, 12 to 15 minutes. Add butter and stir to melt; sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in remaining 4 cups broth until smooth. Stir in potatoes, carrots, and wings and bacon; bring to simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
- Remove pot from oven. Use wooden spoon to draw gravy up sides of pot and scrape browned fond into stew. Place over high heat, add thighs, and bring to simmer. Return pot to oven, uncovered, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken offers no resistance when poked with fork and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes longer. (Stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
- Discard wings and season stew with up to 2 tablespoons extra wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
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