Smoked Chicken Stew

So, from last nights butterflied, grilled chicken, I saved the carcass and made stock and stew therefrom. If you’re not doing this kind of thing on a regular basis, you really need to be reading this blog more often.
Here’s how.

For the stock,
1/2 sweet Onion
1 Carrot
1 stalk Celery
2 Bay leaves

Rinse, trim and then chop veggies to uniform rough dice. Note: Can’t tell you how often I see home cooks throw out celery tops with leaves on them, or how wrong that is. Especially when using celery for mirepoix, making stock, etc, you want those leaves; they pack beautiful, delicate celery flavor, and impart it to other foods better than the stalks do.

Glean any appreciable meat from the chicken and reserve for lunch, (we didn’t have any left, frankly, and we’ll be using breast meat for the making of this stew anyway…)

Everything goes into a stock pot over high heat with enough water to cover well, about 3/4 gallon. As soon as things start to simmer, reduce heat to just maintain that, and let it go for at least 2 hours and up to 4. As you lose water to cooking, gradually add more. Ideally, you want to end up with about 8-10 cups of lightly colored and flavored stock. That is rather light as stock goes, but we’re making a robust stew that will pack its own flavors; this is just the canvas…

Remove from heat, discard all the big chunks by straining through a colander. Chill the rough stock in a large bowl in the freezer until most of the fat has risen to the top. Skim that off, then clarify the stock once or twice by running it through a chinoise or strainer.

Return stock to a stock pot over medium heat.

For the stew,
2 Carrots
2 stalks Celery
3 Red Potatoes
1 Tomato
1 Lemon
2 cloves Garlic
1/4 sweet Onion
2 sprigs Cilantro
Extra virgin Olive Oil
White Wine
Black Pepper
Smoked Salt

Rinse and trim all veggies. Cut carrots, celery, potatoes, tomato, onion and cilantro to a fairly uniform rough dice, about 1/2″ pieces. Mince the garlic and cilantro and toss everybody but those into the stew pot.

Heat a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Toss in onion and sauté until it starts to go translucent. Add garlic and sauté about another minute. Add a splash of white wine and continue sautéing until the raw alcohol is burned off. Toss all that into the stew pot. This step, done with strong aromatic veggies like onion and garlic, adds a nice richness to a soup or stew, and helps tame the raw heat they can pack.

For the chicken, you can smoke it over your grill, barbecue or smoker with a bit of smoking wood, pellets, what have you, or you can cheat like I did. If you’re a regular here, you know how much I love Butcher & Packers hickory smoke powder. As advertised, it gives a pure taste of hickory smoke and nothing else. I’ve fooled Texas BBQ snobs with this stuff. Saves a bunch of time and sacrifices nada in the process; try it. They also make chipotle powder, and powdered mesquite, which are equally fabulous. 

Dirty Rotten Cheater’s Smoked Chicken,

2 Cups Chicken Breast
1/2 Cup Whole Grain White Flour
1-2 teaspoons Smoke Powder
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Salt
1/2 Teaspoon ground black Pepper
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut chicken into roughly 3/4″ dice.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large sauté pan over medium high heat.

Combine flour, smoke powder, salt and pepper in a paper bag, (amount of smoke is up to you). Add the chicken and shake until all the chicken is thoroughly coated. Remove the chicken and tap/shake off excess dredge.

Add chicken to pan and allow it to cook long enough to sear well on all sides. You want to develop a genuine, caramelized crust, so don’t play with it too much or turn it too often. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Once the chicken is well seared, transfer it to the stew pot and stir it in well. Turn heat down until you’re at a nice low and slow temperature, with no signs of simmering.

Let the stew cook for at least two hours. Slice the lemon into quarters. Add the juice from half to the stew, reserve the others for service. Adjust seasoning with smoked salt and pepper. Stir regularly, taking care to make sure stuff isn’t sticking to the bottom. The regular stir helps release the dredge from the chicken and combine it with fats, which is what is going to thicken your stew. If you like things thicker yet, microwave an extra Yukon potato, mash it with a tablespoon of butter, and stir that into the stew as well.

Serve with crema, sliced lemon, our jalapeño-cheddar cornbread, and a nice, cold Negro Modelo.