Monday, January 4, 2010

Recipe: Chicken and Corn Stew

I have eaten some pretty strange things in my life. From my dad's side of the family there was morcella (pig's blood sausage) and all manner of odd things from the ocean including lapas (pronounced "lah-pizsh") which are small limpet-like creatures that adhere to rocks and themselves all over the world. These my father taught me to eat raw, first pulling them off the rock and then digging the animal from its shell with my finger and eating it live and raw. He also taught me how to get and eat mussels, clams, razor clams, periwinkles and conchs. I'm not complaining, they are all pretty tasty, raw or otherwise. So thanks dad those are good, but no thanks for making me eat a dollop of Vick's Vapor Rub when I was 7. What the hell were you thinking? I was only 7 but I could clearly see "for external use only" on the damn jar!

From my mom's side of the family I learned to eat the strangest things. My mom's father was part Native American and grew up on a New England farm during the depression. He was a bar room-brawling, tough-as-nails maniac. In the course of his life out of necessity, he learned to eat anything and he was lucky enough to have married a woman who could cook it all very well.

When I was a child it didn't take me or my cousins long to figure out one thing: DO NOT ASK WHAT YOU ARE EATING UNLESS YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW! Now your yuck level is directly related to the place you grew up and the means available to you. So for some of you, when I mention that rabbit stew and squirrel pies were staples, you're going to say yuck or yum. It depends on whether or not you were ever exposed to these two DELICIOUS dishes. So the hunters out there say, "what's the big deal?" The city folk say "Eeeeeeeeew!"

The stuff I ate at my grandparents ran the entire scale of the yuck factor. For instance one day I was presented with something that appeared to be turkey dinner. Except that the turkey was a deep reddish brown, kind of, but not exactly like beef. I had to know, so I had to ask. "Hey Pep, what is this?" "Go look in the oven" was his answer. I did, and what I saw looked like a red turkey with 4 drumsticks. Pep recognized the confusion on my face and replied "It's the raccoon your cousin Rocky shot yesterday." It was pretty good too as I remember it. Think of roast beef with a texture somewhere near turkey.

I ate a lot of things in that house. I can say with certainty that I DID eat: deer, goat, pig, sheep, rabbit, quail, duck, pheasant, and a host of other common acceptable food items. The more uncommon things that I know I ate there included: bear, woodchucks, squirrels, snapping turtle and raccoons. I THINK I ate possum and maybe muskrat there, but I am not sure. I'd LIKE to think I never ate skunk but again, I am not sure. Let me make one thing clear, it was all delicious. Both my grandmothers were incredible cooks (aren't everyone's?), and I wish I had some of their recipes.

You may be asking yourself what the relevancy to the recipe is? Just memories. This dish reminds me of the stuff my mom's mom used to make. Good, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs-I keep-my-family-healthy-old-school-Yankee-cooking. The perfect dish after a day of skiing or hunting, or shoveling the damn snow from the driveway for the 15th time in 4 days!

Recipe: Chicken & Corn Stew

3 lbs boneless chicken breast (cut into 1/2" chunks)
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1-1/2 cup chopped onions
1-1/2 cup chopped carrots
1-1/2 cup chopped celery
2 lbs boiling potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes)
1 clove of garlic (minced)
2 tsp fresh thyme (chopped)
2 Tbs flour
4 cups chicken broth (I use bouillon)
2-4 cups of water
2 cups super-sweet corn kernels
1 cup of heavy cream
4 green onions cut in 1/8" rings
3/4 to 1 cup of chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Place butter and oil into a preheated pan set on a medium flame. Cook stirring lightly, until the foam from the butter disappears.

In small batches, brown the chicken well on all sides. Remove chicken to a waiting bowl as it browns, set aside and keep warm.

When all the chicken is removed, add onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until the onions are translucent.

Add the garlic and half the thyme. Continue to sauté stirring occasionally for a few minutes (be sure not to burn the garlic).

Add flour and stir in well, while cooking for 1 minute.

Pour in broth and water, being sure to blend or whisk it in well. Bring mixture to a boil.

Add the potatoes and return to boil. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook this way until the potatoes begin to get tender.

Add the sweet corn kernels, chicken (with any resulting juices) and cream, simmer uncovered until the stock begins to reduce.

Salt and pepper to taste, add the rest of the thyme, green onions and the cilantro.

Serve in deep bowls with a wedge of lime and biscuits on the side.

1 comment: