Old Skool Fun Hour

Spork Tower I: Stew it begins…
John’s Tuscan-ish Chicken and Chard stew
posted by JOHN

No matter how busy things get, a slow-cooked supper just seems to make life easier. A few weeks ago, things were chaotic: I was behind on deadlines; I needed to rush off to the big-screen showing of Lord of the Rings: The Two Tower (Extended Cut – or “DANG, by butt is numb” in Elvish); Judith and Louisa were coming home late. Fortunately, necessity is the mother of om nom nom nom (NOTE: holy cats, am I getting tired of the phrase “om nom nom nom” – don’t know why I went there, just then…sorry about that – shan’t happen again), and this dish saved the day.

I was nicely surprised with how well this hearty, tasty stew turned out. I was also pleased with how very easy the stew was to prepare. So I wanted to share (by which I mean: “Wanted to write this down before I forgot it,” but sharing is ALWAYS a good thing…even with ulterior motives).

Here’s the recipe I based mine on: http://www.food.com/recipe/tuscan-chicken-stew

The basic recipe – found by Googling “Tuscan chicken stew,” looked fine, but I had other ideas – I wanted to turn it more into something like the amazing, rustic bean soups served by the Osteria Papavero. AND LOOK! I have Parmesan rinds in the fridge. MANY Parmesan rinds. Good lord – HOW did I collect this many Parmesan rinds? They should do a reality show about me and my Parmesan rind problem. Like “Hoarders,” but with huge hunks of Parmesan rinds…and less of the soul-crushing sadness…

BUT I DIGRESS! Bottom line: It came out great: easy to make, with layered, rich flavors: best of all, it was both healthy and delicious. Happy cartoonist was happy! So were wifey and daughter.

Tuscan-ish Chicken stew with Chard

Serves 4-6
Time: 4 hours
Active time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 lb chicken thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced, or 1/2 large onion
1 large bunch chard – I dunno – I’m thinking 1 lb, or so. Stemmed (leaves only)
10 garlic cloves, added whole
1 (28 ounce) can peeled tomatoes, blended smooth
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 lb Parmesian cheese rind
2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 large fresh oregano sprig, chopped
2 teaspoons Herbs du Provence (not really Tuscan, but here ya go – this was just because I had some fresh stuff on-hand. Many other herbs would do)
2 (14 1/2 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper to taste – NOTE: most American canned tomatoes are salted, overly so, and need little if any added salt. The Parmesian will also add saltyness to the stew. So add salt at end only, if needed.

Transfer stew to bowls. You’ll need more good extra-virgin olive oil and finely grated Parmesian for garnish, ala Osteria Papavero, BUT WE’LL GET TO THAT LATER! Hold your horses, already. Sheesh.

EQUIPMENT:

Slow cooker
Mixing bowl
Wooden spoon
Ladle for serving

TECHNIQUE

In a crock pot set to high, place the Chicken thigns. In a bowl, mix all the other ingredients except for the chard. Add to crockpot, and stir gently, to mix it around around the chicken. Cover and leave cook for 2 hours.

At the two hour mark, the stew should be bubbly. Add the chard, sliced and chopped into large-ish (1″ x2″) pieces. Turn Crock Pot to “Low.”

Leave for another two hours.

Remove the Parmesian rinds and bay leaves. Do you like chewing on soft, plump Parmesan rinds when you remove them from soups or stews? Because I sure as hell do. It’s like turbo testosterone tofu. Well, “tofu” due to the texture. Everything else is all flavor, baby! BUT I DIGRESS AGAIN. Serve the stew drizzled with good olive oil and topped with freshly-grated Parmesan to taste. I tend to go for at least a good tablespoon or two of each per bowl.

At this point, a real Food Blogger will mention you should serve this with a lovely, crusty, rustic bread, But I know you people are not idiots! What do they THINK you’re gonna serve this with? Marmots? So I’ll just say, if you live in Madison, the best baguettes by far are found at La Baguette and Batch Bakehouse. They also do good rustic Italian loaves. If you don’t live in Madison, you’re on your own, buddy.

A bit of refinement might be needed, but I was wonderfully happy with at the simplicity and depth of this marvelous little dish. I’d have shared some photos, but I began eating it too soon.

Good grief, I’ll suck as a Food Blogger.

====== JOHN

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