Henry IV reputedly wished a chicken in every pot, and I’m down with that, but sometimes it’s a challenge to make that chicken strut around in a flight of furious fancy, instead of languishing in yet another last-second meal reeking of fowl play-te (I need an editor. I know.)
For this stew, I pulled from the classic spaghetti all puttanesca dish of Italy – literally “spaghetti in the style of the whore” (no giggling from the back row there!). Story is that workers of the brothels-in-the boot-country were ostracized for their, um, transactions, and so they didn’t get out and shop for fresh food, as most of their neighbours did, so they ventured out once in a while. Canned items made up much of their cantina, and when it came time to cook, items like capers, olives and tomato sauce often made it into their <shameful!>< scandalous!> dinners.
Many of us keep similar items in our pantry shelves, and forget about them. It’s great to have these “basics” to use when the clock (cluck?…I really need an editor) is ticking down and grumbling stomachs echo throughout the (hen) house. It doesn’t take much effort – just a good can opener and a few chops of the knife. Crostini is great with this — fun for the wee ones to help make and for them to scoop up the goodies.
Mediterranean Chicken Stew
Time: 1 ½ hours, from first chop to first spoon
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 pc chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes
2 pc onions, white, peeled and sliced thin
10 pc mushrooms, white, washed and cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 ½ cups tomato puree (or sauce)
2 cups chicken stock, low sodium or homemade
1 ½ cups chickpeas, canned
4 tablespoons black olives, sliced
1 ½ tablespoons capers
2 sprigs oregano or rosemary (or both!)
1 bay leaf
In medium saucepot, heat 2 tbsp oil over high heat until oil shimmers. Add chicken and brown for 5–6 minutes. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. You may have to do this in 2 batches. Remove chicken with slotted spoon and drain, reserving liquid.
Add remaining olive oil to same pot and sauté onions for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until browned and soft.
Add garlic, tomato paste, mushrooms and cook an additional 2–3 minutes, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to get all the flavour off the bottom of the pot.
Add reserved chicken and liquid, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, tomato puree / sauce, chicken stock, chickpeas, black olives, capers, herbs and bay leaf.
Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer.
Simmer for 45–60 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and chicken is tender. Season with salt and pepper (see note below)
Note: Feel free to add basil, chili flakes, peppers, anchovies or even cooked spinach to this. Our son Yusef likes it with rice, but it makes a great pasta topping (obviously!), so it’s flexible. Also note that with all the salty items – olives, capers, anchovies (if using), try to use reduced-sodium chicken stock, or even just water, and watch how much salt you use!