Everyone has an opinion on their go-to comfort food. With chilly temperatures and waning daylight of the coming winter, the tendency is to hunker down in a state of semi-hibernation. A thick hearty chicken stew, rustic and robust, is my vote for the perfect comfort food to ride out the winter.
A hunter's stew is just what it sounds like. The history behind these recipes is that after hunting (presumably pheasant or quail), a hunter walking home through the woods would forage what was available to make a stew. These ingredients would often be mushrooms, potatoes, and some fresh herbs such as rosemary. And what isn't better with a splash of red wine? Some versions of this theme are Italy's chicken cacciatore and France's chicken chasseur. The recipes are very similar with some regional differences.
Thick and hearty
One of the differences in this hearty chicken stew recipe compared to a traditional hunter's stew is pancetta. Once rendered, the pancetta lends a nice smokey flavor to the stew. The fat is used to saute the shallots and garlic and to brown the chicken thighs.
By now there should be a lovely brown fond or residue on the bottom of the dutch oven. This contributes a lot of flavor to the stew. Adding butter serves two purposes - as a binder with flour to create a thick gravy but also to add richness.
When you add the chicken stock to the pan, make sure to use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the fond off the bottom of the pan.
Before putting the stew in the oven to finish cooking add the red wine, shallots, pancetta, potatoes, and spices. After 30 minutes, add the mushrooms and give everything a good stir before putting the pan back in the oven. Another 45 minutes and the stew will be finished.
This thick hearty chicken stew is warm and nourishing comfort food. So jump into your comfy sweats, get cozy, and hunker down with a bowl.
Thick Hearty Chicken Stew
- dutch oven or heavy stockpot
- 6 ounces pancetta ¼-inch dice
- 3 pounds chicken thigh boneless, skinless
- 3 cups small potatoes 1 pound, cut into quarters
- 12 ounces crimini mushrooms cut into halves
- 1 ½ cups shallots, sliced 6.5 ounces
- 3 cloves garlic, rough mince
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons rosemary, finely minced
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Place dutch oven on a burner with medium-high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the diced pancetta. Let the fat render while occasionally stirring. Once the pancetta bits are crispy, remove from the pan onto a paper towel to drain, leaving the fat in the pan.
- Add the shallots and garlic to the dutch oven and saute until soft and golden. Remove to the paper towel with the pancetta.
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the dutch oven. Lay some of the chicken thighs on the bottom of the pan being careful not to crowd them. Brown the chicken for 4 minutes, turn them over for another 4 minutes. Remove the thighs to a plate and repeat this step with the remaining chicken. There should be a generous amount of fond or residue on the bottom of the pan. This contributes a lot of flavor to the stew.
- Once all the chicken has been browned, place it back in the pan. Add the butter. Once melted, sprinkle the flour into the pan. Stir the chicken around the pan for about 2 minutes to get the flour combined with the butter and to cook it slightly.
- Add the chicken stock while scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release the fond. As the stock gets hotter, it will start to thicken.
- Once the stock is getting thicker, add the red wine along with the potatoes, pancetta, shallots, rosemary, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Put in the pan in the oven for 25 minutes.
- Check the stew and give it a stir. Add the mushrooms and combine with all the ingredients. Place back in the oven for another 45 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves and garnish with chopped parsley.
- Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.