Fall has finally settled in and I've been craving soups and stews. I had a beautiful chicken sitting in the fridge that I’d planned on making soup with when I got to thinking… how come you couldn't make a chicken soup more like vegetable beef soup with lots of vegetables?
Then I had another one of those schizophrenic conversations with myself...
Me: I’m going to make vegetable beef soup with chicken.
Me: Um, that sounds kinda weird.
Me: No, it doesn't. It’ll be glorious!
Me: It’ll be weird. If you’re going to do something like that you need to change it up a little.
Me: Like how??
Me: Like, maybe instead of traditional country vegetables (corn, okra, green beans, etc.) you go another route?
Me: Yes!! You’re brilliant!!! Go for something rustic and a tad Tuscan and use white beans and red potatoes!
Me: Why white beans and red potatoes??
Me: Because we have those. In the pantry. Like, right now.
Me: You’re lazy and don’t want to go to the store.
Me: I’m not lazy!! I just got back from the store and don’t want to turn around and go right back. Also? I've already put my pink polka dotted fleece pajama pants on and I’m not taking them off.
Me: Yeah, like I said, lay zee. But, OK, I’m liking where you’re going with this. I’m thinking lots of garlic and some Italian seasoning.
Me: TOTALLY YES!!!
So, a few hours later, the onions come walking into the kitchen asking what smells so good. I wasn't sure how they were going to take to this because onions and stew don’t usually get along too well.
I showed them and told them it was for supper. I served up a teensy bit in each of their bowls and put stuff for sandwiches on the table because I honestly didn't think they were going to embrace this. Flossy and Angel Baby took one look in their bowls and dove in. Brutus was still on the fence but since my rule is that you have to taste it, he begrudgingly put a taste of it on his spoon and touched it to his lips. Those little goats ate two bowls apiece! When supper was done, they looked like three fat little potbelly puppies that’d just been fed with their tummies all firm and round.
I served this with a pan of cornbread. We all put chunks of the cornbread in our bowls and let it just soak up all the goodness. I’ll post my recipe at the bottom if you need one!
Tuscan Chicken Stew
1 5-6 lb. chicken
2 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
2-3 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1 bay leaf
4 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
5 medium red potatoes, sliced
1 15-oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
4 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise and sliced
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, simmer chicken, water, chicken broth, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper and bay leaf, covered, over medium-low heat for one hour. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Pour broth through strainer and add broth back to Dutch oven.
Bring broth to a boil and add celery, carrots, onions, potatoes, beans, thyme, garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, tomatoes and remaining 1-2 teaspoons salt (this depends on how salty your prepared chicken broth is – salt to taste) and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered for 45 minutes (cooking this uncovered will help reduce it and enhance the flavor).
Meanwhile, remove skin and bones from chicken; shred or chop chicken, cover and set aside. Once vegetables and broth have cooked for 45 minutes, add chicken and stir to combine. Cover pot, remove from heat and let stew rest for 30 minutes. Stir and serve with cornbread or crusty bread.
1 1/4 cups cornmeal (not self-rising)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons melted bacon grease*, divided
Pour 3 tablespoons bacon grease in a medium (9-10-inches) cast iron skillet**. Place skillet in oven and preheat the oven and skillet to 425 degrees.
Once oven and skillet are preheated, add cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add buttermilk, eggs and remaining 1/4 cup bacon grease and mix until just combined.
Remove hot skillet from oven and pour cornbread batter into pan. Batter will sizzle when it touches the hot oil. This is when the magic happens.
Bake cornbread at 425 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and done in the center.
*Substitute vegetable oil for bacon grease if necessary then ask the Lord for forgiveness for throwing away your bacon grease.