Investing in a warmer February

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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It’s a snowy winter but we’re heading into the shortest month and just a tiny investment of effort in the kitchen is all you need to heat up from the inside-out. Cold weather is an invitation to the stove, and nothing can be more warming than a pot burbling away on a chilly afternoon.

Chicken stew with wide noodles

The noodles in this recipe are really more like flat dumplings, but they are fabulous. I had this for the first time in a small family restaurant in Texas, and I knew I was going to have to try to recreate it in my kitchen.

It will work with chicken breasts, but by the time you develop the flavour you seek, the meat will be starting to dry out, so thighs are really the way to go.

This amount will serve four with some delicious leftovers.

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 chicken thighs (or 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs)

1 tbsp. each butter and vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely diced

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, preferably low-sodium

2 large carrots, diced

2 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled or scrubbed, and diced

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves

 

Noodles:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. vegetable shortening or lard

2 tbsp. butter or margarine

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Whisk together flour, salt and pepper and dredge chicken pieces. Brown thoroughly on all sides in butter and oil in a Dutch oven. Remove from pot and set aside. Remove all but about one tbsp. of fat in the pot and add onion and celery. Cook until vegetables are starting to soften and brown. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add broth, carrots, potatoes, thyme and bay leaves. Nestle chicken back in the liquid and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over lowest possible heat 30 minutes or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken and cool until it can be handled. Pull off and discard the skin and remove and discard the bones. Shred meat and return to pot.

For the noodles, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut or rub shortening and butter into dry ingredients to form a mealy mixture. Add water all at once and knead into a smooth dough. Cut in half and roll out each half to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 4” by 1” rectangles. Add to pot and cook 15 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

I like the brothy consistency, but if you prefer a thicker stew then make a flour and water slurry and add in small amounts, stirring, until it is the consistency you like. Add fresh parsley and serve.

 

Beef Barley Soup

One time you could pick up a tray of beef bones in any grocery store. Now, if I come across them anywhere, anytime, I grab all they have. The only good alternative is to buy beef ribs, which I have to say bring a deep, rich flavour to this soup, so it turns out they are not an alternative at all, but my first choice for this recipe. Naturally you can substitute stew beef or a cheap roast cut or any other beef you have or like. This is plenty of soup for 6-8 people.

 

Broth:

3-4 lbs. meaty beef short ribs

2 tsp. vegetable oil

1 large onion, quartered

2 stalks celery, quartered

2 large carrots, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup tomato paste

4 cloves garlic, smashed

3 cups dry red wine

10 cups cold water

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 sprig fresh rosemary

6 sprigs fresh thyme

4 fresh or 6 dried bay leaves

 

Soup:

1/2 cup pearl barley

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

2 large carrots, diced

1 small turnip, peeled and diced

In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, brown beef ribs thoroughly in oil. Add onion, celery and carrots and brown everything well. Push everything to one side and add tomato paste to pot. Cook, stirring constantly, until it sticks to the bottom and becomes darker in colour. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add wine and bring to a boil; cook for 10 minutes. Add cold water, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about two hours or until the vegetables are breaking down and the meat is extremely tender.

Strain everything, recovering as much of the liquid as possible. Remove meat from the bones and chop. Discard bones, grizzle and vegetables, which should be completely spent.

Chill broth until fat rises to the surface — overnight is optimal. Skim or lift the fat off and discard. Return broth to pot and add barley. Cook 1-1/2 hours. Add onion, celery, carrot and turnip and cook another 30 to 45 minutes, until everything is tender. Return meat to pot and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

 

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Texas

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