Buttermilk Roasted Chicken

Ahead of Thanksgiving, I like to make a few “Sunday Supper” meals—the kind of menu that takes a little extra time or effort—because it gives me something to focus on besides worrying about Thanksgiving, and it also gives me a chance to do a trial run on potential new side dishes before the big day. You know what they say about experimenting on Thanksgiving, right?


This spatchcocked and roasted chicken can hold its own next to even the most elegant of side dishes you might be auditioning, and the best thing about it is that its lovely presentation takes minimal effort. I wouldn’t have believed it several years ago when I first saw a magazine cover with an image of a roasted chicken laid-out flat on a platter, and I remember thinking, maybe one day I’ll be able to cook like that. Little did I know how easy it is, and after my first attempt at it for a Passover meal a few years ago, I’ve been hooked.

From a technical standpoint, the spatchcocking (or, butterflying, if you wish) of the bird serves an important purpose by putting the whole chicken on the same level for roasting. After 45 minutes in the oven, you won’t have the concern about the breast meat being overdone before the thighs are cooked through because the cavity of the bird is essentially eliminated. The breast of the bird is not sitting several inches higher than the rest of the body, and that means the heat is applied more evenly. Thus, the chicken cooks more evenly.

And the flavor comes easy for this chicken, too, because the buttermilk does all the work. Most often, when you hear the words chicken and buttermilk in the same sentence, it’s probably in context of a recipe that involves frying. At least, that’s how it usually works here in the South. But this oven-roasted recipe is lighter, easier to prep and cook, and so, so flavorful. Buttermilk, which is acidic to begin with, has special enzymes that help break down the proteins of meat. When that breakdown occurs, it opens the door for flavors to go into the meat.

During six hours of marinating, the chicken soaks up the flavors of the herbs and seasonings I add to the buttermilk, including kosher salt, white pepper, garlic and onion powders, paprika and dried thyme.


When I shared my plans last week for making homemade stock for Thanksgiving gravy, I mentioned a tip for adding some chicken parts to the simmering broth, most notably the backbone, which I removed from a whole chicken with a technique called “spatchcocking.” This step is not necessary for roasting the bird, but I like it for the evenness of roasting that results. And as I explained in the stock post, I needed some more poultry parts for my stock. Because we don’t eat it, the backbone doesn’t add much value when it’s left on the chicken, but there’s a world of flavor in those bones when you simmer them down in a stock, so this is a smart way to “waste nothing.”

Removing the backbone is easy. You need a good set of kitchen scissors, and a little bit of gumption to crack through the ribs that are attached to the bone along both sides. Start on the neck end of the chicken, where the backbone is easy to recognize. Cut all the way down one side, then the other, and then lift the bone away from the body and cut it off at the tailbone.


If you don’t need the backbone, you can discard it; otherwise, follow my lead and add it to the pot for your next batch of stock. All that collagen in the bone will really amp up the flavor and richness of any soup or gravy you make with it. You can even freeze it for later, if you aren’t ready to make stock just yet. Pat the bird dry with paper towels and place it in a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag with a zipper top. Pour in the seasoned buttermilk mixture and seal up the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible to force the brine up around every part of the chicken. Stash it in the refrigerator for about six hours, and let the buttermilk work its magic.


After marinating, dry the chicken with paper towels and rub a small amount of olive oil all over the skin of the bird to protect it from drying out. Let it rest while the oven preheats to 400° F, and roast it for about 45 minutes, until the skin is golden brown all over and the internal temperature is 160° F. It looks beautiful and the buttermilk keeps it nice and juicy on the inside.


I’ve put this buttermilk roasted chicken in the Sunday Supper category, not for any difficulty but for the marinating time that’s required for tenderizing and flavoring. Let me know in the comments what side dishes you’d like to see with this yummy chicken.


Buttermilk Roasted Chicken

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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You don't need any special skills to spatchcock a chicken, as long as you have a good pair of kitchen scissors. And this buttermilk brine brings a world of flavor into the chicken with almost no effort.


Ingredients

  • 3.5-pound chicken, preferably free-range
  • 2 cups real, cultured buttermilk
  • 1 heaping tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet Spanish paprika
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Remove the giblet package and neck parts from the inside of the chicken. Use kitchen scissors to cut down both sides of the backbone and set it aside with the innards to be simmered into a stock.
  2. Open up the chicken, essentially “unfolding” it, and lay it breast side-up on a sheet pan. Use the heel of your hand to press firmly onto the breast of the bird until it cracks. This will help the chicken lay flatter when it is time to roast it.
  3. Add buttermilk to a 2-quart bowl. Combine the salt and other dry seasonings in a small bowl, and then stir the spice blend into the buttermilk until the salt is dissolved.
  4. Place the chicken in a gallon-size freezer bag with a zip top. Pour the buttermilk into the bag and seal it, gently squeezing the air out of the bag as you go. This will ensure the brine covers every surface of the chicken. Wash and dry the bowl and place the bagged chicken into it (just in case the bag leaks) and refrigerate it for about six hours.
  5. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine, allowing the excess to drip off. Do not rinse the bird, but pat it dry with paper towels and lay it, breast side-up, on a baking rack placed over a rimmed sheet pan. Rub the olive oil all over the skin of the chicken and sprinkle it with kosher salt and black pepper. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for an hour before roasting.
  6. Preheat oven to 400° F, with rack in the center position. Roast the chicken without convection for 45 minutes, until the skin is golden brown all over and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160° F. Rest chicken for 15 minutes before carving and serving.


Late Summer Succotash with Chicken & Waffles

Something about the change of seasons makes me happy, and this is especially true when we can see Labor Day just up ahead. This time last year, my husband, Les, and I were gallivanting all over New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, visiting old friends, meeting new ones and satisfying our culinary curiosity with so many delicious foods. Our plans this year have kept us mostly at home, and so the transition to fall doesn’t feel nearly as dramatic, but we have at least fulfilled the delicious food requirement. The big food news of our week occurred when we celebrated my hubby’s birthday with a fantastic veal and eggplant Parmesan dish, which he will be proud to share on Comfort du Jour soon (it will be an excellent way to re-welcome the Sunday Supper category).

Yes, the countdown to autumn has begun, and I’ll be at the front of the line to greet it. For now, I’d like to share this colorful, late-summer dish that I whipped up last month, just before our garden tomatoes started coming in. It’s a “healthy-ish” play on chicken and waffles, and a great way to hang onto the lingering days of summer as we prepare to roll out the welcome mat for the glorious comfort foods of autumn.


It may seem that “chicken and waffles” could not qualify as healthy-ish, but I did lighten this up in a number of ways. First, I used skinless chicken tenders (rather than skin-on, bone-in pieces), which were drenched in flavor after a two-hour bath in buttermilk, seasoned with plenty of hot sauce and a bit of Bell’s poultry seasoning. Never miss an opportunity to add flavor—that’s one of my key approaches to cooking. Rather than deep frying the tenders, I dipped them in seasoned flour and crisped them up lightly in a cast-iron skillet. And with a high volume of vegetables in the succotash, each serving only included two of the fried tenders. Portion control is one of the simplest ways to reduce calorie intake. 🙂


The waffles for this dish were on the healthy side of things, too, and based on a sourdough pancake recipe from my favorite baking site, King Arthur Baking Company.

I followed the King Arthur recipe as written, except that I halved it, swapped in white whole wheat flour with a little cornmeal, and bumped up the oil just enough to prevent them from sticking to the waffle iron. The scallions and leftover grilled corn folded into the batter made the waffles extra hearty, and sourdough can’t be beat for this application because of the amazing crispy texture it puts on the waffle exterior. If you aren’t riding the sourdough train, there’s no reason in the world you couldn’t substitute another waffle recipe you like and add the corn and scallions to it.


The succotash (technically this isn’t one because it doesn’t have beans) has everything that I love—zucchini (still plenty of it at the farmers’ market), grilled corn, leeks, ripe baby tomatoes, pickled onions and half of a tiny jar of pimentos we had in the fridge. I used one of my favorite prep-ahead techniques for this meal, which is layering the cut-up ingredients in reverse order in a single prep bowl that I can tuck into the fridge until I’m ready to start cooking.


This recipe gave me a first chance to use the new non-stick skillets we bought this summer; Les and I had looked high and low for replacements that didn’t feel chintzy and weren’t made in some factory overseas. Les learned via online research that the only pair of American-made non-stick skillets were a specific set of Calphalon pans that were sold by Williams-Sonoma (most of Calphalon’s products are made in China, but this set is made in Ohio). They are available online if you don’t have a store near you.

The non-stick coating is great, and I love the sturdiness of our new pans, but for me the real test of a new skillet is “how easily can I flip my ingredients?” Sometimes when I have a lot going on at once, I don’t want to take time to pick up a utensil so I’ll employ the flipping technique I learned during my catering days. It worked fine, though the pan was a bit heavy, so I’m counting it as upper-body exercise (and I only lost a few pieces of onion to the floor).


Having one prep bowl filled with vegetables makes cooking a snap, as I simply empty them into the skillet as I need them, and there’s no jumbling around in the fridge to find what I need or washing extra prep dishes. When the zucchini started to become tender, I moved deeper into the bowl for the other ingredients until I had everything in the pan.


All three components of this dish—the waffles, the chicken and the succotash—happen simultaneously, but you could certainly make the succotash ahead and simply rewarm it when you’re ready to serve. Keep the waffles warm on your oven’s low setting if needed, and aim to make the chicken the last thing you prepare. Remember to season it with a light touch of salt from the skillet!

Pile it onto a plate, with the succotash underneath and over top of the crispy waffles, and the chicken tenders leaned against it. Finish the dish with a scattering of fresh chopped basil leaves, and dinner is served!

Not only does this presentation look beautiful, it serves the purpose of keeping everything warm until you make it to the last delicious bite!


Late Summer Succotash with Chicken & Waffles

  • Servings: About 3
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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This meal takes some time to prepare, but the combination of sauteed summer ingredients and lightened-up chicken & waffles is well worth the effort! Prepare the three components of this dish at your own pace; if time is limited, the succotash can be made ahead and warmed at serving time. If you plan to make everything concurrently, consider setting the oven to warm and tuck away the waffles or chicken tenders on a rack placed over a baking sheet.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders, patted dry
  • 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
  • Up to 1 Tbsp. bottled hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup neutral oil (for skillet frying]
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. medium-grind corn meal
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, hot sauce, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Add chicken tenders to the bowl, tossing to coat. Allow this to rest at room temperature at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate up to a few hours if working ahead. Take them from the fridge 30 minutes before pan-frying them.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, corn meal and garlic powder, plus a few shakes each salt and pepper. Set this aside for breading the chicken tenders.
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, with 1/2-inch oil.
  4. When oil is hot, remove tenders from buttermilk mixture, allowing all liquid to run off. Dip the tenders into the breading mixture; coat evenly without dredging too heavily. Carefully place each tender into the hot oil, taking care to not crowd the pan too quickly, as this will drop the temperature of the oil and result in greasy chicken. Turn tenders when the first side is golden brown; transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate when done. Season immediately with a light sprinkle of salt.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup fed sourdough starter
  • 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbsp. medium-grind cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup leftover grilled corn kernels
  • 3 chopped green onions (scallions), white and green parts

Directions

  1. In a medium batter bowl, combine sourdough starter and buttermilk. Add flour and cornmeal. Stir until smooth; cover and leave at room temperature at least 30 minutes, up to about 2 hours.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Set waffle iron to medium heat. While it preheats, add egg, oil, soda and salt to the sourdough batter. Stir until smooth. Fold in corn and scallions.
  4. Brush waffle iron with oil. Add a scoop of batter and bake until crispy, following manufacturer’s instructions. As a visual cue, watch for steam to dissipate from the iron. Generally, if the waffles are sticking, they aren’t finished baking. If working ahead, place finished waffles on a rack over a cookie sheet and keep them in a warm (250° F) oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into chunks
  • 1 small leek or onion, chopped
  • 1 cup leftover grilled corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup pickled onions, chopped (I like the “pickled” flavor here; substitute anything pickled, such as okra, green beans, cucumber)
  • 2 Tbsp. jarred pimento, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup ripe baby tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil or parsley, to garnish

Directions

  1. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium flame. Add olive oil and saute zucchini with leeks or onions until slightly tender.
  2. Add remaining vegetables, except tomatoes, and toss until evenly combined. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet with a lid so that the pan ingredients can heat through without much more cooking.
  3. Add tomatoes at the end, tossing just to combine.

To assemble the dish, spoon out some of the succotash, and then place a waffle section, topped with additional succotash. Arrange the chicken tenders by leaning them up against the waffles. Sprinkle with chopped, fresh basil or parsley.



Buffalo Chicken Salad

One of things I love about food blogging is participating in the “National Days” that are related to popular comfort foods. I’m not sure who is responsible for deciding what day is right for celebrating chocolate chip cookies or fried chicken or pepperoni pizza, but I know it’s fun! Here on Comfort du Jour, I have paid particular attention to National S’mores Day, and this year will be no exception (watch for that on August 10th).

This Friday is National Chicken Wing Day, proclaimed as such in 1977 by then-mayor of Buffalo, N.Y., Stan Makowski—and for this gal, who was born and raised just south of Buffalo, that’s a big deal! But I’m torn, because I have really been trying to dial it back on the heavy foods to get my health back on the right track. As much I love Buffalo wings (oh, how I do), I can’t justify deep frying tiny, skin-on chicken pieces, drenching them in sauce and then dragging them through bleu cheese dressing, just because it’s a “National Day.” Talk about a calorie explosion! I wanted to see if I could find a lighter way to enjoy the flavors associated with this “taste of home.” Here it is—Buffalo chicken salad.

This has all the flavors of Buffalo wings, without the deep-fried calories!

All the flavors are represented: tender chicken (obviously), spicy Buffalo wing sauce, bleu cheese, even celery—but at a fraction of the fat and calories of the usual preparation. The chicken here is lean, skinless breast meat, and you can make that part super easy by picking up a deli-roasted chicken (you can use the rest for another meal), or you can poach them at home with a few aromatics and some chicken or veggie broth, as I did:


The dressing that wraps around the chicken shreds carries all the other flavors, beginning with mayonnaise and sour cream—just enough to hold it all together—and ending with however much Franks RedHot sauce tickles your fancy. To give it a really good kick, add a few pinches of cayenne pepper or keep it colorful with less heat by adding a spoonful of sweet paprika. This recipe is totally flexible to match your heat tolerance.


This recipe made four generous servings of chicken salad. I served it on leaves of soft butter lettuce as dinner, alongside an impromptu slab of garlic toast; the latter was my husband’s genius creation made from leftover hot dog buns and a few sprinkles of our favorite parm-romano blend cheese. It was a great meal, both for the flavor and the satisfaction of throwing a low-calorie twist on a classic comfort food.


Buffalo Chicken Salad

  • Servings: about 4
  • Difficulty: average
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This is an easy way to enjoy the flavors of Buffalo wings, but without the high fat and calories. Adjust the amount of Frank’s RedHot sauce to match your desire for heat.

Ingredients

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp. Frank’s RedHot sauce (give or take, depending on your heat preference)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup bleu cheese crumbles
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet Spanish paprika, optional for color
  • A sprinkle of fresh, chopped parsley for garnish, if you’re feeling fancy

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, RedHot sauce, lemon juice, pepper and garlic powder. Whisk until evenly combined. Adjust hot sauce to taste.
  2. Add shredded chicken, onions and celery to the dressing bowl. Fold gently to combine ingredients. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings to taste.
  3. Fold in bleu cheese crumbles and sliced scallions, plus paprika if desired for extra color.
  4. Cover and refrigerate Buffalo chicken salad until ready to serve.

If you prefer, you can poach the chicken breasts yourself. Simply place them in a shallow pot with aromatics, such as celery, onion, fresh herbs and black peppercorns. Pour in enough chicken or vegetable broth to cover the chicken about halfway. Bring to a slight boil, then cover and simmer about 20-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through and tender.


When I got to the bottom of the bowl of Buffalo chicken salad, I lost my way a little bit on the whole “light and healthy” thing. I couldn’t resist putting an over-the-top spin on it. I know, but it sure was delicious, and still not as heavy as chicken wings! 🙂



Thai Basil Chicken

To say that I’ve been under stress lately would be a gross understatement. I know that many of you feel the same angst related to the stories that plague our newsfeeds, and that alone is enough to make anyone shaky. On top of the stressors of life, things at home have been a little, um, hectic.

Besides the uncharacteristically high pressure of late in my day job (which is usually quiet in June), and beyond the fact that we are now past the 90-day mark since the start of our master bath remodel (with issues still happening every day), I had an unwelcome bit of news this week at my first primary care visit in nearly a decade. It’s nothing serious—at least, not yet—but I am considering the results of my blood workup to be an important wake-up call.

At the risk of TMI, I’ll summarize to say that several key markers are out of whack, and I need to get my act together quickly as it relates to my diet and my overall health. As luck would have it, going through menopause, starting a food blog, and signing up for not one, but two major home renovations during a world pandemic did not have positive effect on my body. I should have seen it coming.

For the first time in my life, a doctor told me that I must make changes, and that was a little scary. There’s plenty of time to turn things around, and I am truly thankful for that, but it means healthier options will be my first choice and decadence is on the bench for a while. I need to embrace regular exercise, too, but that’s another post entirely. Today, I’m focusing on healthier eating. It does not mean that we can’t have pizza or ice cream or some of the other fun things my husband and I love; rather, it only means that I must be more mindful of what goes into those dishes in the first place. Luckily, I do love experimenting!

For me, what makes a meal truly satisfying is variety of texture, big flavor and interesting spices. I’m not suddenly turning vegan or entirely giving up any food groups—I have never been one for a total elimination diet. I can move toward better health with a few lightened-up favorites, more meatless dishes and plenty of vegetables, and that’s what I intend to do. Truth be told, part of the reason I’m telling y’all this is that it builds in an extra level of accountability. Now that you know, I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner. So here comes the first of several fresh and healthy meals served up at our house recently.

It smells even more delicious than it looks!

Thai basil chicken meets all the criteria I mentioned for a satisfying meal. The texture is amazing and packed with crunchy vegetables, including carrots, broccoli and red bell pepper. The flavor is phenomenal, with a complex blend of spicy ingredients in the Thai-inspired sauce that gently coats the vegetables and lean ground chicken. The signature flavor that gives this dish a little extra “zhuzh” is Thai basil, a fresh herb in the mint family that is similar to the Genovese basil you’d recognize in Italian food, but with a spicy undernote and a hint of anise or licorice. I’ve had an abundance of this ingredient lately, since my husband and I reinstated the Aerogarden that he gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. This gorgeous herb has taken over the whole dining room, even visible from outside the window because it’s growing through the blinds (which, I suspect, is causing the neighbors to whisper). I prune the plants every couple of days, which only makes them grow faster, and so I needed a dish that uses a lot of Thai basil at once. This recipe is perfect for it!


The prep for Thai basil chicken is easy; it’s just a bit of chopping and slicing of fresh vegetables that have plenty of texture, color and nutrition. The other essential prep is making the sauce. My recipe includes chili-garlic paste for heat, soy sauce and coconut aminos for an umami burst, oyster and fish sauces for a little funky depth, rice vinegar for a slight acidity and a touch of coconut sugar to round it all out. There’s also a bit of corn starch in the mix to keep it silky. If you like Asian flavors even a little bit, you won’t regret having these ingredients in the door of your fridge, and in no time at all, you’ll be mixing and matching them to come up with your own amazing recipes. One final note on the point of these Asian sauces, and this is not a joke. There is an imminent shortage of both sriracha sauce and chili-garlic paste, so you may want to grab a jar of each now to avoid the drought that’s coming on these ingredients. Now, let’s get cooking on this dish!


I used carrots, red bell pepper, onions and broccoli in my recipe, but there are other veggies that would feel right at home here, including scallions, cauliflower, celery, crunchy green beans or snow peas. Sliced fennel would also be terrific, and if you can only find Genovese basil, having fresh fennel in the mix would help fill the gap of the licorice flavor that Thai basil offers. Basically, aim for lots of color and texture and you’ll have a winning dish. The only vegetable I wouldn’t recommend is tomato, which is too soft, and hardly ever used in Asian cuisine.

Cooking the dish is simple, beginning with a little bit of oil in a large, fairly deep skillet or wok. Because this recipe is cooked over medium-high heat, you need an oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut, coconut or canola oil, but you won’t need more than a few tablespoons. Extra-virgin olive oil is not best for this kind of cooking because it overheats easily and turns bitter.


You’ll cook the veggies first, only a few minutes until they begin to soften, then move them to the outside edges of the pan and cook the ground chicken, half at a time. You could use cut-up pieces of chicken breast, also, but I find that ground chicken cooks more quickly and evenly. I normally use a wok when I make this dish, but that is one of the few tools that didn’t earn prime kitchen real estate after our remodel, and the overflow of stuff in the garage is a bit of a nightmare right now. If you have a wok, of course it would be the best vessel for cooking, but any large, sturdy skillet or pan with deep sides will work fine.


After the chicken has lost its pink color, whisk the sauce to mix it up again, and pour it all at once over the pan ingredients. Toss a few times to coat, and you should see the sauce thicken quickly, thanks to the cornstarch in the mix. Add the Thai basil at the very end, and when it wilts down and turns darker green (which takes no more than 30 seconds), this meal is ready to serve!

I’ll be looking for other fun ways to use my Thai basil, and I’m already planning to do something with the shrimp we have in the freezer—maybe a drunken noodle kind of thing? Oh, aaand, I don’t think I have mentioned that I planted a vegetable garden this year, and we have found a new weapon against deer invasion. More on that next time. 🙂

Fingers crossed, we will have fresh zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant soon. Stay tuned!


Thai Basil Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: average
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This recipe moves quickly, so it’s best to have your fresh ingredients and sauce ready before you begin. If you have a favorite store-bought, spicy Thai sauce, you could substitute that, using about 2/3 cup. If you cannot find fresh Thai basil, a regular Italian basil can be substituted but the flavor will not be quite as authentic. As long as we are talking substitutions, the chicken could also be swapped out for shrimp or even extra firm tofu cubes. Go on, make it yours!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 small onion, halved and cut into slivers
  • 1 large broccoli crown, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and cut on bias into thin slices
  • a fat handful fresh Thai basil leaves
  • 3-4 Tbsp. high-heat oil, such as coconut, peanut or canola (you will divide this to cook the vegetables and the chicken)
  • Spicy Thai basil sauce (ingredients listed below)
  • Cooked jasmine rice, for serving

Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a glass measuring cup or other bowl that is suitable for pouring. Have it ready before you begin cooking.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. garlic chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut aminos
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp. COLD water

Directions

  1. Place a large, high-side pan over medium-high heat. Add half of the oil, and when it shimmers, add all vegetables to the pan. Sprinkle with a slight pinch of salt (not too much, because the sauce has plenty), and toss in the pan until they begin to soften, or about 7 minutes.
  2. Push the vegetables toward the outside edge of the pan. Add half of the remaining oil in the center of the pan, and add half the ground chicken, tossing to cook just until it’s no longer pink. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
  3. Whisk the sauce to reincorporate ingredients that have settled. Pour the sauce all over the pan mixture and stir or toss to coat. The sauce should begin to thicken very quickly.
  4. Add the Thai basil to the skillet all at once and toss to wilt it into the recipe. This will happen very quickly.
  5. Spoon the Thai basil chicken over portions of hot cooked rice, and enjoy it while it’s hot!



Pollo Chipotle

There’s a time and place for the numbered dishes on a Mexican restaurant menu—you know what I mean, the #11 combo platter of one crunchy taco, one burrito and one enchilada, with a side of rice and flavorless refried beans. For me, the time was in my younger years, before I learned to appreciate the Mexican specialty dishes as I do today, and the place was (obviously) an actual restaurant, which I don’t frequent as much as I did in those days because, frankly, we prefer the food we make at home. It has only been recently that I started considering how to make some of our favorite Mexican meals, and those favorites seldom include items from the numbered combo section, and never any crunchy, from-a-box taco shells that I used to associate with Mexican “cuisine.” It’s funny how much has changed.

At one of our favorite local places, called Señor Bravo, the pollo chipotle is the special menu item that always wins over my husband, Les. The chicken (or pollo, if you wish) is tender and bite sized, and it’s drenched in a spicy sauce that has enough smoky chipotle to warrant being part of the dish’s name, but also enough rich cream to soften the edges and give the dish a special flair. I have tried several times to make this dish at home, and on previous attempts found it difficult to replicate the flavor and texture. It seemed something was missing so I fiddled with the cooking process, added ingredients and spices, tried different types of cream—from half and half to heavy cream—and every addition made it less and less like the restaurant dish. Finally, I dialed it all back and kept it simple. Turns out, simplicity was exactly and only what it needed.


Besides being simple and delicious, this dish is also relatively healthy, as I used cream cheese rather than heavy cream to thicken the spicy sauce. This eliminated the need for flour as a thickening agent. And for our at-home pollo chipotle, I jazzed up a simple pot of brown rice with a shake of cumin and a small handful of chopped cilantro and served it alongside a simple salad with fresh tomato and slices of ripe avocado.


Ingredients

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 Tbsp. expeller-pressed canola oil

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and sliced

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. sweet Spanish paprika

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Several twists of freshly ground black pepper

1 or 2 Tbsp. pureed chipotle with adobo sauce* (see recipe notes)

1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth*

A couple of pinches of dried Mexican oregano*

4 Tbsp. cream cheese, room temperature


*Recipe Notes

The chipotle puree is best prepared in advance, and you may want to start with one tablespoon and adjust up to taste. To make the puree, empty the entire contents of a small can of chipotles in adobo sauce into a food processor or blender. If your processor has a small bowl insert, that will be the perfect size. Pulse a few times, then run the machine continuously until the sauce is completely smooth.


I prefer the more complex flavor of vegetable broth in most recipes, but for this dish, you could certainly use chicken broth. I would still recommend a low-sodium version, as this helps with controlling the overall amount of sodium in the dish.

Low-sodium vegetable broth is one of the most versatile ingredients in my pantry. If you prefer, use chicken broth.

Mexican oregano is very different from the easier-to-find Mediterranean oregano you are probably accustomed to using. It’s part of the verbena family, with a citrusy, slightly floral flavor. Search it out in an ethnic supermarket, at Whole Foods or the international spice section of World Market. If you can’t get Mexican oregano, dried marjoram would be a better substitute than regular oregano.

To make the cilantro rice, simply cook a batch of your favorite brown rice according to package instructions. Use vegetable broth rather than water for more flavor. Stir in salt, pepper, a few shakes of ground cumin and a small handful of fresh, chopped cilantro leaves before serving.

Why serve ordinary rice, if you can make it more flavorful with so little effort?

Instructions



Looking for ways to use the rest of the chipotle puree?



Authentic Arroz con Pollo

If you do an internet search for “authentic arroz con pollo recipe,” you will get at least a dozen pages of results, with very few duplicates. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Some of the ingredients are consistent across the recipes, but there are many variations and even the pictures can look dramatically different. The reason there are so many “real” arroz con pollo recipes is that there are many, many Hispanic grandmothers passing down their own recipes. And this dish—which is not definitively native to a single country or people—has become a blend of whatever ingredients are available in all the regions where those grandmothers have lived and cooked.

My previous experience of arroz con pollo—or “ACP,” as it is usually listed on many of our local Mexican restaurant menus—has not been completely positive, and that’s because here in the South, the recipe has morphed into an “Americanized” dish that is oozing with cheese and basically bland (it’s a rare instance of a dish being too much about the cheese, in my opinion). And that is a shame because at its roots, arroz con pollo has a lot going on!  

Recently, I had a front-row seat to watch and learn the authentic, real-deal Puerto Rican version of this flavorful dish. During our vacation up north, my husband and I spent a few days on Long Island, where we visited his cousin, Evan. To my good fortune, Evan’s husband, Will, became my own personal “ACP” instructor! His mother hails from P.R. and his father is of Spanish heritage, so Will has good reason to be passionate about this dish that is representative of his family. We had a joyful afternoon in the kitchen!

Will took the day off work to teach me how to make ACP. Love you, Sweetheart! ❤

Throughout this private cooking lesson, Will shared with me all the culinary wisdom handed down to him from his mother, who learned it from her mother, and so on. Because this was an authentic Puerto Rican variation of arroz con pollo, it was packed with layers of flavor, beginning with Sazón and finishing with saffron, and all in one giant pot, called a “caldero.” The pictures of Will’s family recipe tell the story far better than I can, so please join us at the stove as we celebrate this last day of Hispanic Heritage Month!


Ingredients

First, let’s take a look at the special ingredients that make this dish uniquely Puerto Rican.


Hold up, what exactly is “culantro?”

It can seem a little confusing, so let’s address the difference between cilantro, which most of us are familiar with, and culantro, which is an ingredient in both of these cooking bases. Unlike cilantro, which is wispy and delicate and mostly used to finish or garnish a dish after cooking, culantro is sturdier and stronger, both in texture and flavor. It has a similar flavor to cilantro, but its long, slender leaves are mainly included as a cooked ingredient, and during the cooking process, the hearty flavor calms down a bit. This herb is extremely common throughout the Caribbean, so of course it is a staple in the cuisine of Puerto Rico.

The remaining ingredients for the arroz con pollo included bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, corn oil, onions, peppers, garlic, tomato sauce and rice. I did my best to take notes and catch all the details, but this is the kind of recipe you make from instinct, and that’s exactly how Will prepared it. He was cracking me up as he went along, and reminded me so much of myself—occasionally cursing his stove and fretting about ways that his dish might not turn out perfectly. We are always our own harshest critics in the kitchen, can I get an amen? Trust me, this arroz con pollo was delicious!

Made with love, heart and soul!

At the end of the post, I’ve included a PDF that you can download for your recipe files. You will need to tweak seasonings to suit your taste and adjust cooking times for your own stove, of course, but my outline should provide a good starting point. Here we go!


Instructions

Arroz con Pollo!


Easy Chicken Souvlaki

My first taste of Greek food came when I was in my early 20s, shortly after I arrived in Winston-Salem, N.C. Unlike the places I’d lived before—upstate N.Y. and a few places in Colorado—this southern city is home to a large community of Greek-Americans. One of my first jobs here was waiting tables at a Greek-owned casual seafood restaurant, where our most popular (though not inherently “Greek”) menu items included breaded and deep-fried flounder and crunchy little seafood nuggets known as “popcorn shrimp.”

It didn’t take long though before I discovered some of the other Greek-owned eateries in town that offered an authentic, mouthwatering specialty called souvlaki, a lemon and herb-seasoned marinated meat, grilled on skewers and served with any number of authentic sides. Depending on the time of day, you might be served souvlaki with seasoned rice or lemon-herb potatoes, or with Greek feta salad and pita. But always on the side with souvlaki is tzatziki, a Greek yogurt-based condiment with shredded cucumber, garlic and dill.

Some of the new words associated with these delectable foods were hard for me to say at first, but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the incredible flavors of Greek food. This fall, perhaps when our new kitchen is completed, I look forward to making a classic pastitsio or moussaka, both of which are baked comfort to the nth degree, rich with warm spices and creamy béchamel.

But today, I’m focused on the food to work best with summer grilling, and that is souvlaki. Traditionally, souvlaki would be made with chunks of lean pork, but there are just as many restaurants around here that put the same flavors and treatment on pieces of chicken breast, and it is positively delicious. Feel free to cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks for your souvlaki—that would be the more traditional way, after all—or you can take the easy way, as I have, and marinate whole chicken tenders, skip the skewers and toss the tenders right onto the grill.

Souvlaki is delicious with warm, soft pita breads and zesty tzatziki sauce, which is easy to make while you wait for the marinade magic to happen. You might also serve your souvlaki up with a batch of the cool tzatziki potato salad I shared a few days ago. Before long, you’ll join me in shouting the traditional Greek celebration exclamation—OPA!


Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders

1 whole organic lemon, juiced (plus the zest)

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

About 4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil


Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken tenders dry, but do not rinse them. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and toss to coat.
  2. In a large glass (or other non-reactive) bowl, combine lemon juice, zest, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Take note of the volume this mixture has in the bowl. Whisk the marinade mixture while streaming in enough olive oil to roughly double the volume of the marinade.
  3. Add the chicken tenders to the marinade and use tongs to thoroughly toss and coat them. As much as possible, press the tenders to be fully submerged in the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least six hours.
  4. When you are ready to cook the tenders, simply remove them from the marinade and place them directly onto the pre-heated grill. There is no need to rinse them or even to scrape the marinade from the tenders.

Tzatziki

1 Persian cucumber (or 1/2 medium slicing cucumber), peeled, seeded and finely chopped or grated

A couple pinches of kosher salt

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or substitute sour cream if you must)

2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh dill leaves, finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp. dried dill)

Line a small custard cup with a paper towel. Add the chopped or grated cucumber and stir with salt. Wrap the paper towel over the cucumbers and allow this to sit in the fridge 30 minutes to release and absorb excess moisture.

Combine cucumbers with yogurt, garlic and dill. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.




Coq au Vermouth

Excuse me, where is the umbrella?

I spent two years in French class during high school, and that is pretty much all I remember how to ask—“excusez-moi, où est le parapluie?” I suppose it is a question that would have been essential had I become a world traveler (I didn’t), and in fact it was a common question asked among my fellow French club members when we took our senior trip to Quebec City, Canada—they don’t speak much English there, in case you didn’t know. It rained the entire three-day weekend, but it was still a glorious visit to a city rich with history and speckled with exquisite, copper-roofed buildings.

Spanish would undoubtedly have been a more useful class for me, given the increase of Spanish-speaking people in the U.S. since I graduated all those years ago. But there was something sooo sexy about the French spoken word, and well, my best friend signed up for French so I did, too. Our teacher was cool and we got to choose our own names for the class, which was good because there wasn’t a name on the list that was a literal translation for Terrie. My friend Debbie became Christine, pronounced CREE-steen, my friend Christine became Danielle and yours truly selected the name Jacqueline, which was fun to say—zhah-KLEEN, like the French fashion designer who steals Nigel’s dream job in The Devil Wears Prada.

French class was always lively, and we were encouraged to play up the accent and the nasal sound as much as possible. We went through round after round of language exercises, covering the French words for common places, including the bookstore (la librairie) and the library (la bibliothèque) and reciting all the various tenses of the verb words, and for every kind of individual and group instance. For example: for the verb “go,” we would cycle through the French words that meant, “I go, you go, he goes, she goes, we go and they go.” Round and round we went, and after all that repetitious recitation, all I remember how to say is “where is the umbrella?”

Anyway, for me, there is still a lot of mystery and intrigue associated with the French language, and I learned during my short time working in the Pinch of Thyme catering kitchen that if you want people to swoon over food, call it something French! As luck would have it, I do at least remember some of the French words for certain foods, including poulet (chicken), champignons (mushrooms) and carottes (carrots, obviously). I was excited to find this recipe in my most recent digital edition of Imbibe magazine because I have used splashes of vermouth in a few dishes and found it more complex and vibrant than wine, which would traditionally be used for braising chicken in the classic coq au vin. But this recipe was more than a splash, it was a generous amount in a very French-technique kind of recipe.

I could not resist turning this into a Sunday Supper meal, with a side of buttered red bliss potatoes and sauteed spinach, and it was—how shall I say—très délicieux!

This dish was rich and succulent, exactly as it should be. The chicken thighs remained tender and moist.

A word or few about vermouth…

I have known about vermouth for decades, but it has only been the past couple of years that I have become more closely acquainted with it, and today I almost always have a bottle open in the fridge for an end-of-day gin martini. Vermouth is a fortified wine, which means other alcohol has been added to grapes during fermentation, and that results in higher alcohol by volume than typical wine. Any variety of botanical ingredients are thrown into the process as well, including herbs, bitter ingredients, bark, roots and spices. Vermouth may be red or white, dry or sweet or really sweet, depending on its origin and method, and it is commonly used as an ingredient for classic cocktails, including martinis and Manhattans. Vermouth, on its own, is also a popular apéritif (pre-dinner drink) in Spain, Italy, France and my house.

In a literal French-to-English translation, coq au vermouth would demand use of a rooster, but it is not every day that you’d find such a creature in your local market. Large hen thighs is what I used for the recipe, and it was tender, flavorful and oh so fancy. Don’t be intimidated, though, because despite all of the foreign language I’ve been throwing around, this was a very simple dish to make. All you need is a cast iron skillet, chicken thighs, bacon, mushrooms and mirepoix—oops, another French word that is simply a mix of carrots, onions and celery. All that, plus a decent amount of dry white vermouth. Don’t worry, vermouth is easy to find, wherever you might buy wine. To keep the recipe true to its origin, choose a brand from France. I used Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry, dry, in the green bottle. 😊

This is one of my go-to vermouth brands for Gibson cocktails:
2 oz. dry gin, 1/2 oz. dry vermouth, shaken or stirred with ice, strained into a cocktail glass and served with a pickled pearl onion.

Inspired by Coq au Vermouth – Imbibe Magazine

Ingredients

3 slices bacon, cut into thin pieces

4 large, free-range chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 medium onion, sliced or diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick diagonal slices

2 stalks celery, cleaned, ribs removed and diced

3 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced

About 1 cup cremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters

1/2 cup dry vermouth (extra dry would be fine, also)

1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

2 fresh sprigs of thyme

2 Tbsp. cold butter

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon


Instructions

Let’s run through it in pictures first, and if you keep scrolling, you’ll find the instructions spelled out (in English), and I’ll also include a downloadable PDF for your recipe files.


  1. Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the edges begin to crisp. Transfer the pieces to a paper-towel lined dish, keeping all the bacon grease in the skillet. Arrange the chicken thighs, skin side down, into the skillet. Cook them until the skin is crispy and golden, then turn the pieces and cook the other side about two minutes.
  2. Transfer the thighs to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep them warm. Add the mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery) to the fond (pan drippings) in the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and mushrooms, tossing with the other vegetables until slightly browned. Pour in the vermouth and vegetable broth, and simmer for about two minutes.
  3. Return the chicken thighs to the skillet, skin side up. Sprinkle the bacon pieces over the top and lay the whole thyme sprigs in a criss-cross fashion over the combination. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet tightly and simmer about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate. Add the cold butter and lemon juice to the simmered vegetable mixture and stir until it is a rich, luscious sauce. Just before plating, place the thighs, skin side down, into the skillet to drench them in the sauce. Plate the chicken, then spoon the simmered vegetable mixture (a.k.a. mélange) over the thighs.
I love when an elegant dish is this simple!


Tequila-Lime Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Pico

Once upon a time, a busy woman ran out of creative ideas for the package of chicken tenders she pulled from the freezer, and the only thing that could save her from a boring dinner was a spark of inspiration. The woman, of course, was me, and it happened on Friday. It happens more often than I’d like, truth be told.

Isn’t that a familiar tale? Even people who love to cook have creativity blocks, especially when pressed for time, and we all need a boost to pull out of a menu rut. If I had stuck with my ho-hum plan to fry the chicken tenders and plop them on a salad—well, it would have been edible, but uninspired. It certainly would not have been remarkable or interesting enough to share here on Comfort du Jour. Luckily, I had the presence of mind to check my email that morning before heading out for a full day of errands. Right there at the top of my inbox was a cheerful message from my West Coast blogging buddy, Michelle, and her casual sharing of a personal story about “tequila-lime chicken” arrived just in time to twist this plot and save our supper.

What I love most about food and recipes is the rich stories they tell about our lives. It’s one of the main reasons I started a food blog last year, a decision that I did not expect would lead to meaningful new friendships with other bloggers. Recent email conversations between me and Michelle brought us around to the joy of cooking on the grill (or the “BBQ,” as many West Coasters call it), and on Friday, she described this idea that she had invented to serve as a late-night patio bar snack at a restaurant where she once worked. Tequila-lime chicken is the kind of recipe you make by instinct, not by following specific amounts or ratios, and I love that she described the recipe that way—you know, with a little of this and a touch of that and a couple of those. It made perfect sense to me because 99 percent of the time, that’s exactly the way I cook, adding ingredients that fit the flavor profile until it looks and tastes “right.” It sounded perfect, and I couldn’t help but see my boring package of chicken tenders in a new light.

The ingredient list for the marinade was short and easy—tequila, citrus juice, fresh garlic and simple spices, such as cumin and chile seasoning, and it tenderized the chicken beautifully. My ingredient makeup wasn’t identical to Michelle’s recipe—she adds slices of onion to the marinade and I saved that for the pico topping—but the chicken turned out every bit as tender and flavorful as she described it, and I can totally see why her tequila-lime chicken tacos were a frequent “sellout” at the patio bar. We liked them so much at our house, I want to run out and buy a taco truck!

Tender, tequila-marinated chicken with the tropical pineapple pico and fresh cilantro. This was a fabulous twist of events!

The idea for tequila-lime chicken also gave me another excuse to make another batch of easy handmade corn tortillas, and this time I spiffed them up with cilantro puree, which accounts for the slight green tint to the shells. And I topped these “last-minute” tacos with a condiment concoction that I’m calling “pineapple pico,” a super-fresh, spicy, tropical mashup of pico de gallo and guacamole. I’ll share my notes for both at the end. 😊


Ingredients

About 1 1/4 pounds of chicken tenders, patted dry

1/4 cup silver tequila (I’m sure gold would work just as well)

Juice of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 lemon

About 1/2 tsp. each of cumin, garlic pepper, ancho chile powder and kosher salt* (see notes)

2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 to 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil*


*Notes

I used spices that were within easy reach in my cabinet, and I chose ancho chile powder because we love the bright, fruity flavor of it. You could just as easily use chipotle powder or any kind of bottled chile powder or, as my friend pointed out in her email, even some kind of pre-made taco seasoning. Keep it simple and southwestern, and let the tequila and lime work their flavor magic.

A little oil helps in a marinade, especially when using a very lean meat. My hubby runs the grill pretty hot and I wanted to help protect the chicken tenders from burning or getting dried out. Olive oil is my go-to, but avocado or canola oil would work just as well.


Instructions

Make the marinade first and give the chicken several hours to overnight in the fridge to soak up all the delicious, south-of-the-border flavors. It goes like this:


Grill the chicken on a hot grill (500° F at first, my hubby says), then reduce heat to 350° once you get the grill marks. Chicken tenders are smaller than whole breasts, of course, so they will cook more quickly. Watch them closely and pull them off the grill as soon as the juices run clear.

Hubby gets those perfect grill marks every time! The chicken was so tender, it practically melted in our mouths!

Cut up or shred the chicken tenders (you’ll be shocked at how tender they are!) and serve as desired. We perched them atop cilantro-flavored corn tortillas with crunchy cabbage, radishes, pineapple pico and fresh cilantro.

If you missed my recent post on handmade corn tortillas, follow the link to check that out. I include full instructions and all my best tips for turning out successful tortillas, with or without a tortilla press!


Pineapple Pico

1/2 cup fresh pineapple, cut into tidbit-sized pieces

1/2 cup baby tomatoes, halved or quartered to tidbit-size

2 Tbsp. red onion, chopped

1/2 medium fresh jalapeno, chopped

1/2 ripe avocado, cut into cubes

Juice of 1/2 lime, plus salt and pepper


Thanks for an amazing idea, Michelle! 🙂


Brunswick Stew

After 30-plus years in the Southeast, I’ve come to appreciate many of the traditions, especially the ones related to food. There’s a particularly tasty tradition that occurs here in the fall, when churches, civic groups and Boy Scout troops set up giant, outdoor cast-iron kettles for their Brunswick stew fundraisers. They sign up volunteers, who take turns stirring the simplest of ingredients into a delicious aromatic stew, and folks arrive in droves to enjoy it by the bowl, and to take home quarts for freezing. It’s tradition and it’s delicious.

If you look into some of the old-time church cookbooks, you’d likely find Brunswick stew recipes that begin with fresh-caught rabbits or even squirrels, but (thankfully) my introduction to this homey, comforting soup was a chicken version, and that’s what I’m sharing today.

Brunswick stew is one of those comfort foods that tastes rich and hearty, but checks in on the low end of the fat-and-calories scale. Feel free to swap in other vegetables that suit your fancy—it’s what folks do in different parts of the South and depending on where you are, you might find potatoes, green beans or carrots in the bowl.

You can roast your own chicken if you’d like (overnight in the slow cooker makes amazing broth at the same time), but to keep it quick and simple, I’m using a rotisserie chicken this time, plus packaged broth, a few simple fresh and frozen vegetables, and a can of tomatoes. Whip up some corn muffins while it simmers, and dinner is served.

Can you taste the comfort?

Ingredients

First, the essentials. This is a Southern classic comfort food, so the “holy trinity” of peppers, onions and celery is the foundation of the recipe. Any color bell pepper is fine for Brunswick stew, but I personally find the red and orange bells to be a bit on the sweet side, so I’m using a green bell.

Okra came to the Americas from Africa in the 1600s, and it remains a staple of Southern cooking. You’ll find it in many Cajun and Creole recipes in Louisiana, and it’s not unusual to see it breaded and fried, or even pickled, which I love in a Southern-style potato salad or on deviled eggs. The pectin in okra gives it some thickening power when it’s cooked in liquid, but some people are turned off by the slightly slimy texture. Two things can minimize this: don’t overcook it (for this recipe, it’s added at the end), and cook it in combination with tomatoes, which is what’s happening in this Brunswick stew.

If you make this stew in the late summer or fall, of course you would want to use fresh corn, lima beans and okra.


1 deli roasted chicken, dark and white meat shredded* (see notes)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

15 oz. can diced tomatoes

2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

2 cups frozen corn

2 cups frozen lima beans

2 cups frozen sliced okra

1/4 cup BBQ sauce

2 to 3 Tbsp. tomato paste

A few shakes hot sauce (optional, Frank’s RedHot or Texas Pete recommended)

Salt and pepper, of course


*Notes

If you prefer to roast your own chicken, more power to you! If you have time to work ahead, you might also want to make your own stock. Or you could make your own stock from the frame of the rotisserie chicken. After de-boning and shredding the meat, toss the bones and skin into a pot with cut-up onions, celery, carrots and just enough water to cover it all. Simmer a few hours then strain out the solids, and you’d have a great alternative to the packaged broth (or, at least, some of it).


Instructions

If the pictures here seem to defy the ingredient amounts listed, there’s good reason for it—on this particular day, I only had half a rotisserie chicken, so I halved the entire recipe. The ratios are the same, and this stew is so satisfying and delicious, I’m already regretting that I didn’t run to the store for another chicken!


  1. Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil. Sauté onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic until vegetables are soft and onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, shredded chicken and broth. Add bay leaf, reduce heat and simmer up to an hour.
  3. Add frozen corn and lima beans, but reserve frozen okra until about 20 minutes before serving, to prevent the okra from breaking down too much. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper to your preference.
  4. Stir in BBQ sauce (and hot sauce, if using), and add the okra to the pot. When the bright green color of the okra begins to fade a bit, it’s ready to serve!

Want to make this Southern classic?