Chicken artichoke stew.

I’ve never met a vegetable more frustrating than the artichoke.  You spend too much time on them, getting poked by little pricks in doing so, risking slicing off your palm with your sharpest knife, and possibly (if you are as clumsy as me) peeling off a fingernail or two with your peeler.  All for a teeny tiny little stub.

But damn it if that stub aint worth it.  I’ve never met a vegetable more frustrating that the artichoke but I’m also hard-pressed to name one more complex and delicious.  The texture of a cooked artichoke is like a cross between a squash and an avocado and the flavor is intensely earthy and bold; it leaves a clean, mellow taste on your tongue and, because of a compound called cynarin, makes anything you eat with it taste a touch sweeter—not good when pairing with expensive wine, but fabulous for sauteing with garlic.

Most of the time, I like to drop prepped artichokes in a bowl of lime-water so that their color stays as bright as possible.  I usually find that lemon-water will overpower the flavor of artichokes but lime won’t interfere.  I would’ve loved to show you a video of how to prep the artichokes, but thought I would save you from the barage of bad language and mini-tanrums.  For a great, frustratingly calm slide-show, click here.

I used hot-house tomatoes, peeled and seeded, because canned tomatoes would be too sweet for the sweetening effect of artichokes, and a whole chicken cut into eight pieces (you can have the butcher do this for you instead of buying chicken pieces, you get a much better quality buying whole).  Past all the prep work, this dish is simple as pie (simpler, even): throw everything in a pot with some wine and then have a glass while you wait for your fabulous dinner.

A dinner that will be amazingly good, too; one that transports you to another place, an Italian countryside maybe, where you eat while the wind whips at your hair and the wine intoxicates you.  One where you feel no embarrassment at sucking the chicken bones dry, one where that is considered flattering.  One where, even, there’s a nice man playing footsy with you under the table while you give him your come-hither eyes as you slop up the sauce with some warm, crusty bread.

Artichoke and Chicken Stew

adapted from Bon Appetit, April 1998

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces, preferably farm-raised
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 medium artichokes, trimmed, halved, chokes removed 
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped, preferably hot-house unless in-season
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer onions to bowl.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pot and cook until golden on all sides, about 10 minutes. Pour off excess fat from pot. Sprinkle flour over chicken in pot; turn chicken over. Cook until flour browns lightly, about 2 minutes. Add sautéed onions, white wine and garlic to chicken. Reduce heat; simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Drain artichoke halves. Add to chicken. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through and artichokes are tender, about 30 minutes. Spoon off any fat from surface of stew. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken and artichokes to large platter; tent with foil. Boil sauce in pot until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and artichokes.

Celery Root and Okra Dal.

I’ve been hiding a recipe from you.  This is my second year of making it too, and I’ve made it more times than I can remember.  Dal.  Or I suppose that’s what it is, though I’m a real amateur at Indian cooking and I’ve never had an aficionado give me the thumbs up on whether this constitutes a real dal.

I’m not sure it’s authentic. I’m slowly turning away from the pursuit of authenticity, anyway.  I know I love this celery root and okra dal and that’s enough for me.  And I know that celery root is the star here, whether it belongs or not; it’s the reason why everyone I serve this to loves it so much.  It’s less bracing than celery stalks, brighter and fresher tasting—which is a lot to say, since it’s stewed for quite a while.  Sitting in a bowl with earthy, dense lentils, sticky okra, and cooked-down tomatoes, a fresh, bright component like celery root really does a lot.

Which is not to say the other players don’t matter.  If celery root is Michael Jordan, then okra is Scottie Pippen (Jim just gave me that metaphor, and I’m trusting him on it.)  If okra is Scottie Pippen, then the tomatoes are a player that none of us remember but who was actually quite a lot of help to the team.  Red lentils also made a few baskets.  Even the mire-poix of onions, peppers, and carrots can play a good defense.  I’ve taken this metaphor too far.

But you know what I’m saying.  My dal is the perfect balance, at least in my eyes.  Spicy, filling, a touch sweet, bright, with a lovely scent of garam masala.  Perfect on its own atop basmati rice.  Perfecter with a fried egg on top.  Great for vegetarians, but you’d be downright dumb not to serve this to anyone who likes food.

I like to slice up my okra—which is a bit of a slimy mess—and combine them in a bowl with diced tomatoes, some spices and white vinegar, and after it sits for 15-20 minutes, add it to the dal.  Pressed for time or energy, though, you could just add the okra and tomatoes straight to the dal with a splash of vinegar.

Celery Root and Okra Dal

Season to your tastes at the end.  Add more spices, more jalapeno, some hot sauce, whatever suits you.  The good part of throwing authenticity to the wind is you never need to sacrifice your tastes.

  • 3 tablespoons ghee, butter, or olive oil (or a combination)
  • 1 celery root, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups red lentils, washed and picked over
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock (1 cube vegetable boullion if using water)
  • 1/2 pound okra, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3-4 small hothouse tomatoes, diced
  • cilantro

Heat ghee, butter, or oil in 6 quart dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat.  Once melted, add celery root, onions, green pepper, carrots, jalapeno, and garlic.  Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until softening and beginning to brown.  Add garam masala, salt, and cumin and cook a few minutes more, stirring.  Add red lentils, stirring to mix, and then the water or stock.  Lower heat and cook, halfway covered, for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add okra and tomatoes.  Mix in garam masala, paprika, vinegar, and sugar.  Let marinate in the fridge until the lentils are cooked.

When lentils are done to your liking, add okra mixture and heat through.  Serve on basmati rice with lots of cilantro, a drizzle of olive oil, and maybe a fried egg on top.  Since it gets better with age, try to leave some leftovers for lunch.

Forever lentils.

All winter long, I ate lentils. I made them often and ate them greedily, thinking, for some reason, that winter is the only season for lentils. Of course you could have them a few times in the late fall, when the weather starts to get blustery, and even once or twice at the very onset of spring, when it’s still freezing out. But, when you did that, you’d be eating the dish out-of-season.

Towards the end of winter, I began feeling blue over this. I had been nourishing my little family of two (with some leftovers for the dog) for the whole winter. Lentils provided many substantial dinners, lunches, and even breakfasts. I had made lentils of all kinds—red, green, black, yellow—and every dish was different then the last; lentils are infinitely adaptable.

What was I going to do for all those upcoming seasons? Sure, I consoled myself with thoughts of berries, green veggies, lettuces, and tomatoes, but I couldn’t shake the sadness over losing lentils. And then, after weeks of this edging melancholy, I realized, like duh, why can’t lentils be made for any season? Of course! Just because you are making a lentil stew, that doesn’t mean you need to fill it with canned tomatoes and mustard greens. There’s no need for smoky pimento or turnips or squash. I had spent the entire winter fooling around with lentils and I never even thought about how far I could go—switch up the other ingredients and you can do anything with lentils!

When the weather began to turn up the heat, I was ready with a few notebook pages full of spring lentil ideas. This one encapsulates the beginning of spring—mint, peas, and carrots. It’s the perfect side dish for pork or lamb—a touch sweet, a bit salty, and very green. While it’s still a hardy dish (great for this fickle weather), the peas and mint are redolent of all the light, brightness of spring

Spring Lentils with Peas and Mint

serves 6

3 slices bacon, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 bunch carrots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bouillon cube
2 cups lentils, french
8 oz. green peas, frozen, not thawed (or fresh if you find nice, young ones)
1-2 tablespoons mint, fresh, chopped
a big pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Render bacon fat in a large dutch oven. When crisp, remove bacon and reserve on paper towels.

Add onion and carrot to dutch oven with rendered fat. Let cook until beginning to color. Add garlic.

Meanwhile, bring lentils to boil in a small saucepan with water. Let cook 15-20 minutes or until barely tender. Drain lentils.

Add lentils to dutch oven with bouillon cube and 3 cups water, simmer for 5 minutes. Add peas and let cook another 10-15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are cooked and a lot of the water has been absorbed. If you like, blend some of the lentils with an immersion blender for a few pulses to thicken. Season with salt, pepper, and mint.

Ugly as a Monkfish’s Uncle

If monkfish can teach you one thing, it’s “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” There are hardly any foods in the world that are this ugly:

But monkfish isn’t simply ugly, it’s also hands-down the best fish to use in a stew, assuming you can get over the look long enough to cook it. That was easy for me—I found it’s ugliness rather intriguing, actually, and the monkfish I had this weekend was fresh, clean, and about one day off the boat—caught from local fishermen and bought at the farmer’s market.

As soon as I saw the vendor was selling monkfish, I knew I had to make a fish stew. Snagging some mussels and clams, I moved on to the other stands and bought some of the most delicate, flavorfully-bitter arugula I’ve ever tasted.

I went straight to Anne Willan’s The Country Cooking of France cookbook (my favorite new book) once I got home, knowing it would have some great fish stew recipes. To my delight, one of the recipes is for Cotriade Bretonne, a fish stew with sorrel and leek. It calls for a rich fish (monkfish), a white fish (I had some hake in the fridge), and mussels. I could easily substitute the arugula for sorrel and why not throw some clams in there! A perfect combination.

The resulting soup was perfect in more than just the ease it took me to procure the ingredients—it was flavorful yet balanced, creamy yet light, with a hint of bitterness from the arugula. The mussels and clams were a fun addition for a Saturday night (we spent hours eating and plucking the meat from the shells, which were filled up with all the leeky, arugula goodness) but you could easily omit both bivalves and make this soup in no-time on a weeknight. I’ll certainly be doing so often.

Cotriade Bretonne

Fish Stew with Arugula and Leek

adapted from The Country Cooking of France, by Anne Willan

serves 6

  • 1/2 pound white fish, without skin
  • 1 pound rich fish, without skin
  • 1 1/2 pounds mussels
  • 1-2 dozen clams (optional)
  • 1 pound arugula (or sorrel), stems removed, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 leeks, white and green parts, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart fish stock
  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 1 bouquet garni
  • 3/4 cup creme fraiche
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Wash and dry the fish, and cut into 2-inch pieces. Clean the mussels and clams and arugula. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the arugula, cover, and cook until the green wilt. Uncover and cook until all liquid had evaporated. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a soup pot. Add onions, leeks, and garlic and cook until they soften, 8-10 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes, bouquet garni, salt and pepper and simmer until the potatoes are partially cooked, about 5 minutes.

Add the rich fish to the cooking liquid, immersing it in the liquid, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the white fish and simmer until all fish are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard bouquet garni. Add the arugula and creme fraiche, mixing gently. Top with mussels and clams (if using) and simmer until they open, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with baguette toasts.

Winter Ratatouille

One of my favorite late-summer dishes is ratatouille. It helps to keep your spirits warm as fall begins to creep in and it’s outstandly satisfying to make. You chop and chop and chop, throwing everything into a big pot to swim together, and an hour or so later the flavors have melded to become an out-of-this-world delicious meal. And it’s healthy. If that ain’t perfect, I don’t know what is (a triple chocolate cookie, maybe?)

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about ratatouille lately (if you couldn’t tell.) I’ve been jonesing for it more than the berries and peaches of summer. I been so friggin’ upset that I have to wait for ratatoutille (because, god forbid, I will not eat out of season tomatoes) that it totally clouded my brain and I couldn’t think of anything else. And then when I was flipping through my new cookbook, a lightbulb popped over one recipe. A pot of winter vegetables, slowly stewed in some fat—a winter ratatouille!

It’s made with just about every winter vegetable you can find. Like a ratatouille, you cook most of the vegetables (cut in similar sizes) together in a pot for a relatively long amount of time, and near the end of cooking you add in potatoes (instead of tomatoes.) In place of the olive oil, I cooked the vegetables in some bacon fat and beef broth. You could use butter and vegetable broth to make it vegetarian.

If you like cabbage and brussels sprouts, you need to try this. If you don’t like cabbage, you need to try this. If you are a human who consumes food, you need to try this. It’s delicious, hearty, filling, and super healthy. It’s now in my recipe box under the label “miracle food.”

It’s certainly a meal on it’s own, but serve it with sausages if you want something more. Make sure to put out good, grainy mustard, horseradish, and butter on the table so everyone can add what they want to their plates. Left-overs are even better than the first try.

Winter Ratatouille

serves plenty//from Everyone Eats Well in Belgium

  • 4 oz bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dices
  • 4 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, well-rinsed and thickly sliced
  • 1 head Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 4 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • Bouquet garni: 5 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, tied together
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 lb red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-in cubes
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley

Fry the bacon until crisp in a large enameled dutch oven over medium heat. When crisp, remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add onions, leeks, cabbage, carrots, turnips, and brussels sprouts to bacon fat. Cook until soft, about 12 minutes. Stir the veggies throughout and don’t let them brown. Add the broth, bouquet garni, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cover and cook 30 minutes.

Add potatoes and bacon into pot. Cover and leave lid slightly ajar. Continue cooking until the potatoes and done and the liquid is almost all evaporated, 15 to 25 minutes. Discard bouquet garni. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir together with a wooden spoon, sprinkle with parsley. Serve it to anyone who’s chilly. Or hungry.

Superbowl Coq au Vin

There are a good many Americans who enjoy their football. I’m not one of them. I do, however, enjoy being stuffed to the gils in the name of celebration—every chance I get. And there’s always the commercials.

I agreed to watch football with Jim on Sunday (our first football-watching together—Jim’s more a basketball man.) There was no prepared guacamole, no piggies-in-a-blanket, no hot wings. It was a more of a subdued, half-hearted Superbowl party, one where the food was pretentiously “French.”

It was a spur of the moment decision to make the coq au vin, though I wish I had planned it. What great fun it would have been to invite all our friends over for a French Superbowl Dinner!!

The game turned out to be quite thrilling, though I think my coq au vin could kick any Giant ass around! The recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa and appealed to me in it’s relatively quick cooking time—maybe skipping any marinating time makes this coq au vin less “classic,” but I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! The wine-soaked chicken is succulent and falling off the bone. Seared mushrooms and baby pearl onions perform a balancing act of woodsy-sweet-savory flavors. The sauce, which I let boil down a bit to increase the flavor, was fruity yet not too tannic—I wouldn’t substitute a California pinot noir for the burgundy, unless you happen to favor the California’s bold taste. The tangy buttermilk mashed potatoes with fleur de sel were a great side dish—a bit lighter than regular butter-and-cream concoctions.

I stashed this recipe in my favorite file for Sunday night dinners; it would be divine even if there were no big, brawny men chasing each other around on your television set!

Coq Au Vin

serves 4-6//adapted from Ina Garten

While the recipe called to add the onions directly to the pan, I thought browning them along with the mushrooms would lend a brown-buttery flavor. It did and I highly recommend that step.

Ingredients

5 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

Method

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add onions to saute pan and cook until browned (or seared really.) Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 20 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Fleur de Sel Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

serves 4-6

Ingredients

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon fleur de se;, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper, or more to taste

Method

Place potatoes in a saucepan and fill water up to about 1/8 of an inch above the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender (you can easily puncture them with a fork.) Drain and add back to pot or serving bowl.

Add in buttermilk and skim milk and butter. Mix well. Add in fleur de sel and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately, with extra fleur de sel on the side, or keep warm over a double-boiler.

All in the Family Brassica: Dijon Pork & Kale Stew

Kale is one of those “new” foods for me, which seems strange because I am a huge fan of bitter greens. Most likely I never noticed kale when it was served to me, it’s not usually something one raves about (until right now, that is). I probably just happily ate it, noting the biting, sharp taste for a while, and then forgot about it by dessert.

 

Now that I cook, however, I pay a lot more attention to my food. A lot. For instance, I now know that kale has more nutritional value per calorie than almost any other food, which is probably why it was a staple crop for Ancient Romans, who welcomed it into cultivation after it was brought to Europe by Celtic wanderers around 600 BC. Mustard greens, like kale, were especially good as a sturdy, tasty green for soldiers as the winter months wore on, as kale sweetens with the frost.

The kale I (read: North American) am accustomed too is the curly leaf variety. It’s big and beautiful, with ruffled leaves dancing around a pale green, strong stalk. Curly leaf kale, along with it’s brother variations such as cavolo nero (black cabbage), are part of the larger cabbage family called Brassica. Here we have all sorts of cabbages, mustard greens, roots (turnips, radishes), and flowers (broccoli, cauliflower). It’s also the father to mustard seeds.

Knowing that, I knew I had to pair mustard and kale. And with the first snow of the season this week, all I can think about is stew.

If you think the flavors of kale and mustard are both too independently strong to cook together, think again. The similarities in their sweet-bitter tastes play upon one another, and they are tempered by the vermouth that is added as a portion of the broth. And the pork, cooked to melt in your mouth tender, soaks up all of these great characteristics without smudging them all up. If you pop a piece of the meat in your mouth, you’ll be able to pick up each flavor—the kale, the dijon, the vermouth—tasting them independently as well as understanding why they meld together so well. And the sharpness of both kale and mustard cut through the oompha of this stew—it tastes healthy and hardy.

Dijon Pork & Kale Stew

serves 6
  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 lb pork tenderloin or similar cut (could do boston butt), trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1½ oz. all-purpose flour (a small handful)
  • 3/4 cup vermouth
  • 3 cups chicken broth, with 1 tsp flour whisked into it *
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 T dijon mustard (try the country mustard with seeds if you want)
  • 1/2+ tsp salt
  • 1/2+ tsp fresh black pepper
  • 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 8 cups curly leaf kale

 

Method:
Heat 1 T oil in a dutch oven over med-high heat. Add leeks and saute for 6 minutes, or until browned. Add garlic and saute another 1 minute. Transfer leek mixture to a large bowl.

Dredge pork cubes in flour, coating all sides. Shake off excess and add pork to the hot dutch oven (do this in two parts if you must.) Brown pork on all sides. Transfer to bowl with leek mixture.

Add vermouth to dutch oven, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the bottom with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil. Add broth, water, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Add pork and leek mixture, bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the potato. Cover and cook until tender, about another 30 minutes.

Uncover, add kale and cook until wilted, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with some toasted, buttered baguette.

* Even though the stew is made with pork, use chicken broth in order to achieve the lightness that is needed to not cloud the sharp mustard flavors. But then again, I’m sure a homemade ham-hock stock would work just fine.

**I’ve been making some changes to the blog-look lately… please let me know if you can’t see the site properly. I have a widescreen laptop, so even if it looks great to me, it may be futzed up for you!

***And of course let me know if you like anything or if you don’t!!

Moroccan Chicken with Apples

I’m lucky enough to cook in Maria Robbins’ kitchen quite often. Maria, talented chef and author of some dynamite cookbooks, is Jim’s aunt, and whenever we visit the Hamptons we stay on her pull-out couch and pay our way by cooking for dinner parties or family meals. Maria, who has spent countless, laborious hours in the kitchen researching recipes and feeding friends and family, has given cooking a rest for now, though she inspires me to get cookin’ all the time (last visit she asked me point blank: “When are you going to quit your job and become a cook?”)

I love cooking for Maria and Ken (Jim’s uncle), especially since their big, open kitchen puts my itty bitty stove-home to shame. To be able to have three pots fit on one counter is freakin’ fabulous! During one visit late this summer, on a lovely just-a-bit-chilly kind of night, we were cooking for a party at Maria’s house. Needing to feed around 30 people, we couldn’t decide what to make, wanting something both interesting and simple. Maria broke open one of her cookbooks and a recipe for Irish stew, made with whole grain toast, country-style mustard, and Irish stout winked at us from the pages. A few hours, 10 pounds of meat, and a couple mishaps later, we served up the delicious stew to the party. It was so (happily) different from the normal summer party fare of burgers and dogs. Everyone raved over the dish, going back for seconds and thirds.

The next day, Maria gave me the cookbook that the recipe came from, sensing that I couldn’t wait to try everything in there. I haven’t prepared all the dishes yet, but I certainly plan to. Maria’s recipes are those wonderful, take-care-of-you kind—the kind that makes you feel at home no matter where you are. The recipes from this book are especially wonderful for parties—you actually see the guests loosening up after such warm-hearted food.

Tonight I made another recipe from Maria’s book—Moroccan Chicken with Apples. I don’t normally use fruits in my savory dishes, but I took a chance with this one, relying on Maria’s tastes. I have to say, this dish changed my attitude about fruit for dinner! The sweet raisins compliment the onions, while the apples are coated in the spiced sauce that has reduced in the dutch oven. The chicken is fork-tender and succulent. I added some extra spices to the dish because I was in the mood, and while at first I thought I might have gone too far, half way through the cooking the spices had melded together and a tantalizing aroma of ginger, clove, and cumin wafted through the apartment. Champ sat at attention by the stove, snout sniffing at the air.

Once the sauce reduced and the apples and raisins were added, the chicken was a deep brown and began to fall apart and mix into the onions. The final dish was a perfect stew—not too saucy, not too dry, and was perfect with couscous made with chicken stock and a little butter. Serve this with a side salad of bitter greens.

Moroccan Chicken with Apples

from Maria Robbins Simple One-Pot Stews: Delicious, Satisfying Stews from Around the World, for the Stove Top or Slow Cooker

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Serves: 2-3 people (4 if you are having another side)

  • 1½ lib chicken boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup wheat couscous
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 T butter
  • pinch of salt

Place the chicken, onions, parsley, butter, and spices in a medium or large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add enough water to nearly cover chicken (shown in picture). Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered with a lid so that some steam can escape, for one hour or until chicken is fork tender.

Add apples and raisins and cook for another 10 minutes, or until apples are tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or keep warm until serving.

Meanwhile: Bring stock, butter, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. When it begins to boil, add couscous and turn off heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Serve with chicken.