How I would love to rhapsodize about this stew! How I would love to describe the wonderful odor as it cooked, the shimmering onions braising in butter, the meditative joy of rendering bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs into boneless, skinless, cut-in-cubes chicken thighs (always read your recipe before you go shopping, kids).
But I can't. I've got a talent show to direct tonight and I need to leave in half an hour to get there.
Also: Fisher hated this stew, and he doesn't hate much in the way of food. Rhys, though, loved it; Jim loved it; I loved it. Take that with a grain of salt (or a tablespoon of hot smoked paprika, which is I think what Fisher hated about the stew).
Romanian Chicken Stew
(Mostly) From Real Stew by Clifford Wright
Serves four; easy to double; would probably freeze beautifully.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, preferably unsalted (all I had on hand was salted and it was fine)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts, if you've just gotta–but thighs taste way better), cut into roughly 1" chunks–don't freak out about uniform size/shape
2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tsp hot paprika–the original recipe called for Hungarian paprika; I used smoked Spanish paprika; it smelled un.believable.
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups decent dry white wine–all I had was Chardonnay (blech!), and I was afraid it would ruin the dish but it was fine
4 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper
Clarify the butter. This means: melt it in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. It will foam and sizzle a bit. Keep heating and stirring until the milk solids settle to the bottom of the pan and turn a soft golden-brown color. Remove and pour off clear golden liquid at the top, either by carefully tilting the pan (don't let the solids run out) or by pouring through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. You can do this ahead of time and set the butter aside at room temperature until you're ready to make the rest of the dish.
Heat butter in a soup pot or earthenware casserole (Le Creuset FTW!) over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring, until browned on all sides, 5 or 6 minutes. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add onions to hot butter; cook, stirring, a minute or so to make sure everything's well coated. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until onions are very soft, about 20 minutes.
Uncover pot, raise heat to medium, add paprika and salt and cook, stirring, one or two minutes, to let spices bloom. Return chicken to pot; add wine, allspice berries and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer–don't let it boil!–then cover, reduce heat to the absolute teeny weeny lowest simmer you can accomplish, and cook for an hour. Uncover and stir a few times during this period. Don't let the liquid boil or the chicken will toughen; you should see, at most, a few meek little bubbles now and again.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 400. (The original recipe said 450, which seemed waaay too high after about a minute of oven time.) Strew flour on a baking tray. Bake until flour has a distinctive nutty smell and has deepened to a warm tan color, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't scorch.
When stew is done, either sieve the flour into the stew through a small strainer or pop it into a sifter and scrunchy-scrunch it into the stew. Either way, stir briskly while adding flour. Stir in parsley; season with pepper and additional salt, if needed. Mine didn't need more salt, but that's probably because I used salted butter.
Serve over buttered egg noodles (which is what I did) or creamy mashed potatoes (which is what I wish I'd had time and wherewithal to do).
This is a very grownup-tasting stew, which may be a draw or a turnoff, depending on your family's tastes. Tell you what, I was sorry I didn't make enough to have for lunch today.