It’s not what I would call and “ordinary” chicken stew, nor would I call it chicken casserole, as authors Cathal Armstrong and David Hagedorn did in their book, My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve. The story behind the dish is that Armstrong was cooking a chicken casserole on his off-day from helming the kitchen at D.C.’s Restaurant Eve. He got a call that President Obama was headed in for dinner. So, he stopped what he was doing, ran into work and cooked. He has included this story and recipe, which he calls President Obama Stew, in the aforementioned book.
This was a great Saturday evening dinner: there are a lot of ingredients, the recipe goes slowly and every flavor complements one another. It’s quite a thing.
WHAT WORKED: Laziness precluded me from breaking down an entire chicken into pieces, as called for in the original. I decided to buy thighs and drumsticks to make it easier. It worked out fine.
WHAT DIDN’T: No serranos at Wegmans. They carry them, but I was lucky to find carrots and celery. The staff blamed the truck, which had yet to arrive. Whatever.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “Will you sit down and eat, PLEASE!” She spent a lot of time talking to the three-almost-four-year-old.
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Very good and I’m happy to add it to the repertoire as I had been looking for a hearty chicken stew.
Adapted from My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong and David Hagedom
3 to 3 1/2 lbs. chicken parts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 carrots, peeled, cut crosswise and then into 1/2-inch halfmoons
6 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and diced
20 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes with juices
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. herbes de provence
1 loosely packed cup of basil leaves, chopped coarsely
Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large saute pan or Dutch oven, heat oil until it shimmers. Place chicken in the pan, skin side down, so it does not overlap. Cook five minutes, turn and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, until brown. Transfer to a platter with the skin side facing up.
In the same pan, add the onions, carrots and celery, stirring to combine. Cook until they sweat, about five minutes. They should be translucent but not mushy. Deglaze the pan using the liquid released by the veggies. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Add bay leaves, thyme, herbes de provence and stock.
Return the chicken to the pan, skinside up, and bring liquid to a boil. Decrease heat to low, cover the pan and simmer 1 hour. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper and stir in the basil.