Baby, It’s Stew Weather Out There
Brrrrr. The perfect time to turn up the stove is when the temperatures dip.
After all, you not only warm up the house, but yourself, as well.
Especially if it’s with a one-pot dish that’s simple, comforting and loaded with good-for-you ingredients.
Let’s face it, we probably all over-indulged over the holidays. What better way to start a new year then with a cookbook that spotlights the nutritious ingredients of “Greens + Grains”? The cookbook (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy, is by my friend Molly Watson, a former staff writer for Sunset magazine. I’ve always loved Molly’s snarky sense of humor and no-nonsense way of doing things.
In her debut cookbook, she takes you through the world of grains and greens, giving advice on how to choose, store and cook them. Learn all about purslane to stinging nettles, buckwheat to millet, and everything in between. There are plenty of vegetarian recipes, but enough meat-based ones, too, to make this an ideal cookbook for anyone wanting to expand their plant-based eating in the new year without feeling deprived in any way.
Molly describes “Braised Chicken with Farro, Kale, and Winter Squash” as the equivalent of a “giant cashmere blanket.” It’s definitely a cozy dish, and a pretty one with the orange of the squash, the fuchsia of pomegranate seeds and the deep green of the kale giving off a kaleidoscope of colors.
I picked up an unusual orange kabocha squash from my local farmers market to feature in the dish. Unlike the usual green-skinned variety, the exterior of this one is the color of Halloween. Its skin is thinner, too, making it more tender.
To cut it up more easily, I used an old trick that I always employ when dealing with hard winter squash. I microwave it — whole — for a couple of minutes, just until a sharp chef’s knife can pierce it more easily.
After browning the chicken, the squash along with everything else goes into a covered pot to cook for half an hour.
Molly says the pomegranate seeds are optional. But I really think they are a must. Not only do they add a great pop of color, but also a fruity twang. I also liked just a squirt of lemon, too, to really brighten everything.
There’s no time — and no weather — like now to enjoy this hug of a braise.
Braised Chicken with Farro, Kale, and Winter Squash
(Serves 4 to 6)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 pound winter squash, such as acorn, butternut or kabocha, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-size pieces
10 ounces dino kale, stems discarded, chopped
1 cup farro or spelt
1 cup chicken broth
Handful of pomegranate seeds (optional)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
Start off with a pan or pot at least 12-inches across. The heavier the better; cast iron is ideal. Heat it over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Season chicken with a little bit of salt. Set the chicken skin-side down, in the pan, and cook, undisturbed, until the skin has rendered off much of its fat and become beautifully, deeply browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate or platter.
Do not clean out the pan; just pour out any excess fat, leaving a thin coat in the pan, and return it to the stove. Add shallots and salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes.
Add the sherry and cook, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the chicken, until the sherry is pretty much evaporated.
Add the squash and stir so it’s coated. Stir in the kale and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted and just a bit tender, about 3 minutes. Add the farro and stir to combine.
Add the chicken broth, bring to a simmer, and set the chicken pieces, skin-side up, on top of the farro and vegetables. Cover and simmer until the farro and vegetables are tender, the liquid is absorbed, and the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the broiler, uncover the pan, and set it under the broiler to crisp up the chicken skin, rotating the pan as necessary.
Serve all together. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and a squeeze of lemon, if you like.
Adapted from “Greens + Grains” by Molly Watson
More Braises/Stews to Enjoy: Braised Chicken with Apples and Calvados by Chef Matthew Accarrino