My parents left for China a few weeks ago, leaving me in my enormous house all by myself. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds…let’s just say that even if I had all the money in the world, I’d probably just want to live in a simple apartment/condo. Too many things to keep track of/worry about.
Anyways, back to the food. Since they left, I’ve been doing my best to save money and not make any runs to the grocery store, trying to clean out my fridge, freezer, and pantry instead. I saw some Cornish game hens in the freezer, plopped one in the fridge to defrost a few days ago, and yesterday pulled out a plump little chicken all ready to butcher and cook. This was my first time butchering a whole raw bird, but I knew my way around it and had a good time. It wasn’t that difficult…just need a sharp knife and to feel for the joints! Nowhere near the 15 second world record or whatever, but I probably finished in less than a minute :).
There was a sack of old potatoes that had been sitting there for quite a long time. I trimmed off the bad spots and diced them up. Next, I found three old roma tomatoes in the refrigerator crisper that desperately needed to be used. Aha! Potato and tomato stew, potato, tomato, ATO stew!! After examining them and finding no mold or soft spots, I diced them up as well. To season it, I found some sliced scallions in the fridge (they keep for quite a while apparently), and used some home-grown garlic cloves from our garden (crushed, peeled, and tossed with the potatoes whole.
To finish off conceptualizing my dish, I found an opened bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the pantry as well as roughly 2/3 cup of chicken broth in the fridge. I wished for some sprigs of fresh rosemary, but it was not meant to be. Note to self: plant a little pot of rosemary next to the pot of basil when you have a chance… And with that, I undertook the task at hand.
Braised Chicken in “Ato” Stew
- 1 small chicken (I used a Cornish game hen)
- 2 medium russet potatoes, cut into medium dice
- 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (I used romas, use whatever you have!)
- 5 tablespoons crushed and peeled garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup minced scallion
- 2/3 cup each white wine and chicken stock/broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil (I used canola)
- Butcher the chicken, separating the quarters, the wing segments, and the breasts from the carcass. Save the carcass and the wing tips for stock or soup, and reserve the breasts for another use. White meat tends to get dry when braised. Trust me, I know when I’ve had my mom’s chicken soup (which is probably why she bought the hens in the first place). Stewed chicken breasts are dry, pasty, and hard to swallow. No bueno.
- Pat the quarters, and wing segments dry with paper towels. Meanwhile, heat about two tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over high heat until shimmering and almost smoking. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and immediately lay in the hot pan, making sure the quarters are skin side down. When they have a nice sear on them (roughly 2 mins, depending on burner), flip the pieces over and sear the other side. When they are done, take them out of the pan. Hopefully they look something like this:
- In the hot pan that still has some oil (and now yummy chicken fat!) in it, saute the potatoes and garlic cloves until slightly browned. Add the scallion and saute until wilted. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, then add the tomatoes and the chicken stock. Stir in a few pinches of salt to taste, noting that the liquid will reduce slightly. Bring to a boil, then add the chicken pieces back into the pan. Hopefully it looks something like this:
- Turn the heat down to medium low, and let it braise for about 20 minutes until chicken is tender and cooked through, and the tomatoes have broken down.
- Plate, garnish with fresh herbs (I used basil but parsley, cilantro, or chives would also have been good choices)
The little ugly patch was where I ripped off a little shred to check for tenderness.
Summary: This recipe is light, simple, nutritious, and easy! Leftovers are delicious (I had it for breakfast today), and it’s versatile. Use leeks instead of scallions, add some fresh rosemary or thyme, use turkey instead of chicken, etc. Tomato and potato (the “Ato” combination) actually go very well together. Look no further than fries and ketchup :P.
I like to keep my garlic cloves crushed but whole so they release flavor and hold together better. I love digging into the stew and finding little cloves of succulent and flavorful garlic. If you’re not as big of a fan of garlic as I am you can always use less and chop it up instead.
I also leave the skins on my potatoes and tomatoes on, since they are nutritious, add fiber to the meal (making it more feeling), and I don’t mind them. You can peel the potatoes and tomatoes if you would like a more “refined” dish.
That’s it for this one folks! Now you know how I cook for myself….almost always mystery-box-style! Try it out if you have the time, and lemme know what you think! Now some pork ribs are defrosting in the fridge along with some jalapenos that I just roasted. Mmmm, more to come soon!
I’d post a picture of me wearing it and cooking, but A) Nobody else was with me to take the picture, and B) I wasn’t fully clothed, mostly because of “A”. Hey, saves money on cooling bills, esp when nobody else is home!