Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

One at a time please

Happy Halloween!Raise your hand if you would like to spend a teensy bit more time focusing on the holiday at hand before rushing headlong into Thanksgiving and past that immediately on to Christmas. Hold your hands up high now, no need to be shy, we are all friends here....

I recently heard a complaint that the stores were already filling with Christmas decorations and we haven't even started Advent yet.

Now, Advent, for those of you not familiar with a Church Calendar, is a run up of days spent waiting for the "advent" of Christ into the world, born as a baby in our imaginations each year on the arbitrarily selected date of December 24th. It lasts four weeks, so counting is begun 4 Sundays before Christmas Eve whenever that falls, and as a church season, Advent has a liturgy all its own, has colors and rites and hymns and even a bit of home decor.

You've seen those sets of candles available around Halloween - the three purple and one pink sets? Those are for Advent wreaths, with the purple and pink representing the Roman Catholic variation of the theme and Lutherans (my denomination) more typically using blue candles.

I go either way, depending on the year. A candle is lit each Sunday of the Advent season, along with special prayers and layered in symbolism week to week. All these observances meant to focus attention on getting ready, being prepared, on the idea that the waiting, the sense of not here yet but on its way, is something not to rush in, or out of.

So, as somebody who has always liked the poignant expectant nature of Advent, the appearance of the many Thanksgiving themed food articles and magazines when we have not yet cleared the Halloween hoop, is something I find mildly distressing.

Because today is Halloween doggone it, and even though I will not dress up or go house to house for candy, I realized I have developed a dinnertime strategy for the interrupted nature of the evening meal for this holiday that includes the preparation of one or two traditional (for us) dishes.The requirements for a reasonable Halloween dinner evolved. As we moved past the requirement to actually accompany our own children as they trick or treated, we yet needed something that can be prepared ahead of time, something that would forgive the leaving off of eating and coming back, something that wouldn't cool off unpleasantly quickly or be spoiled if left to itself for a bit as we answered the door for a relatively steady stream of candy seeking costumed neighborhood children.

And so it came to be that we rotate back and forth year to year between Tortilla Soup or Chicken Chile Stew. This year is a Chicken Chile Stew year as it turns out, and mine is merrily bubbling away stovetop as I write.

This recipe is one of the few I feel is truly "mine". I put this stew together originally to use up leftover turkey after Thanksgiving one year. It turned out so well that after I reprised it several more times past that with the more easily secured boneless skinless chicken breasts, the whole turkey idea of origin simply faded away,

Here is the current incarnation in a pared down version for two. This stew can be made more souplike with the addition of more stock, and can be served as readily with rice or noodles in place of the potatoes. It is made special with the flavors of green chiles and crema added in, and is great with any sort of toasty warm bread product. We've enjoyed this with naan, flour tortillas, Challah, biscuits and sourdough rolls (though not all at the same time).Chicken Chile Stew
Serves 2 generously

1 whole large chicken breast (skinless boneless) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion chopped
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2-3 carrots cut in 1/2 inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 small cans Hatch chopped green chiles
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cup peeled chopped potato
2 cups water
salt, pepper to taste
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup Crema [or sour cream]

Place oil in stock pot over medium high heat and brown chicken pieces on all sides. Lower heat to medium, add onion, celery, cumin and sage. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

Add carrots and green chiles, Stir well, deglazing pan, and add chicken stock. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Add potatoes and water, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until potatoes and carrots are tender and chicken pieces are fork tender.

The stew may hold at this point over low heat until ready to serve or may refrigerated at this point if made ahead.

When ready to serve, stir 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sour cream or crema into stew and ladle into bowls.

Notes: If you like your stews thicker, you may dredge your chicken pieces in flour prior to browning in oil or thicken with a cornstarch slurry prior to stirring in crema.For the best flavor of course, use your own home made chicken stock. If you don't have homemade stock, you might want to use thigh meat and/or chicken pieces with skin attached to get more of that chicken flavor in your dish. Otherwise the chile flavor will dominate which is ok if you are a green chile fan I suppose but not the point.As I mentioned before, this is delicious with any sort of bread alongside. I did try it with cornbread once, and the corn taste goes well with the green chiles no worries, but I like this much more with any sort of less crumbly bread product that will hold together and support my efforts to sponge every last drop of liquid out of my bowl at the end.

Final aside: I am not practiced at writing cooking instructions. If you have any questions about this please use the comments section and I'll do my best to clarify.

So there you have it. Just for a day like today, or more importantly, a night like tonight, a simple stew to provide dinner for two. If I'm fortunate this year and all the candy gets handed over to the younger set appearing in varying sized groups at the front door, I won't even miss having no sugary leftovers for dessert.

Happy Halloween, Y'all!


Iris said...

Great Halloween dinner strategy! I better get busy with something like that, darn it--it's already 1:37 and I haven't even walked the dog.

Because Halloween's our anniversary, we're usually out to eat, so I don't even know if we get trick-or-treaters anymore, but this year we'll be home tonight. I bought organic lollipops and raisins, so that if no one shows up, we won't mind eating the treats!

Cheers to a great Halloween, Deb!

texasdeb said...

Happy Anniversary Iris! Enjoy your treats - whether it be a nice meal enjoyed at home with your significant other, or lollipops and raisins after the porch light goes off for the evening.

Anonymous said...

Love the idea of this stew! Except I would leave the onions out! :D

I agree about rushing into the holiday season too quickly - my husband and I were at Home Depot on October 17 and it was already fully decorated with Christmas decorations!

texasdeb said...

Hi Biz - I hear you on the onions although they totally cook into the stew gravy - don't remain separately identifiable and none of that bitterish uncooked onion taste since they are cooked-cooked-cooked. If you are more a green bell pepper fan they could be subbed in I think without anybody throwing a flag for illegal substitutions.

Now we've crossed the Halloween barrier it will be hard to avoid Thanksgiving Food Overload I think. By the time the day gets here I am tired of it lately. Or maybe I'm just getting THAT crochety in my old age....