Today was one of those cold, wet winter days when we were glad we could just spend the day indoors. I was really looking forward to cooking something - it is such joyous relaxing time for me. I decided to make a stew that I had made last winter and really liked the combination of flavors. It is a chicken stew with some smoky/spicy flavor from fire roasted tomatoes and ancho chili powder, and it also had olives and orange zest for additional dimensions and contrast. I thought it was pretty inspired and worked really well. The first time I made it I had noted a couple tweaks I would try the next time to make it even better, so I was looking forward to giving it a go.
The recipe can be found at:
The first change I made was to brown the chicken instead of boiling it in the broth because I thought the browning first would help to seal in moistness. I cut each thigh into thirds and browned them on both sides in a tablespoon of olive oil in two batches. I removed the chicken and set it aside while I sauteed the onion in the olive oil that was left in the pot, plus a splash more. With the onions softening it was possible to scrape up the browned bits from the chicken.
After adding the cumin, coriander, etc and cooking for a couple minutes, I then added the full 4 cups of chicken broth and reserved chicken along with the remaining spices, tomatoes and orange zest (but not the quinoa). I let this come to a boil, then added the quinoa. Then I covered and simmered for 15 mins.
One of the other things I had remembered was how much I had liked the olive flavor in the stew, and thought it would be better if the olives had been cut into smaller pieces rather than leaving them whole so that they would be more distributed throughout the stew. Rather than using olives with pimento as per the recipe, I bought some pitted green olives at the Whole Foods olive bar that had been marinated with chopped garlic. I quartered these to add to the stew.
After the stew simmered for 15 mins to cook the quinoa, I added the quartered olives and chickpeas. I also used my spoon to break apart the chicken into some slightly smaller pieces. After the olives and chickpeas were warmed through, right before serving, I added an extra bunch of orange zest (at least 1 teaspoon) to add that contrasting brightness.
We had the stew with tortilla chips and a nice Spanish red wine from Jumilla. From our experience last year we know it goes very well with an amber ale as well. You definitely need the right beverage that can stand up with the heat of the dish. It does have a kick, but without being so hot you can't taste the flavors. So beer is a really good choice, or it has to be the right wine that doesn't have too much alcohol. We thought the stew was really good, and it paired well with the wine we had.
All in all I thought it turned out better this second time than the first. I don't know that browning the chicken made a big difference, but I think the broth may have been richer and more flavorful because of it. I recall it thickened quite a bit last time between when I first made it and when I reheated it. We're definitely looking forward to having it again in a day or two to see how it has developed.