SC* Italian Chicken Stew

by Anne Bennett on October 23, 2010

No, this recipe doesn’t come from South Carolina. On hungry poodle SC will henceforth refer to Slow Cooker recipes. I think we all know each other well enough to have our own private culinary code, don’t you?

Here’s the first thing to remember about chicken and slow cookers–they aren’t a match made in heaven. Ten hours on LOW can render chicken deader than a doornail (see “How to Kill a Chicken Twice” in archives).

But if you’re careful, you can turn out a very flavorful dish, such as this Italian Chicken Stew that I adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s  “New Slow Cooker” cookbook. In this case the time in the cooker is well spent–the flavors develop a richness that a quick saute can’t provide.

Warning to the set-it-and-forget-it crowd: there’s some prep work involved here. Again, it’s a necessary step to getting the maximum texture and flavor from the chicken. I suppose you could skip the browning step, but you’ll likely not get anywhere near the same results.

I served this with one-half cup of penne pasta.

Large pinch of saffron threads
1/3 cup plus 3 T. dry white wine
3 lbs. chicken pieces (I used breasts and thighs)
3/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 14-1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
3 bay leaves
1 T. red or white wine vinegar
Italian parsley, chopped

Soak the saffron in the 3 T. of white wine while you brown the chicken. Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise. In a plastic bag, combine the flour and generous amounts of salt and pepper. One at a time, add the chicken and toss to coat. Tap off excess flour and brown chicken pieces in the olive oil in a large skillet. Transfer chicken pieces to a plate.

Pour off any extra fat from the pan and add the onion and celery. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Pour in the 1/3 cup white wine and the chicken broth, bring to a simmer and cook to reduce slightly and to concentrate flavor, about 10 minutes. Transfer contents of the pan to a slow cooker and stir in the tomatoes, the saffron mixture and the bay leaves. Stack the chicken on top, cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours.

Using a slotted spoon transfer the chicken to a plate to keep warm. Discard the bay leaves and stir the vinegar into the liquid in the cooker. Let stand a few minutes, then skim off any fat from the surface.

Serve the chicken with the braising liquid and garnish with chopped parsley.

I found that the breasts held up better than the thighs during the long cooking. The thighs fell apart, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We enjoyed this even more the next day, when the flavors had time in the fridge to deepen and develop.

This recipe can be modified in multiple ways: you can add carrots to the braising liquid and season it at the end with basil. Or how about sauteing bell pepper strips with the onions and celery? That turns this into a version of chicken cacciatore.

Serves: 6

*Slow Cooker

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