Best Chicken StewThe recipe for the “Best Chicken Stew,” from the November/ December 2013 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below), promises what all Cook’s Illustrated recipes do: “Follow our meticulous, hyper-tested steps and you will be rewarded…” if I may paraphrase an imagined mantra…

So take a deep breath and grab your Dutch oven. It’s easy enough to pace this recipe. Allow the stew to do what it needs to do. You’ll make a warm, popular meal, full of thick gravy and deep chicken flavor.

Best Chicken Stew
Cook’s Illustrated, November/December 2013
Serves 4-6
Mashed anchovy fillets (rinsed and dried before mashing) can be used instead of anchovy paste. Use small red potatoes measuring 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, halved crosswise and trimmed
Kosher salt and pepper
2 1/4 slices bacon, chopped
12 oz. chicken wings, halved at joint
3/4 onion, chopped fine
3/4 celery rib, minced
1 1/2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste
3/4 tsp. minced fresh thyme
3 3/4 cups chicken broth
3/4+ cup dry white wine, plus extra for seasoning
2 1/4 tsp. soy sauce
2 1/4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz. small red potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Arrange chicken thighs on baking sheet and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper; cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

2. Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until fat renders and bacon browns, 6 to 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to medium bowl. Add chicken wings to pot, increase heat to medium, and cook until well browned on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes; transfer wings to bowl with bacon.

3. Add onion, celery, garlic, anchovy paste, and thyme to fat in pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until dark fond forms on pan bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. Increase heat to high; stir in 3/4 cup broth, wine, and soy sauce, scraping up any browned bits; and bring to boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to sizzle again, 12 to 15 minutes. Add butter and stir to melt; sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in remaining 3 cups broth until smooth. Stir in wings and bacon, potatoes, and carrots; bring to simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.

4. Remove pot from oven. Use wooden spoon to draw gravy up sides of pot and scrape browned fond into stew. Place over high heat, add thighs, and bring to simmer. Return pot to oven, uncovered, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken offers no resistance when poked with fork and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes longer. (Stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

5. Discard wings and season stew with up to 1 1/2 Tbsp. extra wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

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I made sure not to rush any of the flavor-building steps in this recipe. I extended many of the cooking times. For instance, my chicken wings weren’t “well-browned” until 22 minutes passed. I needed 10 minutes before any “dark fond” developed in the pot. How I love the smell of that wine once it’s poured in! My liquid evaporated/intensified in 13 minutes.

Once I added the chicken thighs to the pot in the oven, they needed 65 minutes before they “offered no resistance.” I added 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper to my stew at the end, and served my trophy stew atop a porridge of bulgur and amaranth.

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (1.5 lbs.) = $5.94
Chicken Wings (12 oz.) = $2.29
Small Red Potatoes (12 oz.) = .75¢
Carrots (3) = $2.21

PREP TIME: dedicate more than 3 hours to this marvelous stew
thick gravy and deep chicken flavor

I just can’t let this chicken thing go! Next time, I will cook the “Tandoori Chicken Drumsticks with Cilantro-Shallot Relish,” from the December 2013 issue of Food & Wine, along with the “Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad,” from Kalyn’s Kitchen. Come back to my site next week, to witness another chicken triumph.