This weekend I stopped by Reunity Resources’ farm stand to see if they had pumpkins for pie. I know it’s barely sweater weather, but I’m already thinking about all the fall pies. I blame my recent trip up the mountain to see the aspens. As soon as the leaves turn golden, my jar of pumpkin spice comes out and doesn’t return to its home in the cupboard until after the new year. When I arrived at the farm, I instantly noticed big green heads of cabbage in the field. I wondered what they would have available, and I imagined it would be a bit sparse compared to the past few weeks as I pulled my sweater closer in the chilly air.
There were the usual fall farm suspects like onions, garlic, pumpkins and a variety of hard squashes. But the bins and baskets were full of hearty herbs like parsley and dill, zucchini, daikon, watermelon radish, turnips, heirloom tomatoes, scallions and lettuce greens. I always thought the very best time to make big pots of soups and stews was the middle of winter. But standing there, the October sunshine rising, folks eating breakfast, kids roasting s’mores over an open fire at nine in the morning and all of those incredible vegetables — I instantly knew I had been wrong all along. The best time for making soups and stews is right now. I left with a full basket of goodies and headed home to make this stew.
This is a fall stew that is meant to be simple and utilitarian. Use what you love, what you have available and maybe most importantly, what you have that you don’t want to go to waste. This recipe calls for a rotisserie chicken, but you could also roast a chicken the night before, then make this stew with the leftover meat and bones. If you want to transform this from a stew to a soup, just add 2-3 additional cups of chicken broth.
Fall Chicken Stew
Total time: 2 hours;
makes: 8-10 servings
For the soup mise en place:
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 small butternut squash
1 medium zucchini
For the chicken broth:
1 rotisserie chicken
7 cups water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt and pepper
For the stew:
4 tablespoons salted butter
¼ cup whole-wheat flour
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence, High Desert Herbs or thyme
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk or unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup fire-roasted green chile, diced
3 cups frozen corn kernels
Salt and pepper to taste
Preparation: First prepare the mise en place for the soup. Wash and remove debris from all vegetables. In front of your cutting board, place a large stock pot on one side and a large bowl on the other. Dice the onion and place the onion skins and trimmings in the pot, and place the diced onion in the bowl. Repeat this process with the garlic (thinly slice), carrots (dice), butternut squash (dice) and zucchini (diced with the skin on). Place all the vegetable skins in the large pot. Cover your bowl of prepared vegetables and store in the fridge until later.
Make the chicken broth: Break your rotisserie chicken into large pieces so it fits in the pot with all the vegetable skins. Add the water, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the pieces of chicken to a bowl. Strain the chicken broth through a fine mesh strainer and reserve the broth. Once the chicken pieces are cool enough to handle, pick through the pieces, saving all the meat you can, discarding the bones. I save any pieces of skin and gristle to give to my dog, who loves me beyond measure for it.
Now it’s stew time! In a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the butter. Once it’s melted, add your big bowl of vegetables from the fridge. Cook until they are starting to release their natural juices, around 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the whole-wheat flour and stir, cooking for another few minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese, dried herbs, chicken broth, milk, green chile and corn. Bring to a simmer and let cook until the carrots and squash are tender. Carefully blend 2 cups of stew in a blender until smooth and transfer this back to the pot. Add the reserved chicken meat and add salt and pepper to taste.