I could just as easily have called this “mutant stew.” Not because it’s about something abnormal, but because it’s about a stew that started out as a hamburger. Of sorts.
You see, there were these two Cajun brat patties in the fridge. I had thawed them out as a quick thing to fix, on our grill pan, for our noon meal on a day that started out at 4 a.m. Add some pork and beans, a few chips, nice and easy.
Except halfway through the morning I decided I definitely was not in the mood for brat patties on a bun. Maybe that’s because that kind of a burger meal is more for summer, and we woke up this morning–yes, on April 10–to three inches of new snow and a car wearing a straightjacket of ice.
That, I think, is why the idea of a stew came to mind–the word stew having come from an Old English word that in turn came from Old French, meaning “confine.” The sprouting rutabaga sitting on the counter put the idea over the top. Time to gather up all the aging bits and pieces, confine them in a big pot and turn them into something new and fresh.
If I’d been following a recipe, I couldn’t have done this.
There surely would have been at least two or three ingredients I didn’t have. So, who says you have to follow a recipe, especially when making stew?
I started with a big, fat boneless, skinless chicken breast that was in the freezer, thawed it quickly in the micro-wave, cut it into chunks, and dredged it in flour to which I’d added garlic salt, thyme and oregano. I scooped up the pieces–grabbing lots of the extra flour, too–and added them to the pot where the grape-seed oil had heated. Then I cut up those two brat patties and added them to the mix.
While the meat was browning, I foraged in the fridge for other things to add to the sprouting rutabaga. I found two sprouting turnips (OK, I confess. I put things in there and forget them, quite frequently.) Some onion, celery, a few carrots, one potato and half of the egg plant (which I didn’t add to the pot until much later, since it cooks so quickly.) You see? Kitchen-sink stew. And if I’d had anything else sitting around, it would have gone in the pot, too.
I peeled, sliced, chopped and made a nice pile of goodies. Then I grabbed the one can of chicken broth in the pantry, left over from another cooking project, and put that in the pot. Added water and the veggies, brought it to a boil, popped the lid on (for confinement, you know) and let it simmer for a while.
Eventually, I took a taste test, added more garlic, some black pepper and some crushed red pepper flakes. We like things zingy. Opened and rinsed a can of black beans and threw those into the mix, and then decided I’d have to add a bit more flour water, since the flour on the chicken wasn’t quite up to thickening a pot this size.
Now, what to have with it? I was supposed to make bread yesterday and never got around to it, so… corn bread. Why not? I use a course-ground corn meal, and opted for whole wheat flour to flesh it out. That baked in the oven while the stew bubbled the final few minutes on the stove.
This was about the time when George, right on cue, followed his nose from the office to the kitchen.
“Oh heavens, does it smell good in here!!” he sing-songed. The table was already set and it took only moments to cut the corn bread and dish up the stew.
The best part of all this? I made a lot. I won’t have to cook again for a week.