I know I shouldn’t complain, since I live in one of the more temperate climates in the world, but I can’t help it. San Francisco is cold right now. The bone-chilling, wet-wind kind of cold you only experience when you live less than a mile from the ocean. The kind of cold that makes me crave cocoa, stew and a good book.
And, while two out of three ain’t bad, I’m not the kind of girl who settles. So I spent my Sunday making stew.
Given the state of my refrigerator (and the fact that I was not willing to leave my apartment for ingredients), I had to improvise a bit. Between holiday baking and a recent dinner party, I was fresh out of both flour and stock, so my traditional stew recipes were a bust. But I did find coconut milk, and a lightbulb went off.
Think of this recipe as a variation on Indian curry, only a bit thicker and not very traditional.
3 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T garam masala
2 T curry powder*
2 T red curry powder*
2 T salt
2 T ground black pepper
2 t ground ginger
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken (I used thighs, but breast is fine)
1 cup cubed potatoes
1 large carrot, sliced into coins
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
6 mini sweet peppers, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup tomato sauce (can be replaced with 2 medium tomatoes, chopped)
1 can (13.5 fl oz) coconut milk
Rinse chicken and chop into 1/2 inch cubes. Chop potatoes, carrot and peppers into bite size chunks. Mince garlic and shallot.
In a heavy saucepan, mix olive oil, shallots, garlic and spices (minus the red pepper flakes). Turn heat to low and stir occasionally, careful not to burn the garlic.
Essentially you’re creating a roux, only with spices instead of flour. For a thick broth, add 2 T of flour to your spices and use an additional 2 T of olive oil.
Once the clumps of spices dissolve into the oil and the mixture thins (about 3 – 4 minutes), add chicken cubes and stir until each piece is covered in oil and spices.
Continue to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through (about 10 minutes).
Add potatoes and carrots, stirring until vegetables are covered in spices and oil. Add the pinch of red pepper flakes and tomato sauce and stir again to coat. Add coconut milk and stir to dissolve the spices.
Note: Any root vegetables you decide to use would be added here.
Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Taste the broth and decide if you want to add more spices. Be sure to add enough salt (rule of thumb: the salt should taste stronger than any other spice) because the potatoes will absorb a lot of the salt while simmering. Once you’re satisfied with your broth, add frozen peas and chopped sweet peppers.
Note: All vegetables (aside from the root vegetables) are added in this step.
Cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and let cool. Put the entire pan in the refrigerator for several hours to mimic the Next Day Effect. (Stews and curries are always better the next day because the spices have had time to infuse into everything. Or so I assume. I don’t really know. I call this the Next Day Effect.)
If you really don’t care about the Next Day Effect because, dammit, you want some stew now, skip straight to Step 9.
To finish, cover and simmer over low heat for 2 hours.
Curry powder – (equal parts) cumin, fenugreek, ground bay leaves, celery seed, nutmeg, ground cloves, onion powder, ground coriander seeds, ground turmeric, ground red pepper, and ground ginger
Red curry powder – (equal parts) ground coriander seeds, cumin, ground chili peppers, ground red pepper, and ground cardamom