Chicken Stew With Buttermilk Cornbread
Is there anything better than walking in from the cold, wintery world, shaking the snow off your coat, and sitting down to piping hot bowl of stew? I think it’s one of the best parts of the colder seasons. In the summer, you can’t enjoy hot foods, at least not without air conditioning. Winter is the only season where hot foods are a necessity, another layer of coziness that cuts right through the cold exterior.
I came up with this recipe after trying out a beef-based stew from the Irish Pub Cookbook. My stew is different in almost every way but the stout, but its inspiration began there. I’ve made it several times, and it has proven to be a lifesaver on cold nights when I just can’t seem to warm up any other way.
The cornbread, too, is top notch. It’s moist and hefty in the way that fresh cornbread should be, because of the amount of butter and buttermilk. You catch a hint of sweetness without it becoming cake-like, which is what some of the boxed mixes tend to be. With a pat of butter or even a little bit of jam, it’s pure heaven.
Beyond just the taste, I love the ritualism that making a stew provides. When I was a kid, my biggest memory of my mom’s cooking is a beef stew sitting in a crockpot, filling the house with the smell of spices and veggies that lasted all day. Now that I’m on my own, I have gotten into the habit of putting on my pajamas, heating up a bowl of leftover stew, and sitting down to watch Pioneer Woman.
Yes, I’m very lonely, and lame, and pathetic. Let’s let a therapist figure out the how and the why.
I make the broth of the stew pretty thick, somewhere in between a stock and a gravy. This is my preference, of course, and if you’re not into the idea of a thicker, creamier stew, then simply leave out the flour, add an extra half cup of stock, and you’ll be set. When it comes to the consistency, you can play around a bit. One of my favorite things about stew is how customizable it is to your mood, and to what you have on hand.
You can also add carrots to the mix, you just cook them with the onions and celery. I would have done it for this recipe, but I don’t like carrots so I left them out. I’m the one who has the enviable job of eating all this yummy shit when I’m done photographing it, so I make it how I like it. However, I hear tell that there’s this whole subsection of the world that loves carrots for some reason. I acknowledge your existence.
Now that all of the optional tweaks are out of the way, we can dive into the instructions. Here it is: creamy, rich chicken stew with a side of buttermilk cornbread.
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
4 Large Stalks Celery, Sliced
1 Large White Onion, Diced
4-6 Chicken Thighs or Breasts, Sliced
Salt, To Taste
Pepper, To Taste
1 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 Cup Stout
1/4 Cup Flour
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
1/2 Cup Butter
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 Cups Cornmeal
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add chicken. Stir occasionally until no pink is showing on outside. Remove from heat.
In a dutch oven or stovetop-safe 9-13 pan, heat the rest of the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and celery, cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add chicken, then stir in salt and pepper. Add stout and stock, stir. Add flour and brown sugar, stir. Add thyme and bay leaves, plus more salt if necessary. Stir, then cover with tin foil and place in oven for 40 minutes.
For cornbread, melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat, stir in sugar. Add buttermilk, stir. In a large bowl, mix the rest of the dry ingredients, then mix wet and dry mixtures until a ball of dough forms. In a greased 7-11 pan (or 8-by-8, for thicker bread), spread mixture and flatten. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
Serve warm. To store stew, place in airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days. To store cornbread, cover pan with tin foil and leave at room temperature up to 4 days.
If you’re young, and kind of broke, and you’re missing Mom’s comfort foods, then this stew is a great way to cheer yourself up. It’s got all the nostalgia of winters past, but without being loaded down by expensive roast meat or loads of spices. I could go on and on about it, but the best endorsement I can give is for you to try it yourself.
Do you have a recipe that reminds you of your mother’s cooking? If so, feel free to leave the link to it in the comments below so that we can all feel a little connection. I am always curious what other people ate in their childhoods, since it’s so unique to each person.
Until next time, stay comforted and well-fed.