I suppose I could have called this dish something with a little more élan. Braised chicken. Saucy chicken. Grandmother’s stove pot chicken. It is all of those, too. But there’s something so satisfying and homey about ‘stewed’ so I’m sticking with it.
I first made stewed chicken for my frail, aging parents, whose kitchen held only the basics…because that’s all they eat these days. It was a riff on my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings—minus the dumplings. I had no onions or garlic to season it, no fresh herbs to add to it, no wine to deglaze the pan—in other words, none of my usual French-inspired trappings to flavor it. Still, it was good. Really good. And when I added the milk to the cooking liquid (whatever you do, don’t skip this step), it filled the whole house with an indescribably delicious aroma I haven’t smelled since I was about 11. The meat was fork-tender and the sauce was rich, roast-y, and strangely complex for a dish with only four ingredients.
The whole experience made me want to shout out to everyone: THIS is how we should all be eating on a weeknight. THIS is what we should be making as a foil to all the rich and richly-flavored foods that filled the winter…and the take-out menus and trendy restaurant entrées of the rest of the year. THIS is the food that transcends time and generations. My parents enjoyed it. Kids love it. And I am whisked back to my childhood every time I make it.
Even when I’m back in my own kitchen with every aromatic, herb, and spice I could possibly want, I keep the stewed chicken plain. Though on my second go-round, I sprinkled it with a little parsley—because parsley is one of MY basics.
Incredibly Good Stewed Chicken
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
4 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs, or about 1 lb. (500 g.) chicken pieces
3 to 4 cups water
pinch of poultry seasoning, optional
½ cup milk
plenty of salt and pepper
SEASON the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. (If you have time, brine them an hour or overnight in a solution of 2 Tbs. salt to every quart/litre of water.)
HEAT the oil in a large skillet or medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces in the oil 10 minutes until they are deep golden. Drain off any excess fat. Add the water (more water will yield a thinner sauce) and the poultry seasoning, if using. Cover, and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the chicken 1 hour.
ADD the milk, cover once more, and simmer ½ hour. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice, and sprinkle with parsley (if you have it).