As the story goes, Cathal Armstrong was cooking a variation of his mother's chicken casserole at home on his day off from working at his flagship Restaurant Eve when he got a phone call: President Obama was on his way to dine at Armstrong's restaurant. Armstrong dropped what he was doing and headed over to work for a very memorable evening. Since that night, he has renamed this simple chicken and vegetable stew "President Obama Stew," and it appears as such in Armstrong's new cookbook, My Irish Table.
Why I picked this recipe: With such a history, how could I skip this chicken stew?
What worked: It's hard not to like a gently simmered stew of bone-in chicken, tomatoes, carrots, and garlic (so much garlic).
What didn't: I wasn't sure why Armstrong suggested cutting the breast meat into such small pieces since it cooks faster than the dark meat. I cut the breasts in half instead. I also found that the stew didn't need to cook any longer than 40-45 minutes. Keep an eye on the white meat and remove it if it is finished before the thighs and legs.
Suggested tweaks: If you don't want to dirty a skillet and a casserole/Dutch oven, you can brown the chicken in the casserole and then remove it before browning the vegetables. If you are using a skillet and it is too small to fit all of the liquid, skip adding the chicken stock until you've transferred the vegetable mixture to the casserole.
Reprinted with permission from My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong and David Hagedom. Copyright 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large yellow onion, very coarsely chopped
- 6 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch coins
- 6 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch dice
- 20 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), coarsely chopped, and their juices
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 large fresh bay leaves
- 1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped, with seeds
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- Leaves from 1 large bunch fresh basil (1 cup loosely packed), coarsely chopped
Cut up the chicken: Cut the chicken into 14 pieces, making 6 breast pieces, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and 4 wing joints. Season them well with salt.
Brown the chicken: In a large slope-sided sauté pan over high heat, heat the canola oil until it shimmers. Arrange all of the chicken evenly in the pan skin-side down and cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown. The pieces should release easily from the bottom of the pan; if they don’t, let them brown longer until they do. Transfer the pieces to a flameproof casserole, arranging them skin-side up.
Sweat the vegetables: Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the sauté pan, stirring to combine them. Sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes, until they are translucent but still a bit firm. As they cook and water releases from them, use a flat-edged wooden spatula to deglaze the pan by scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Stir in the garlic and then the tomatoes and flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, serrano chile, chicken stock, thyme, and rosemary.
Cook the stew: Transfer the vegetable mixture to the casserole. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer slowly for 45 to 60 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are very tender. Remove the stew from the heat. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if you like. Stir in the basil leaves at the last
second before serving. The stew can be made a day before and gently
reheated on the stove or in a 300°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.