Several years ago I asked Carl if he had any favorite childhood meals. He smiled, looked into space with that dreamy gaze males reserve for cherished foods, and described a dish his mother used to make. She obligingly sent the recipe and we’ve been enjoying it in our home ever since. It’s a flavor and vegetable-packed stew with plenty of protein. I love it because almost all of the ingredients are long-lasting staples from our fridge, pantry, and freezer, and because it’s easy to stretch and modify. I just cooked up a big pot of it last night, with several meals worth frozen for post-baby dinners. The recipe is below – it’s really just a flexible plan of attack, with countless variations to suit what you have in the kitchen and how much you need to make.
- 1/4 Lb bacon, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (adjust to suit – we’re garlic fans)
- ~1.5 Lb boneless-skinless chicken breast cut in bite-size pieces (may substitute other cuts of chicken, pork, lamb, or beef)
- 1/2 tsp Salt ( go easy initially as chicken broth can be salty – you can always add some at the end)
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp dried dill (key to any Romanian dish!)
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 cup chicken broth (may substitute beef broth)
- 1/2 cup red wine (may substitute white wine)
- 3 Tbsp to 1/4 cup olive oil (I usually skip this)
- 28 oz. seasoned diced tomatoes (We never have seasoned tomatoes around. I use plain diced or mash up whole tomatoes and throw in seasonings like oregano and basil. In this case we had leftover pesto I tossed in the pot to clean out the fridge)
- 1/2 of a 6 oz. tomato paste can
- 1 Lb frozen baby peas (May substitute green beans, lima beans, zucchini, etc. May add mushrooms)
- 2 Tbsp. flour (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. In an oven-safe pot, fry onions and bacon over medium heat until onions are translucent and bacon is browning. Add garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute more. Add chicken and all seasonings. Brown chicken, stirring frequently to prevent burning the seasonings. Add optional flour at this point if you choose, and stir to brown for thirty seconds. Add broth, wine, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring dish to a boil, stirring often. Pour in frozen peas, and simmer 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add seasonings as needed (this dish should be very flavorful, not bland). Place in oven for 20-25 minutes to thicken the dish. This final step gives a nice slightly roasted taste to the dish, but I skip it and just cook things a bit longer on the stovetop if we’re in a hurry.
Depending how much you’ve thickened the dish, this can be a soup or a hearty stew. Eat on its own, or with rice, potatoes, or crusty bread.