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"Not from the Freezer Section" Irish Chicken Stew


I had a lot on my mind a couple of nights ago and couldn't sleep. Not wanting to toss and turn and wake up Jake, I made my way to the living room, settled in on my bean bag and started streaming a silly little rom-com Leap Year. But Jake woke up anyway and joined me. So, I started it again and we watched it together from start to finish.

On the Screen
from imdb.com
Meet Anna (played by Amy Adams) and her cardiologist boyfriend, Jeremy (played by Adam Scott). Anna is an über-organized, high-functioning stager - someone who makes houses look good for realtors - and thinks that Jeremy is going to propose before he leaves for a medical conference in Ireland. He doesn't. And she decides to take matters into her own hands and rely on an Irish tradition that allows women to pop the question on February 29th.

So, she flies to Ireland, but ends up diverted to Wales after extreme turbulence. Then, via tugboat and choppy waters, she ends up in Dingle where she hauls her suitcase into a local pub and meets Declan (played by Matthew Goode). He is a brusque pub owner, barkeep, cook, taxi driver, and hotel proprietor all rolled into one. You can pretty much guess what is going to happen, right?

Set against the gorgeous bucolic backdrop of the Emerald Isle, Anna and Declan embark on a journey to Dublin so Anna can propose to Jeremy. The road is blocked by cows; his Renault 4 rolls down a hill and lands in a bog; they are forced to lie about being married to stay in a bed and breakfast run by a couple who has been married for more than four decades; and they crash a wedding where Anna knocks the bride in the head with her shoe and spills a drink on the wedding dress. Oh, and she throws up on Declan's shoes. Oye.

Through all of this, as you can imagine, his scruffiness falls away and her rigidity softens. Don't get me wrong: this is a full bore, PG-rated, sweet little romantic comedy. But it masterfully takes us through all of the requisite ups and downs of a rom-com relationship before ending with a marriage proposal on a stunning Irish cliff. Whoops. Sorry for the spoiler. Still you knew it was coming, but that shouldn't stop you from watching it.

On the Plate

I was inspired by the stew that Declan makes while they are staying at the bed and breakfast together. In order to get out of eating tripe, Anna says that Declan is a chef and would be happy to make dinner for the innkeepers and the one Italian couple who are also staying there. They head out to the garden where they pick carrots, leeks, and cabbage. Declan picks up a chicken and snaps its neck, much to Anna's horror.

He teases her, "Don't start telling me that you've never had chicken stew before."

Of course l have.

He continues, "I'm wondering where it is that you think chickens come from?"

The freezer section. l know, l know. You just surprised me. You keep doing that.

And that, my friends, is where the romance lies: when someone can continuously surprise you and keep you on your toes while still being your rock.

Though they didn't actually show the finished stew, I decided to create a stew that's topped with a layer of potatoes as the 'Irish' part.

Ingredients serves 4

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, sliced into coins
  • 3 to 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 t crushed oregano
  • 4 C chicken stock
  • 1/2 C tomato sauce
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • 1 T corn starch
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 4 to 5 potatoes, thickly sliced
  • olive oil, as needed

Procedure

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In an oven-safe skillet - I use from braiser from Le Creuset - place the chicken thighs, skin side down and cook over medium heat for 25 minutes. The fat in the skin should render and be a nice golden brown. Remove the chicken from the pan.

Add in a glug of olive oil and stir in the onions, carrots, celery, and crushed oregano. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes and nestle the chicken thighs - skin side up this time - between the vegetables. Pour in the tomato sauce and stock. Whisk the corn starch into the wine until dissolves and pour that into the pot. Tuck the bay leaves between the chicken and sprinkle the entire dish with salt and pepper.

Arrange the potato slices over the top and drizzle with olive oil. Cover and place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the cover and put the pan back in the oven for 15 minutes to crisp the potatoes. Serve hot with a green salad on the side.

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