Do you enjoy a good stew when you are chilled all the way down to your bones?
Well, when my husband and I moved to North Carolina about 7 years ago, I remember going to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner one night. She had made chicken stew. I had never heard of it and didn’t know what it was even when I looked at it.
But I quickly realized that in our area, a chicken stew is a great go-to meal when you need a quick and warming dinner. It is the food of choice for family gatherings.
Actually, many organizations around our area (like churches or fire departments) will have gatherings that are simply called ‘Chicken Stews.’ You’ll bring a bowl, spoon, and a lawn chair and line up to get a bowl of chicken stew and then visit around a bonfire. It is actually quite nice.
So now when we have gatherings around our fire pit, guess what we have? Chicken stew! It is so inexpensive that I thought you all might like to know how to make it.
Granted, there are different versions, but here is the version I was taught to make by a lady I consider a mentor in my life.
Simple Yet Delicious Chicken Stew
Here is the recipe:
- 1 pound of chicken
- ½ gallon of milk
- 1-quart half-and-half
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Italian seasoning to taste
- 1 stick of margarine or butter
So before we get started I have to tell you a funny story. Before my mother-in-law passed away, we knew she was very sick and wouldn’t be with us much longer. I decided to host a chicken stew at our house so the whole family could get together and visit with her since we weren’t sure exactly how long we’d have her with us still.
Well, unfortunately, she passed only 3 weeks before this chicken stew was going to happen.
However, my brother-in-law asked me to still have the chicken stew only this time in her memory instead of her honor.
So I did. The only problem was, when I was planning the chicken stew, my mother-in-law was actually living with us, and I thought she’d be there to help guide me through the process.
Well, it didn’t happen like that. So here I am expecting around 30 people to come to my house to have a chicken stew that I wasn’t really sure how to make. My husband didn’t know either.
Thankfully, this wonderful lady I consider a second mother, came to my rescue. I called her at 10:00pm the night before and confessed I had no idea what I was doing. She laughed and then told me not to panic she’d be over in the morning.
Well, she came and showed me this recipe that I haven’t forgotten since. She also showed me how I could dress it up a little if I wanted to.
Since then, I’ve actually added a few of my own tricks to the mix. It seems the recipe keeps getting better and better each time I make it.
So now that you know my embarrassing story of how I learned to make chicken stew, I know if I can make this dish, anybody else can too.
1. Boil the Chicken
I recommend only using a pound of chicken because that is how much I use when I am making stew for just my husband and me.
Now, if my boys are planning on eating, then I’ll up the amount of chicken to about 2 pounds. When I was feeding 30 people, I cooked about 5-10 pounds of chicken. It all depends on how much chicken you want in your stew.
Also, you can cook the chicken, but you don’t have to add it all. If you are having a big gathering and it seems you are running low on stew, then pull the cooked chicken out and add it to your stew with some more milk.
Then you’ll have more chicken stew in a flash.
So add how much chicken you’ll feel like you need for your crowd to a pot. You’ll want to add water to cover the chicken.
Also, I use chicken breasts when I’m making it for a smaller crowd. When I’m feeding more, I’ll do a mix of white and dark meat. That way the bones will make a broth while the chicken is cooking.
Plus, it helps thin down the cost (if you are buying chicken) since dark meat is usually a little cheaper. But if you raise chickens, then you could also use their meat for this recipe as well.
Once you have the chicken in the pot, and it is covered with water (or you could use a water and broth mixture), then place the lid on the pot. You’ll want to start with your stove turned onto high until the chicken begins to boil.
Then you can turn it down to medium and raise the lid from the pot a little so it won’t boil over. When the chicken is pull-apart tender, or your meat thermometer says it is done, you can remove the chicken from the pot.
Once you have removed the chicken from the pot, you’ll want to shred it and debone the chicken (if applicable.)
When this is done, you’ll put the chicken back in the pot and turn the stove to medium again.
2. Add the Butter
Now that your chicken is done, you are 2/3 through with the process of making chicken stew. You’ll just need to toss a stick of butter into the pot until the broth boils.
Once the broth has boiled and the butter has melted, then you are ready to move on to the next step.
3. Add the Milk and Creamer
I said in the ingredients that you’d only need a half gallon of milk and a quart of creamer. Again, this is for feeding a smaller family.
However, you have different options here. If you are feeding a larger group of people, then you can add a whole gallon of milk and a quart of creamer (or more) depending upon how large the group is.
Or you can add only milk if you don’t like a thicker stew. If you want an even thicker stew than what creamer can provide, then you can always mix up equal parts cornstarch and water and add to the mix as well.
Truthfully, there is no way to mess up this recipe (that I’ve found.) If you add too much liquid, then you just add more chicken. If you don’t have enough liquid, then you just add some more.
So once you add the milk and creamer to the chicken and butter mixture, you just allow it to heat through.
Once you see the steam rising, then you know that you are ready to add the seasonings.
However, be sure to stir so your chicken doesn’t become stuck to the bottom of the pot.
4. Season It
Now, this step is all about personal taste. I usually add about 2 tablespoons of both salt and pepper.
Then I add a healthy tablespoon or so of Italian seasoning to the pot too. I recommend when you first start out, add seasonings sparingly. This is the only part you could mess up. It is better to add too little and need to add more than add too much because once it’s in there, you cannot take it out.
But once you season the dish to taste, you can allow it to simmer so the seasonings marry into the rest of the dish.
Once that has happened, your stew is officially done.
5. Add On
So I’ll be honest, the first time I had chicken stew, I was confused. Some people around here just make it with milk and chicken. That is what I ate, and I wasn’t so thrilled with it.
Then I found out I could make it thicker with creamer, and I began liking it more.
Now, I like to add the Italian seasonings, fresh herbs, and anything else that sounds good that I have on hand at the time.
So if you are looking to finish out your chicken stew meal, I’d like to make a few recommendations.
First, fresh herbs are amazing. I think they add flavor and color to the dish. So if you have them then put them to good use in this dish to see what you think.
Second, crackers. Crackers are a must with chicken stew. You can crumble them up and they also serve as a thickening agent. It is really good in my opinion.
Third, hot sauce. We love hot sauce around our house. So if you like some spice, then you’ll want to consider adding hot sauce to the mix.
Fourth, cheese or sour cream. This is a cream based soup. Like many other cream based soups, you might want to add sour cream, cheese, and chives to finish it off. It adds a little more flavor to the dish that way.
Finally, if you like seafood, you can even change out this stew from a chicken stew to a seafood stew. My mentor friend actually told me she’ll make it with canned salmon and her family loves it. That is just another idea and way for you to use this recipe to feed your family quickly and inexpensively.
So you now know what my go-to meal is for our family gatherings. It is easy and inexpensive to make. The next time you come in from a cold day, you may want to reach for this recipe because it is great at warming you up.
But I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever heard of chicken stew? If so, how do you make it? What is your favorite cold weather dish that you use to warm yourself up from the inside out?
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