Can be made Gluten Free
One of my most well-loved cookbooks for many years was Sarah Leah Chase’s Cold-Weather Cooking. She wrote it in 1990 when, in my opinion, it wasn’t nearly as cold as it is now! Cooking for cold weather antics is getting quite the workout this winter in my Maine and New Hampshire kitchens. The book provides recipes for the cold weather New England months, beginning with a farewell to summer chapter with recipes that contain ingredients you can still typically find in farmer’s markets in October and ending with recipes for an Easter feast when at least in New England, winter is sort of over. Easter is April 5 this year, I suspect there may still be snow on the ground.
One of the recipes I have enjoyed many times is a veal stew with peppers and olives in a tomato sauce that is just delicious. However, not that many people eat veal any more (me included) and I find that making the stew with boneless, skinless chicken thighs is both more affordable and overall better suited for weeknight meals plus enough leftovers to pack for lunch. Chicken thighs are the best choice for easy stew making and eating because they stay moist in oven heat and there are no bones to mess around with. Cut each thigh into 4 to 6 pieces, about 2-inch cube-ish pieces.
I love to make a big pot of stew because it falls into the cook once, eat several times during the week category. This one is no exception. Expecting a crowd? As long as you have a big enough pot, this recipe easily doubles and can be made ahead, requiring only a gentle reheat before serving. And bonus! It definitely tastes best when made ahead which allows all the flavors in the pot to get to know each other and mingle.
I have also added a bit of Marsala wine which adds a lovely touch at the end of cooking, but you can live without it too. You may notice the lack of additional salt in the recipe – between the olives, capers and canned tomatoes, I barely find I need to add more, but certainly do taste it before serving, just in case.
A bit of flour provides body to the tomato sauce, if you need to keep it gluten free, just substitute a gluten free all purpose flour.
Lastly, this nourishing and hearty stew is great over a variety of unadorned starches, really anything that suits your needs – pasta, especially orzo or simple (but buttered or they’ll just stick together) egg noodles, white quinoa, mashed potatoes, polenta, rice….they all work. I’ve done them all over the years with my current favorites being orzo and quinoa.
I hope you give this soul soothing stew a go. All of us in New England and the Northeast still have the rest of February and March to get through! Wish us luck!
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 ½ cups dry white wine (or substitute chicken broth), divided
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, membranes removed, cut into 1 ½ - inch squares
- 1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, membranes removed, cut into 1 ½ - inch squares
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (or substitute a gluten free all-purpose flour)
- 1 – 28 ounce can crushed or ground tomatoes
- ½ cup minced parsley, plus additional for garnish
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian herb blend
- ¾ cup pitted and halved Sicilian green olives (or similar), halved
- ¾ cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives
- ¼ cup bottled capers, rinsed
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste, only if necessary
- ¼ cup Marsala wine
- Adjust an oven rack to middle or lower middle of the oven (depends on the height of your Dutch oven, good time to check this) and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for one minute. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add chicken in batches, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes on each side, to brown lightly, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent overbrowning. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Add ½ cup of the white wine, scrape up all the brown bits, cook for 1-2 minutes and reduce to half.
- Add garlic, cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add peppers, cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomato paste, stir until combined, then sprinkle with flour, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add remaining wine and tomatoes, and continue stirring. Add parsley, chicken and accumulated juices, combine well. Add Italian herb blend to pot by rubbing it between your hands to release the fragrance. Add olives and capers, season with freshly ground black pepper, to taste, and combine.
- Cover the pot and place in the oven to bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, taste the sauce (careful it's hot!) and only add salt if necessary, then add Marsala, and stir to combine. Bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and remove lid. It will be very hot, in fact too hot to serve, and as it begins to cool down, the sauce will thicken slightly. If you have used an enameled cast iron pot (such as Le Creuset), let it cool down for 10 - 15 minutes before serving, but you be the judge, you can always warm it gently on the stove if you let it cool too much.
- Serve over grain/pasta of your choice, garnished with chopped parsley. My current favorite is fluffy white quinoa, but buttered egg noodles are divine!
- Like most stews, this is definitely better the next day! Reheat gently before serving.