Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs with Italian Caponata

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The first time we visited Rome, we were rented an incredible 16th century apartment on Via del Govern Vecchio. The third-floor apartment was situated across the street from a monastic residence where priests and monks carried out their daily lives in full view like an ant farm in white starched collars. We could see their dining room from our living room window and felt just a tiny bit guilty as we watched them pass along large dishes of food and ceramic jugs of red wine.

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Imperfect Produce_Braised Short Ribs12_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_109

Imperfect Produce_Braised Short Ribs4_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_109

We had landed late in the afternoon and after getting settled in we intended to dine on bread, cheese, and prosciutto from a local market, but when night fell we couldn’t resist the warm glow of street-side dining. Dinner in Italy, for locals, normally begins about 8 or 9pm and can stretch late into the evening. In Rome, this means much of the tourists have already eaten and gone on to the wine bars and nightspots that dot the city.

The restaurants are filled with locals and cognoscenti who spend the evening savoring food, wine, and conversation. Time slows down as deep red wine flows and the stars come out. On a moonlit side street, two hungry visitors wander back and forth across the cobblestones unable to decide where to dine.

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Imperfect Produce_Braised Short Ribs7_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_109

We wandered along Via Sebastiano Grandis and ended up taking a table at Bottega Trattoria De Santis. It was here that we had our first taste of caponata. What I love about caponata is the layered flavors of ripe summer eggplant melding with onion, celery, briny olives and capers, and the rich flavor of sun-sweetened tomatoes. Often enjoyed on its own as antipasti, caponata really shines when served alongside braised or grilled beef. Many Italians make caponata in the fall and preserve it in jars to enjoy during the winter months with crisp crostini as a meal in itself or to accompany hearty winter dishes.

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Imperfect Produce_Braised Short Ribs10_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_109

Imperfect Produce_Braised Short Ribs11_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_109

When I opened this week’s shipment from Imperfect Produce and was presented with a vibrantly fresh eggplant, ripe red tomatoes, and celery I knew I had to make caponata. I chose boneless beef short ribs as accompaniment, which I cooked sous vide though oven roasting or slow braising would give similarly succulent results.

Braised Boneless Short Ribs with Caponata

Sous Vide Boneless Beef Short Ribs
4 servings

1 1/2 lbs boneless beef short ribs
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes (or substitute with ancho chili pepper flakes and a dash of sea salt)
4-5 cherry tomatoes (if you are using sous vide; use 10 if you are braising in the oven or using a slow cooker)
6 sprigs of thyme, washed

Add short ribs to the vacuum bag and arrange remaining ingredients on top then evacuate and seal. Cook in a water bath at 165’F for 14 hours. At the end of cooking time, remove ribs to a shallow skillet and pour cooking liquid, tomatoes, and thyme to a small saucepan and reduce by 1/2. Sear ribs with a butane torch to caramelize, adding a bit of flavorful char. Plate on top of caponata and spoon generously with reduced sauce.

If using a slow cooker, an additional liquid will be necessary to prevent over-cooking. I like to add Cabernet Sauvignon and chicken broth to the ingredients and cook on low for ~9 hours before plating atop the finished caponata.

Caponata
1 large eggplant, 3/4” cubed
4 small stalks of celery, sliced
2 medium onions, diced
1 cup large green olives, pitted and sliced
2 T. capers
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
I small bunch fresh basil sliced thinly, chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 5-6qt ceramic or cast iron cocotte over medium heat. Divide cubed eggplant into batches and fry gently until golden brown. Add chopped onion, celery, and olives cooking until onions are translucent. Add capers, tomatoes, sugar and 1/2 of the red wine vinegar and cook for 10-12 minutes on medium-low heat. Rest for 20 minutes and taste to assess flavor. If you’d like it a bit sharper add more vinegar; a bit sweeter add a bit more sugar. Serve with short ribs.

Products featured 

Impefect Produce
Revolution 2 Round Ceramic Cookware – Pepper Red
Revol Round Eared Dish 7″- Pepper
Revol Round Eared Dish 6″- Black 
Arborescence Coupe Plate 9″ – White
Solid Mies en Bouche Bowl 3″ – White
Solid Catalan Bowl 4.75″ – Pepper

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Vegetable Shish Kababs with a Sriracha Honey-Sesame Glaze with Imperfect Produce

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When it comes to buying produce, most shoppers pick through dozens of pieces, turning, squeezing and unfortunately bruising many of them until they find the most perfect looking, blemish-free pieces leaving mounds of picked-through, roughly handled and damaged produce that ultimately goes to waste. I’m guilty of this myself, but this behavior pressures grocery managers to demand only the most cosmetically pleasing produce to cut down on the waste that happens every day in their produce department.

The sad result is that growers are forced to sort and reject every piece of produce that doesn’t meet stringent guidelines regarding color, shape, size, texture, and visible blemishes, leaving an astonishing quantity of perfectly nutritious, delicious and uniquely beautiful produce to rot in the fields. When I learned of this ongoing crisis and about the mission of Imperfect Produce; to match up this impeccably fresh and delicious produce with hungry consumers, I was immediately swayed to start enjoying this delightful but overlooked treasure in my kitchen.

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Imperfect Produce1_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_108

Imperfect Produce is a produce rescue and delivery service that sources the freshest, must succulent overlooked produce directly from growers and races it to your door in a customized shipment that you choose, every week, bi-weekly, or monthly, in quantities tailored to suit the size of your household or your appetite.

I found it quite satisfying to say goodbye to characterless carrots, perfectly round tomatoes, and superficially flawless apples. Embrace the unique shapes that mother nature can find to make a bell pepper. Savor the occasional sunburn of naturally sun-ripened tomatoes. Also, I have enjoyed pints of remarkably beautiful blueberries that were suspiciously even more appealing than the bruised and broken berries of the supermarket and bunches of kale so fresh and crisp that my husband actually enjoys eating kale for a change. Mustard greens that hadn’t felt the rough treatment of dozens of hands and avocados so delicately fresh and free of thumb indents it was as if they’d never been touched by human hands.

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Imperfect Produce5_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_108

Imperfect Produce currently operates its delivery network in the Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Orange County, Los Angeles, and Bay areas, doing their best to offset the more than SIX BILLION POUNDS of fresh produce that goes to waste each year. Utterly delicious, perfectly nutritious, and in my opinion uniquely photogenic food, delivered to your door on the day and hour of your choosing. Regular, organic, or a mix you choose, with to-the-minute tracking. It’s that simple.

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So, it is with great pleasure that I join in the fight against food waste and announce my collaboration with Imperfect Produce. I look forward to bringing you a unique look at their delightfully imperfect fruits and vegetables! For my first recipe, I decided to relish the cool late summer weather we are finally having with some simple grilled vegetable shish kababs on my Fuego grill.

Honey Sesame Sriracha Shish Kababs
makes six kababs

2 zucchini, cut into 1” slices
2 large red onions, cut into 1” slices
1 yellow summer squash, cut into 1” slices
2 green bell peppers, cut into 1” slices
8 oz of baby portabella mushrooms
12 cherry or plum tomatoes, grape tomatoes are lovely in salads but a bit too small for the grill

Thread zucchini, squash, green peppers, red onions, and tomatoes onto skewers in that precise order. I alternate mushrooms or tomatoes on the ends of the skewers because they benefit from the extra heat. Brush generously with the honey/sesame/sriracha glaze and place on a hot grill, turning occasionally and basting with more glaze until reaching the desired level of doneness. I like mine slightly less than charred to preserve some of the fresh, raw crunch and snap of these delicious garden-fresh vegetables.

 

Spicy Honey Sesame Sriracha Glaze

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 T. honey
2 T sesame oil
3 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
Garnish with sesame seeds (optional)

In a small saucepan, whisk together all ingredients until combined. Bring the glaze to a gentle simmer on low heat, often stirring until the glaze has reduced by half. Set aside to cool before basting.

*Note*, Please feel free to alter the recipe proportions to your liking.

Products featured
Imperfect Produce
Revol Set of 3 French Classics White Roasting Dishes
Fuego Professional F24C Grill

A Cocktail for Autumn with Apologue Liqueurs

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When it comes to cocktails, we all have our favorites; in the springtime, I like a French 75 with vodka, not gin which remind me of late afternoons at a sidewalk café in Paris. During the height of summer, I like something citrusy with a herbal, green garden twist like a mojito or something with a savory, deep citrus character like a Paloma. In the late summer with it’s long, hot breezeless afternoons I prefer tequila which brings me to my new favorite concoction which I call ‘Autumn Awakes’.

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I’ve been working on a seasonal cocktail with a tequila base featuring local Chicago-based spirits by Apologue. Their exquisite line of liqueurs are the result of some of Chicago’s best and brightest mixologists and spiritologists; Robby Haynes of Violet Hour, renown bar chief and beat virtuosos Ziyad Asrar, and local ingredient sourcing guru Jordan Tepper. This gifted trio has created three all-natural liqueurs: Aronia Berry, Persimmon Bittersweet, and Celery Root Herbal. Their liqueurs are presented in a 100% natural state, made with organic cane sugar, and all ingredients are sourced in the Midwest.

Apologue also fulfills an important role in the community by forming partnerships with nonprofit groups such as Growing Solutions Farm, which teaches agricultural skills to people with autism. The farm has dedicated some of its land to growing celery root for the exquisitely savory Celery Root herbal liqueur.

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My first cocktail features Aronia Berry Liqueur; this beautiful liqueur presents layered summer fruits with waves of decadent chokeberries (Aronia), tart cherries, raspberries, and orange peel with floral overtones of lavender, rosehips, and an intriguing hint of cinnamon. In my recipe, I muddle this liqueur with ripe peaches, silver tequila, sweet Lillet, and a dash of grapefruit bitters.

Autumn Awakes
recipe for two cocktails

2 oz. Apologue Aronia Liqueur
3 oz. of tequila (I prefer Herradura Silver)
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 lime, juiced
3 dashes grapefruit bitters
1/2 ripened peach, muddled

Slice the peach and add to a cocktail mixing glass then muddle.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the glass, mix, and strain. At this point, you can either serve on ice or fill a shaker 1/2 way with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Serve and enjoy.

Easy Build-Your-Own Sundaes and Cones with Hudsonville Ice Cream

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As a food stylist and photographer, I’ve worked with all kinds of foods, ingredients, cookware and kitchen products but one thing I have never tried to photograph is ice cream. I have heard for years how difficult a subject ice cream can be, so when the great folks at Hudsonville Creamery reached out to me, I couldn’t resist the chance to try my hand at capturing the beauty of their wonderful range of artisanal ice creams. Besides, summer is still in full swing so why not enjoy a few scoops embellished in classic sundae style?

SuperScoop – Classic 2 Scoop Cone
This vibrant psychedelic swirl has an exquisite yet hard to describe mystery flavor; some say it is reminiscent of Froot Loops, but I think that description misses the deeply flavorful creamy base and the pistachio-like nutty finish. I accentuated the flavors with a cone dressed in crushed cereal, a dollop of whipped cream, and crowned it with a flourish of whole Froot Loops.

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Hudsonville Ice Cream5_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Hudsonville Ice Cream2_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Hudsonville Ice Cream1_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Creamery Blend Vanilla – Caramel Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich
The creamiest, dreamiest vanilla ice cream carefully layered between two exquisitely rich Belgian caramel Stroopwafels, the ultimate in minimalist indulgence which presents the clear and complimentary flavors of sweet cream, vanilla, caramel, and toasty Belgian waffles with zero distractions. I used a stainless steel form to pack and shape the disk of ice cream, but any smooth, non-ridged biscuit cutter will work. Or freestyle it with a spatula!

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Hudsonville Ice Cream6_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Traverse City Cherry Fudge – Classic 3 Scoop Cone
A delicately flavored amaretto base with luscious Michigan cherries and a ridiculously indulgent fudge swirl, piled high atop a waffle cone, topped with magic shell and a sprinkle of sprinkles! The cherry-amaretto-fudge trio are a match made in creamy heaven!

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Creamery Blend Vanilla – Classic 3 Scoop Sundae
A classic combination of three scoops of luscious vanilla ice cream topped with a drizzle of hot fudge, whipped cream, and a maraschino cherry all in a waffle bowl rimmed with white chocolate and sprinkles!

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Hudsonville Ice Cream9_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Hudsonville Ice Cream10_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Deer Traxx – Classic 2 Scoop Cone
A sea of the creamiest vanilla ice cream swarming with tiny peanut butter cups surfing a thick swirl of chocolate fudge. Then freeze that scene and pack it into a convenient half-gallon carton. Liberate a couple scoops of this frozen vacation and pack them into a waffle cone topped with magic shell and some sweet-salty crushed nuts. Instant. Holiday.

Hudsonville Ice Cream11_Michigan_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_120-Recovered

Now a little about the creamery; Hudsonville has been producing delicious ice creams packed with goodness since 1926. Based in Holland, Michigan, Hudsonville Creamery produces 50 flavors that are sold across Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. The creamery was built near dairy farms because closer cows mean fresher milk and better tasting ice cream. Check out their site for a full list of flavors and where to find them near you.

Products featured: 
Hudsonville Ice Cream, Holland, Michigan
Revol Round Eared Black Cast-Iron Dish
Revol Crème Brulee Bowl in Pepper
Revol Cup in 6.25oz in White
Revol Black Salt Pot 
Target – All sprinkles, waffle cones, waffle bowls, nuts, hot fudge and Magic Shell
Stroopwafel Cookies

Spring Thyme Cocktail (in collaboration with Chopin Vodka)

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Springtime is upon us, and I’m feeling inspired to mix up a bit of sunshine in my cocktail glass to savor the first warm, sunny days of spring. I’ve chosen to lend a touch of French flavor to the perennial combination of citrus+vodka by adding a splash of elderflower liqueur and a twist of Provence with a sprig of garden-fresh thyme.

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ChopinVodka3_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_102

Delightfully peppery Chopin rye vodka and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice mingle with the floral notes of St. Germain to form the basis, while lemon and thyme hint at sunny afternoons on the terrace.. The result is a tart and subtly sweet spring refresher balanced with a hint of savory summer herbs, perfect for a cool spring evening or a warm spring day.

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ChopinVodka5_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_102

Spring Thyme Cocktail

Ingredients
Mix together for one small or double for one full cocktail

1 1/2 oz Chopin rye vodka
1 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz elderflower liqueur
Twist of lemon
Dash of orange bitters
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, bruised to release fragrance
Splash of soda water

Combine vodka, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, elderflower liquor, orange bitters and sprigs of fresh thyme with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass.

Products featured
Chopin Rye Vodka
Stölzle Glassware – Oneida Foodservice
Viski Admiral Hammered Shaker in Copper
Fee Brothers Orange Bitters 
John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board

Soupe au Pistou (Provençal Vegetable Soup)

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Hard to believe last Tuesday was the first day of Spring, with some parts of the country still getting pounded by record snowstorms. While I’m anxious for the arrival of warm spring days, I fully intend to savor the last of the cold weather with the help of few more pots of soup. With the temps hovering around the mid-40s I think spring flavors are in order so today I chose a soup au pistou. A French soup similar to minestrone, this recipe is brightened by the intense green flavors of fresh herbs pistou layered upon spring peas, string beans; and wintry reserves of savory root vegetables and legumes.

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Originating in the southern French city of Nice which was until the mid-19th century part of Italy, the French version differs from Italian minestrone in that it is based on a light tomato broth in place of whole tomatoes and the garnish of pistou, which is quite similar to Italian pesto but typically lacks pine nuts and parsley in favor of even more basil.

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Soup au Pistou
serves 6
*Note* I like to prep all ingredients first before starting, in this case make the pistou first and chill.

For the soup
2 shallots, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium or 4 small zucchini, diced
2 cups fresh haricot verts (or you can use frozen), trim ends
2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 14oz can of cannellini or navy beans, drained
2 cups water
3 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a 4-6qt French oven or stockpot heat olive oil over medium flame and sauté shallots until soft and translucent. Add diced carrots, zucchini, green beans, garlic, fresh thyme, and salt/pepper, continue cooking until the vegetables begin to soften. Add tomato paste and gently incorporate so as to avoid breaking the green beans. Add cannellini beans, water, vegetable stock, frozen peas and bring to a simmer gently for 5-10 minutes or just until peas are cooked. Serve in a wide, shallow bowl with a spoonful of pistou swirled gently for presentation. If you enjoy it as much as I do, put a bowl of pistou in the middle of the table for late additions and serve with slices of warm baguette and sea salted butter.

For the pistou
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place garlic, basil, and parmesan cheese in a food processor and purée. While blending, gradually add the olive oil until combined. Chill until serving.

Products featured
REVOL Ceramic Round Dutch Oven – Green Revolution
REVOL Succession Bowl
REVOL Arborescence Bowl
John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board with Contoured Feet

Quick and Easy Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry

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How is it already late January? Usually the quiet weeks that follow the chaotic holiday season seem to drag on and spring seems like a mirage far off on the horizon. Here in Chicago, we are enjoying the violent extremes of midwestern weather with weeks of sub-zero temperatures punctuated by days in the mid-50’s when even a sweater feels unnecessary. We’re starting to feel cabin fever which makes comfort food all the more necessary.

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We’ve already run the circuit of tomato soup, soupe à l’oignon, chicken soup, and even chicken with dumplings, but we still need something more. Something that exceeds the comforting capacity of delicately steamed dumplings, tender chicken, and deeply caramelized onions. We need the buttery richness that only puff pastry can provide.

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Normally, I would start a pot of chicken soup with boneless, skinless breasts; for an extra measure of flavor and to save time I chose a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store as my starting point.  Feel free to roast a whole chicken on your own (see my recipe below!), it takes little effort and you can control the level of seasoning and salt; however, today I appreciate the convenience of starting with a pre-roasted bird.

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chicken pot pie9_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_95-Recovered copy

My version of a chicken pot pie, for simplicity’s sake, skips the whole pie shell approach (which is difficult to serve!) for an easy-to-make, rich and creamy chicken stew loaded with sweet spring peas and crowned with a rich, flaky pastry crust. Try it out and be sure to let me know what you think!

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chicken pot pie11_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_95-Recovered copy

Chicken pot pie with puff pastry
6 servings

Puff Pastry
1 pkg of store bought puff pastry (I like Wewalka, see next paragraph)
1 egg, whisked, for egg wash

I use and recommend Wewalka brand puff pastry because it is imported from Austria and it is made without artificial flavors or colors, contains no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no bleached flours, and is suitable for vegetarians! I am not working with Wewalka, it’s just a personal choice and lucky for me it is easily available in the Chicago area. It reminds me very much of the puff pastry I used to buy in Germany, in fact I think it either comes from the same factory or has a nearly identical recipe. Visit their website at www.wewalka.us to find a retailer near you.

To prepare the puff pastry

Preheat oven to 425’F or follow the directions on the package

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up a bit while you make the stew so that when its time to bake it will be soft and pliable. Once the stew is simmering, unroll the dough leaving the parchment paper in place and cut into 9 equal portions. Bake three at a time on a 9×13 sheet pan, allowing plenty of room for even browning and crispy corners. After 15 minutes, remove from oven and brush with egg wash, add a few twists of black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt, then bake for another 15 minutes until they are a dark golden color. By the time the pastries are done, the stew will be ready.

Chicken Stew
If you like the challenge of making your own roasted chicken, click here to check out my recipe! https://acookscanvas.com/2012/11/25/roasted-chicken-and-vegetables/
Or, for a quicker weeknight version use a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

1 whole roasted chicken
4 large carrots, diced
4 large stalks celery, diced
2 medium red onions, coarsely chopped
500g baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
5 medium golden potatoes, diced
1 pouch of frozen peas, defrost prior to adding to the soup
1 handful of fresh parsley and thyme, leaves stripped from stems
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Chop all vegetables and set aside. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add half of the butter. Sauté onions until translucent, add celery, carrots, and potatoes and cook for another 15 minutes stirring frequently. Break down rotisserie chicken, removing the skin and stripping all of the meat. Once vegetables are cooked, add the chicken and chicken stock, then bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.

In a separate small saucepan make your roux; melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat until it begins to sizzle, then sprinkle in flour a little at a time until it forms a thick paste. Continue cooking slowly, stirring constantly until it begins to brown slightly then add the 1/2 cup water a bit at a time, whisking to incorporate. Add the finished roux to the stew one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Add peas, fresh parsley, and thyme, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes to thicken before serving.

Products featured
Revol 4.75qt Yellow Ceramic Cookware REVOLUTION INDUCTION 2
Revol Ceramic EQUINOX Dinner Plate 
Revol SUCCESSION Dinner Plate 
Wüsthof 4″ Extra-Wide Pairing Knife
John Boos Block 20″ x 15″ Walnut Fusion Cutting Board w/ Contoured Feet 

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