If you’ve read my blog and thought the recipes look good but had too many ingredients or are too hard to cook, this post is for you. This chicken rosemary-lemon stew is both simple and delicious.
I’ve been making this dish since I first learned to cook. Back then, when Food Network actually aired cooking shows (around 2003), I followed the show “How to Boil Water“. The premise was easy enough, there was a novice cooker host – a woman by the name of Jack Hourigan – paired with a cook. The first season featured a French chef whose name I don’t recall was on; later seasons had a young Tyler Florence. The chef would “teach” the host how to cook something simple yet tasty – just right for a new cook. The Food Network recipe can be found here; the copy I use for cooking is here.
This recipe for chicken lemon-rosemary stew simplifies at least three parts of what could become a complicated recipe but the taste does not suffer at all. First of all, there are not too many ingredients so you don’t need to search high and low through the market.
Second, you don’t need advanced chopping skills for the vegetables; many recipes using mirepoix (a fancy term for celery, onion, and carrot) call for dicing into small bits. For this recipe we simply cut the celery and carrots into 1 1/2″ pieces and we use frozen petit pearl onions instead of cutting up an onion. And you don’t have to strip and chop the rosemary – the whole twigs go in.
Probably the hardest thing to do in this recipe is zest the onion before squeezing out the juice. You can use a very fine grater to get the yellow exterior – try not to get white pulp which can be bitter. I won’t go on a rant about making your own chicken stock – it’s perfectly okay to use canned or “Better than Boullion Chicken Base” which you can find in the grocery store.
Turn your oven on to 425° F.
Another step that makes this recipe easy is the use of chicken thighs instead of breasts. Thighs are much easier to work with and won’t end up tough and stringy. I use thighs for most chicken dishes because it tastes better; the easy handling is a bonus. Sauté the chicken skin-side down for a few minutes until they brown nicely then flip and cook on the other side. No need to cook them all the way through, we just want to get a little color on them
Remove the chicken from the pot and sauté the large carrot and celery pieces in the chicken fat. Just be careful – that spattering fat is hot. I grabbed a handful and lowered my hand beneath the rim of the pot and thought as I let go “this is a bad idea” some spattering fat burned my finger – not terribly – the lesson is to use a large spoon to lower the vegetables into the hot fat.
Add the rosemary twigs toward the end. Then you get to take a step that will make you feel like an expert: add the lemon juice – which will hiss a bit – and use that liquid to scrape up the browned bits (fond) stuck to the bottom of the pan. (I’ve used the word “fond” in my blog many times and probably spelled it differently every time – I looked it up this time – the correct spelling of this French word for the browned bits is “fond”). This will extract some extra flavor.
Then add the thawed pearl onions, chicken stock, zest and a bit of salt and bring just to a boil. Carefully place the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables being careful to keep the skin of the thighs above the liquid.
Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 40 minutes, basting a few times after the first 1/2 of cooking. Make sure the chicken thighs register at least 165° F – which shouldn’t be a problem after 40 minutes in the hot oven. When done, discard the rosemary and place chicken and vegetables on some cooked butter noodles.
Now we get to the last part that makes this recipe simple – making the gravy. Normally to make a gravy we’d pour out the liquid and separate the fat and liquid; make a roux by cooking the flour and the fat for a while, then carefully whisking in the cooking juices and stirring until thickened. This takes time and requires a fat separator or at least a measuring cup and a bit of work to separate. We take a shortcut here – and we don’t lose any taste.
As the braising is almost done, mix some softened butter and flour into a paste in a small bowl. After placing the chicken and vegetables on the platter with the noodles, simply whisk in the flour/butter paste in the pan juices – no separation required – and mix until slightly thickened. Then pour on top of the noodles, vegetables and chicken.
The lemon juice along with the rosemary gives this dish some nice brightness to complement the creamy gravy. Those nice big chunks of carrot are so sweet and tender and the chicken is perfect.
This is delicious comfort food. I make it a few times during the winter. And folks won’t need to know how easy it was: a bit of chopping and a simple gravy turns out a dinner that people will love.