Way back in August, I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Fothergill, The Family Chef, at the GFAF Wellness Event blogger dinner in Raleigh. This was exciting because she has accomplished so much in the culinary and food allergy world! She received her education from Cornell University and has tons of experience in all aspects of culinary work, from back-of-house work, to managerial work. Now, she’s a mom to 2 kids, teaches cooking classes, writes about family and gluten-free cooking, and published a cookbook, The Warm Kitchen: Gluten-Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love, in 2013, which went on to win 2nd in Gluten-Free Buyer’s Guide for best gluten-free cookbook!
I really admire all that she has done, especially because she really knows her stuff! That being said, it is no surprise that her book was just as impressive. One of the things I look for when I get a new cookbook is the introduction. Depending on the type of cookbook, this can range in length from one to many pages and can serve a variety of purposes. When I first started buying allergy cookbooks, the introduction section was really helpful for figuring out when and how to use different ingredient substitutes, basic cooking instructions and tools, etc. It is a chance for the author to really get his or her purpose across. In Amy’s case, this means taking what she has learned from her background in culinary arts and her experience as a mom to a child with food allergies and putting it all together into a resource for others who want to learn how to make gluten-free cooking easy and delicious for the whole family. The first section of the book is chock-full of pantry staples, alternative flours, and ingredient substitutions. But not only did Amy provide this information, she also included explanations of WHY these ingredients/items are good to use or not. For someone just starting out, or even someone who has experience with gluten-free cooking, this is incredibly useful – especially when baking is involved. Gluten-free and allergy-friendly baking can be so confusing, and the textures/properties of different ingredients don’t always work the way allergenic ones do. Amy does a great job of explaining the WHY behind allergy-friendly substitutions – it’s the perfect blend of chemistry and easy-to-understand instructions. But wait – there’s more! She also includes blurbs and full pages with more cooking techniques and menu item pairings throughout the book, making the entire book a great educational resource.
When I was flipping through the book and trying to pick which recipe to highlight in this post, I knew once I saw the “Hearty Chicken Stew” that it was the perfect one to write about. True, it is one of the simpler recipes to make in the book, but I thought that it’s simplicity really embodied the mission of Amy’s book. Gluten-free and allergy-friendly cooking doesn’t need to be fancy or difficult, and this stew was a perfect representation of that. Plus, I’ve had issues with good thickening agents in the past, and wanted to test her “slurry” mixture to see how it compared. I made a couple of substitutions for the recipe (arrowroot starch instead of corn starch because of my corn allergy, broccoli instead of peas and corn because I had some on hand) but otherwise followed the recipe as is. Between using Amy’s tips for sauteeing chicken, and using thickeners, this was a great way to learn something new. And let me tell you, the stew turned out fantastic! It tasted so much like the chicken pot pies my mom used to make. It’s no wonder Amy suggests using it as a pot pie filling as well (which I will definitely try)! This, to me, represented the book’s title of “The Warm Kitchen” twofold – it was a warm, comforting dish on a chilly day, and it brought back warm, fuzzy memories from my childhood. Isn’t it cool how a simple meal can provoke so many different feelings and memories?
If this stew sounds good to you, then you’re in luck! I’m including the recipe so you can all try this at home and warm up your own kitchen. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And please do yourself a favor and check out Amy’s website and book!
Hearty Chicken Stew
Makes 4-6 servings
3 tsp olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
1-2 celery stalks, diced
1/2-1 tsp dried thyme
1/2-1 tsp dried sage
1/4-1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~1 lb), cut into 1/4-1/2″ cubes*
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk or plain, unsweetened milk substitute
Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water
1 cup peas and/or corn
Substitute two 15-oz cans of drained, rinsed white beans (~4 cups) for the chicken
Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth
Heat medium to large pot over medium heat. Add 2 tsp of oil, then onions, carrots, celery and seasonings but not the salt. Without stirring too often, allow to cook until the onion is soft and lightly browned. Add salt. Cook for one minute.
- Remove veggies and place in bowl. Over medium heat, add the remaining tsp of oil and chicken and cook until golden brown, stirring only a few times. When chicken is cooked, add the veggies back to the pot.
- Add chicken broth and milk and stir. Slowly bring broth and milk to a simmer in the pot.
- Make the slurry in a small bowl or cup, making sure to stir right before you add it to the soup as the starch settles to the bottom. Slowly add half of the slurry to the pot, stirring. Simmer and continue cooking. If stew is not thick enough, slowly add more slurry. Make more slurry if necessary. If the stew is too thick, add more milk or broth. Make sure to stir the bottom and sides of the pot.
- Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, sage and thyme.
- Add peas and corn or a small bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Simmer about 5 minutes or until all ingredients are hot.
- Serve with cooked gluten-free pasta or rice (I served it over a baked sweet potato!)
*You can use 2 cups of cooked, diced chicken instead of uncooked. Skip step 2 and add chicken with the broth in step 3.