Its getting cold here in Charleston. And by “cold” I mean I had to put a sweater over my sundress. I don’t know about my fellow Charlestonians, but when the sweater comes out, the soups and stews go on. Charleston is kind of special when it comes to weather. Hurricane? No problem. All I need is my six pack and my kayak, and if you’ll just hand me that rowing paddle I’ll be on my way to the nearest Hurricane party. But, the cold? Ice? And snow? Might as well buy up all the milk and bread at the Harris Teeter, lock your doors, and prepare for what we all assume is the start of the Apocalypse.
So, in order to sooth our fears of becoming the next North Pole we make stews and soups. Specifically, Chicken and Black Rice Stew. With a grilled cheese. What everyone should remember with stews, soups, and sandwiches is that you can always make it your own. Use noodles instead of rice. Make it vegetarian by using veggie broth and beans instead of chicken broth and chicken. Change the cheese in the sandwich to your favorite melty delight. Whatever you want! And as long as it doesn’t have potatoes make a double batch and freeze. (I think potatoes taste nasty after they’ve been frozen- maybe if you puree them it would be different?).
A little bit about the ingredients: I know not everyone has a Costco close to them, but if you do I highly recommend making good use of it. Even though there is only two of us we probably make back our $50 membership fee within the first 1/3 of the year with what we save from regular grocery stores. Costco is rapidly incorporating lots of organic ingredients and as far as I know they have always had a nice variety of produce. Our favorite deals are canned organics (diced tomatos, etc), the organic frozen fruit (for smoothies or oatmeal or PIE!), and recently this Chinese Heirloom Black Rice:
As long as you have room to store the extra amount of product that you are getting at Costco, then I say it is 100% worth it.
On to the stew!
A couple photos of the process:
Chicken and Black Rice Stew with a Grilled Cheese
*makes 5-6 large portions
For the Stew
1.5 cups cooked black rice
2 chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1.5 cups chopped carrots
1.5 cups chopped celery
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1.5 t dried thyme
7 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
1/4 cup heavy cream, warmed
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste
For the grilled cheese
*this is the recipe for 1 grilled cheese, but make as many as you need!
2 slices of fresh bread (I used an asiago crusted bread from Harris Teeter for this one.)
1 slice of provolone cheese
sharp white cheddar cheese (as much as you want)
1 t dijon mustard
To make the stew: First, cook the rice according to package directions. When done, let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork and set aside. Fill up a pot large enough to hold the chicken with water and add a pinch or two of salt. Bring it to a boil and add both chicken breasts. Cook until done through- about 20 minutes depending on the size. Cut in half to check the doneness. When the chicken is cooked through, shred it. I like to use a kitchen aid mixer with a paddle attachment. It shreds the chicken in about 30 seconds. You can also use two forks. Set aside.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 7-8 minutes. The veggies should be slightly tender and golden. Add the garlic and stir for 30 second. Add the salt, pepper, and thyme and let cook for a minute or two, stirring frequently. Don’t worry if things are starting to slightly stick to the bottom- this will be yummy! Next, add enough chicken stock to cover the veggies and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Don’t forget to scrape up those goodies! Cook for 7-8 minutes until veggies are fork tender.
Use an immersion blender and blend about half of the veggie and broth mixture. This is the way we will thicken this stew. (This is also a good way to sneak in veggies for a picky eater.) If you don’t have an immersion blender, then remove half of the mixture and blend in a regular blender and return to the pot. Now add the rice and chicken that you have previously set aside and the rest of the broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low heat to simmer for 20-25 minutes. Keep the lid about halfway off the pot to reduce slightly while cooking. The last step is to turn off the heat and add in the heavy cream and chopped parsley. Stir together and you are done with the stew! After cooling immediately freeze what you will not be eating soon.
To make the grilled cheese: Spread the dijon mustard on the inside of the bread slices (I really like dijon mustard on grilled cheese- weird?). Put the provolone and the thinly sliced cheddar on top of the mustard. Close and butter the outside of the sandwich. Cook in a preheated pan on low heat until one side is golden and the cheese is starting to melt. Flip the sandwich and cook the other side the same way.
Hope everyone is having a great week. We are almost to the weekend!