Thursday, February 2, 2012

Inspired Chicken Stew

Despite the warm temperatures, thawed and muddy ground, and awakening insects, it is still winter, and winter means soup season. I've already made white chicken chili a few times to stave off the cold, real or imagined, and now I've decided to make a good old fashioned stew for the same reason (and because I have a lot of the ingredients lying around my kitchen). I've also decided to devote February to learning recipes from the first nations of this country, also known as the Native Americans. 

A lot of everyday foods that we take for granted are native to the Americas, like corn, for instance, and potatoes, though they are found and eaten all over the world now. So when I decided to put together a Native American stew, for lack of a better term, I figured foods like these were a safe bet. I tried looking for recipes, but the scant few I found were a little suspect. I could be way off here, but something tells me that the ancient peoples of these vast lands were somewhat lacking in cooking sherry.

Since there is a distinct lack of Native American/First Nations recipes on Google and Bing (I checked both), I sort of cobbled together on my own what I could find. I started with a pot of about 8 cups of water and to that added two chicken breasts to boil so as to make chicken broth (and cook the chicken to be cubed later).

While that was starting to boil, I washed, de-eyed, and cut 9 red potatoes into small pieces. With the potatoes in the boiling water, I removed the two chicken breasts, cut those into small pieces, and returned them to the water to boil with the potatoes.

Fun Fact: The potato originated in southern Peru and sustained the Incan empire for thousands of years.

After a little while of bubbling and boiling, I added a couple cups of frozen corn because I didn't have ears of corn on hand to chunk and toss in, which the internet seems to think is the more traditional way of doing things. And just to be specific (because I'm a nerd and in case I have international readers), when I say corn, I mean maize. 

For the American audience, the term "corn" has historically been used to mean any type of cereal crop, which is how we end up with Ancient Egyptians in the Bible growing corn. They weren't growing maize, they were growing some other crop, probably barley. "Corn" in the US is short for "Indian corn," or "the cereal crop of the Indians." Personally, I am relieved we dropped the "Indian" bit.

So anyway. Corn was added to the chicken and potatoes, as was about half a cup of chopped onion. And it smelled delicious.

I wasn't sure what seasonings to add to the stew other than salt (it needed it) because I wasn't sure where the herbs in my cabinet originated (minus the obvious Indian spices that I bought last year for my Indian Food Month). Turns out oregano is native to the Mediterranean, and is actually a new addition to the cupboard because I tend to prefer the taste of parsley over oregano. I decided to try adding a few dashes of cinnamon after I found it on this Wikipedia page for Native American cuisine. Specifically it lists "white cinnamon," which I don't have so substituted the more common variety that I do have. I assure you, the taste was wonderful, as was the aroma floating up from the bubbling pot. (I love using cinnamon in new and different ways!)

There was, I am sad to report, one casualty of this recipe. A knife somehow slipped underneath the big pot I was cooking the soup in and the handle melted. I don't know how it got down there, but I managed to pry it free after who knows how long. The knife is still usable, just half the handle is missing/disfigured, so we'll have to be careful with it in the future.
I ended up serving this delicious stew with frybread, the only Native American recipe that I found plastered all over the internet, though I found it in a book originally. Next week I'll talk about the frybread. Oh no! A spoiler!

No comments:

Post a Comment