There's maybe a half-inch of fine, powder snow on the ground -- and the streets and sidewalks, the kind of stuff any self-respecting skiing outfit longs for. Here on the flatlands, it does us no earthly good. It turns the streets as slick as a greased weasel. It's too thin to plow and too cold for road salt to do much. Traffic slows to a crawl, except for the occasional optimist with a 4WD, fancy tires, and a soon-to-be-updated appreciation of classical physics, not to mention insurance.
Weather like this, you need food that goes the distance -- hydration, fuel and maybe a little comfort. I made leftover-chicken stew last night and here it is:
1 medium onion
3 or 4 carrots (or twice as many of those bagged-up washed & tumbled carrot sections)
3 or 4 stalks of celery
1 tomato or a little left-over chili. You could try a small can of tomato sauce if you have neither.
1 package of fresh mushrooms, rinsed
About a pound of leftover chicken (I bought a couple of precooked chicken breast halves from the deli. Leave the skin on or not, as suits you.)
32 ounces of chicken broth or stock, home-made or store-bought (the low-sodium kind tastes just as good and allows you to salt you bowl to taste. The low-fat versions are usually good, too, though some are too salty -- check the label.)
In a good-sized pot over medium heat, put a little olive oil and butter, maybe a teaspoon each. Have the onion chopped (about 3/8", you want spoon-sized chunks) and ready to go in as soon as the butter is melted and before it browns. Stir occasionally. Mind the heat through this, you just want to gently saute the veggies. Chop up the carrot to similar size, and toss it in. Stir that up and then chop the celery and add it. If you went with a tomato, cut it up and add it now. Cut up the chicken while watching/stirring the vegetables and when their colors start to get intense, add the mushrooms. Finish cutting up the chicken (bribing cats if necessary) and stir it in. A minute or two will get the chicken heated up, at which point you pour in the broth. If you are using leftover chili or tomato paste or sauce, add it now. (I had a cup or less of three-meat, no-beans chili from yesterday). Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally -- 20 minutes is about the minimum, an hour would be fine. The broth will be a rich, deep red-gold. The steam carries the distinct aromas of the main ingredients and should call diners to the table all by itself. Salt and pepper to taste.
You can add spices to this, though my version picked up all it needed from the chili. Fresh garlic would be good if you don't mind it; paprika (hot or sweet) and/or thyme would work, as would some basil. If you're anticipating a busy day of snow-shoveling and the like, you might want to add noodles, either good old egg noodles or some kind of pasta (rotini? Elbow macaroni? Broken spaghetti?). This will thicken the broth a little, too. Just get the broth near boiling and add the pasta to cook for seven minutes or so. You may need to punch up the spices a bit if you do this.
Serves four easily -- or two people for a couple of days. Frozen and reheated, it's even better.
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