'Stoved chicken, eh? Just get a chicken and put it in the stove. Easy.'
No, not quite, there's a little more to it than that. Not much more granted, as this recipe is quite simple, and even the most novice of cooks should be able to prepare it without too much blood, sweat, tears and cursing. The term 'stoved' actually derives from the French word étouffer - meaning to cook in a covered pot - and this chicken 'stew' is a great warming meal for cold winter days.
The following should be enough to feed two very hungry souls, or up to six with additional vegetables on the side.
- 3 decent-sized chicken breasts, cut into largish cubes
- 2 or 3 large potatoes (preferably King Edward), cut into half-centimetre-thick slices
- 1 reasonably-sized onion, thinly sliced or diced
- 1 tablespoon tarragon (dried)
- 1-2 tablespoons paprika
- Garlic, 1 tablespoon minced or 3-4 cloves1
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 500ml (2 cups) of chicken or vegetable stock2
- A knob (1-2 tablespoons) of butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A casserole or covered baking dish (oven safe)3
- An oven
First things first - since they need to marinate, you need to prepare the chicken breasts. Cut them into bite-sized cubes, or chunks if you like, and once you are happy with the size put them in a bowl with the paprika, garlic and lemon juice to marinate for 15-20 minutes. While waiting you can slice and dice your onion, and prepare the potatoes and the chicken stock. Peel the potatoes and slice them, then place them into the casserole dish. 'Place' doesn't mean just plonk them in willy-nilly, organise them in layers. Put one layer around the bottom of the casserole dish, then another on top of that, reserving enough for a top layer. The easiest way of doing this is to simply lay slices in the upturned lid of the casserole dish so you'll know whether you have enough potato for the finished meal. Once the first potato layers are done, move on to the next stage.
Now, it's time to pre-heat your oven to about 150°C (300°F). While it's heating, get a frying pan, put it on a medium heat, and drop the butter in. Let it melt and then add the marinated chicken cubes, stirring the whole time. Watch the chicken meat, it will go from fleshy colour through to a paler, cream sort of shade. Reduce to a very low heat once the chicken is this colour, add a sprinkle of tarragon and stir the mix well until it browns.
Once the chicken is sufficiently browned, transfer the meat to the casserole dish (which you have already layered with potato, yes?). Use a draining spoon or slotted spatula to do this, then you can retain the butter and fat in the frying pan for later use. Add the sliced or diced onion to the casserole dish, then pour in the stock. Depending on the size of your dish, you may not need to use the entire amount, just add enough to cover the chicken. Add the remainder of the tarragon to the mix before you put your final layer of potato over the top of the chicken (if you want salt and pepper for taste, add those now too). Finally brush the reserved fat from the frying pan onto this top layer. Place the lid on the casserole dish, and you are ready to put it in the oven.
The chicken and potato will cook for 2-3 hours in the oven. Feel free to do whatever you like during this time. Prepare other vegetables to accompany your meal; broccoli, carrots and sweetcorn are recommended. Or set out making a dessert. Or just put your feet up and read a magazine or watch the telly. If you're a confident enough cook, you could even go out for a walk or watch a film while you're waiting.
After you've let the chicken tenderise (and the potato, too), take the casserole dish out of the oven and remove the lid. Now put it under the grill at a medium heat, to brown and crisp the top layer of potato. At this point, you should also sprinkle any leftover tarragon and paprika over the top layer of potato to give it a nice taste (some cooks will suggest sprinkling a little cheese over the top layer of potato, but this is an option this Researcher doesn't recommend as it spoils the taste of the chicken and tarragon). The grilling will take about 10-15 minutes, so you may want to finish preparing the rest of the meal as you know that in about a quarter of an hour, the stoved chicken will be ready to serve up!
For serving, the top layer of potato is nice and crisp, and should come out of the dish nicely. The chicken and remaining layers of potato however, will be extremely soft and tender, so be careful dishing up. There will be some excess fluid, so again, use a draining spoon or slotted spoon for serving. Place the softer chicken and potato mix onto plates first if you can, then lay the crispier potatoes over the top. As suggested earlier, accompany the meal with freshly steamed broccoli, carrot and sweetcorn. Some crusty bread to soak up the fluid is nice, with a bit of butter, and a nice fruity white wine or beer will set off the flavours nicely. For those who don't drink alcoholic beverages, or aren't in the mood for one, a cordial made from winter fruits will go down a treat. This is a light but hearty meal; the mix of chicken and potato filling but gastronomically easy on the stomach - so perfect for those who have problems with red meats. Serve it up on a dark winter's evening before you snuggle down for the evening, and you're sure to please.