Tuesday, January 24, 2012

dark days of winter, meal 6: one pot meal challenge

the dark days of winter challenge is starting to have some theme and challenge weeks here and there. this week's theme is soups and one pot meals. i decided to challenge myself to see if i could make this from what i already had in the kitchen with zero shopping or planning. sometimes i think i do better when there are limitations that force me to become creative.

on the menu
  • hearty winter stew with chicken and cabbage
  • rosemary beer bread

dark days meal 6, plated

local ingredients
  • whole chicken from fickle creek farm (efland, nc, 44 miles)*
  • wheat berries from singing turtle farm (dunn, nc, 54 miles)*
  • cabbage from ben's produce (clayton, nc, 33 miles) (CSA)*
  • homemade chicken stock from my freezer
  • sweet josie brown ale from lonerider brewery
  • bay leaves from east wake apiary (wake county, nc, exact mileage unknown) *
  • whole wheat bread flour from singing turtle farm (dunn, nc, 54 miles)*
  • rosemary from our yard (apex, nc, 15 feet)
* purchased at western wake farmers market

non-local ingredients
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic
  • onion
  • butter
  • baking powder
easy: honestly i thought this would be harder. i turn out to have a really well stocked fridge and pantry. lol.

challenging: the challenge here was staying local. there were some things in my fridge that needed to be used and were not local--i couldn't see the value of seeking out the local counterpart to something i already had if it meant wasting something. so--i used the half an onion in my crisper rather than try to find a local onion. for all i know, it WAS a local onion--either way--it went in the stew.


hearty winter stew with chicken and cabbage
this one's 100% made up.
1 whole chicken
1 cup wheat berries
1/2 large yellow onion
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic
2-3 bay leaves
1 small to medium head of green cabbage
1 cup dark beer
salt and pepper to taste

directions: about 6 hours before eating, cut chicken into 8 pieces, and place into a slow cooker. roughly chop onion, then add it, along with the wheat berries, to the pot. add chicken stock, water, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. cook on high for about 4 hours. while this is cooking, go ahead and roughly chop the cabbage. set aside for later. after 4 hours of cooking time, remove chicken, pull the meat from the bones. discard skin and bones, then return meat to the pot. add cabbage and beer. continue to cook from about 2 more hours until wheat berries are just starting to split.

beer bread with rosemary
this is based on the beer bread recipe on the food network's website. i changed the type of flour, added rosemary, and cut the butter in half, but the original concept is still theirs. :)
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
~1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
12 ounces dark beer
1/4 cup melted butter

preheat oven to 375 degrees. butter a 9x5 baking pan. sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. (note: when i sifted my locally milled flour, the sifter wanted to keep much of the wheat berry hulls and other bits of the rough flour. i did sift, but i also dumped those back in. my point was to aerate the flour more than to "strain" it, so to speak. if you wanted fluffier bread, you could leave those things out, but i wanted all the nutrition that comes with the WHOLE wheat berry being included.) whick 1/2 the rosemary into the dry ingredients. add beer, and stir just until mixed. pour into greased loaf pan. pour melted butter over mixture. bake about 1 hour until golden brown and crusty. cool in pan for 5 minutes, then move to wire rack. let sit for at least 10 minutes more before slicing.

family ruling
i knot that picture up there isn't the most stunning, but trust me, people. this. was. awesome. we had friends over for dinner, and the vote for awesomeness was unanimous. it was warm and comforting and delicious, as well as ridiculously healthy. the 8-year-old at the table ate two big bowls, and i think all the grown-ups did as well. this is one made up recipe i'll be hanging onto! the bread as well was a pleasant surprise. i had heard good things about the beer bread recipe, but i was a little reluctant to try it with the dark flour and beer--it was fantastic and went really well with the stew. also--it's worth noting that all of this held up very well--the leftovers i ate for lunch a few days after this was made were probably even better than the freshly made stuff. YUM!

further thoughts
a note on beer and broth. this is something i have never done--add beer to broth. i've read countless recipes for stews and soups that use beer, but for reasons i can't even begin to think, it never occured to me to actually make one before. but i was about to add the cabbage to the stew, and i kept tasting it, and thinking it was missing something...something to give it a little more kick and add to the heartiness of the dish...something a little bitter to balance the sweet cabbage i was about to add. BEER! it was right there in front of me, so i tried it--totally the right thing.

also a first for me: wheat berries. sharon, the farmer at my market who is growing wheat and milling flour had some of these for sale, and i was like, wha??? she assured me that they were delicious, and that you could add them to hot, long cooking cereals like steel cut oats, or to soups where you would normally use barley or brown rice or something like that. i admit, i was a little nervous about them. rice in stews can get mushy, and barley can make them too thick. but. i had them, i wanted something different, and i needed a starchy something in the stew for body. OMG, they are fantastic! they turned out like rice, but chewier, a tiny bit crunchy, and not mushy at all. after 6 hours on high, they were just starting to split and release a little thickening wheat germ into the stew. all of us really liked both the texture and the slightly sweet flavor they brought to the table. so. good. one of those foods i now wonder where it's been all my life. if you can get your hand on some, i can't recommend them enough.

so yeah. success.


Sincerely, Emily said...

Nice one-pot meal! I giggled when you said you added beer. When I feel something is missing from my soup, I always add more vinegar to it. I can totally see how beer would add another layer of flavor. Emily


Jes said...

Perfect looking soup--especially with the wheat berries! I never remember to use mine, now I have some great inspiration!