After four turkey-sandwich lunches and several leftover-turkey improvisations, it was time for a change. We savored our first dinner without the bird–NY strip steaks with mashed potatoes and buttered peas. But then, given our cholesterol levels, it was time to get back to non red-meat meals. One of these was last night’s entrée, a recent New York Times recipe for Greek Chicken Stew With Cauliflower and Olives. Its use of cinnamon in the tomato-based sauce and feta-cheese garnish intrigued me.
I must admit that a shopping error gave me some pause when I discovered that rather than purchasing skinned chicken thighs, I had purchased not only skinless but boneless thighs. Despite this mistake, the dish turned out quite well, with moist meat and a succulent savory sauce. I still believe, however, that it would have been even better with bone-in thighs.
I should also note a few other changes that I made to the recipe. I used a little more cinnamon, dried thyme, vinegar, olives and parsley than was called for in the recipe. To heighten the Greek character of the dish, I also added some dried oregano. Most of these changes were done for flavor, but the additional vinegar was required to fully deglaze the pot after browning the chicken.
Rather than adding the cauliflower after the first twenty minutes of cooking, I added it at the beginning along with the chicken since I’ve learned from cooking this vegetable in a plain tomato sauce requires at least 40 minutes for my tastes.
I’m providing the recipe in its original format with my notations, but I think you can alter it in a variety of other ways to make it your own. One alternative cited in readers’ comments to the recipe was roasting the cauliflower in the oven before adding it to the pot.
Greek Chicken Stew With Cauliflower and Olives (adapted from the New York Times)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I needed a little more oil than was called for.)
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced (I used two large cloves.)
- 6 to 8 chicken legs and/or thighs, skinned (I opted for nine thighs.)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used at least 4 tablespoons.)
- 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice, pulsed in a food processor (I chose Pomi’s Finely Chopped Tomatoes rather than pulsing.)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon ( I used about ¾ teaspoon.)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (I used ¾ teaspoon dried.)
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano (This is my addition.)
- 1 small or 1/2 large cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
- 12 kalamata olives (about 45 grams), rinsed, pitted and cut in half (optional) (I used about 24 olives.)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (I upped this to 3 tablespoons.)
- 1 to 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional) (The feta is essential.)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep, heavy lidded skillet or casserole and brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the pieces to a plate or bowl as they’re browned. Pour off the fat from the pan. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and let the onion cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until it is lightly browned and very soft.
- Add the garlic and stir together for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, then add the tomatoes and their juice, the cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is reduced slightly and fragrant.
- Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. If necessary, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. (As I said above, I added the cauliflower at this point.)
- Add the cauliflower and kalamata olives, (I also added some parsley here) and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and the chicken is just about falling off the bone. Stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with grains, with the feta sprinkled on top if desired. (I served with steamed rice.)
Wine Pairing: Syrah, Cotes du Rhone