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Nyonya Delicacies

Making a Chicken Stew

(Newsletter Issue #004)


How to prepare and make a chicken stew

Chicken stews are made by first cooking chicken pieces in a small amount of butter, olive oil, or other fat, then adding a liquid such as broth or stock, wine or vinegar and cooking, covered until the chicken is tender. Once the chicken is done, the stewing liquid is usually thickened to make a sauce, but it is occasionally served, gravy-like, around the chicken.


A garniture may be cooked along with the chicken, or cooked separately and added at the end, Chicken stews differ from chicken sautés in that stewed chicken is cooked in liquid that is eventually bound to make the sauce, while sautéed chicken is cooked all the way through in fat alone (butter or oil).


For a chicken sauté, liquid is added to the pan to make a sauce only after the chicken has been removed, Stewed chicken has a milder flavor than sautéed chicken and the skin is soft, not crispy. Technically speaking, chicken stews are short-braises, because chicken is tender and lean enough that it need only be braised for a short time.


Chicken stews offer myriad possibilities for the creative cook. Liquids and garnitures can be varied almost endlessly to change the character of the basic stew. But beyond a change in ingredients, the way the chicken is cooked also substantially changes the flavor of the dish. So-called white chicken stew are stews in which the chicken is cooked in the fat just long enough to cook the skin but not to brown it, producing a stew with light-colored sauce and a delicate chicken flavor. In a brown chicken stew, the chicken is thoroughly browned before liquid is added. This additional caramelization deepens the flavor of the chicken and results in a darker-colored, stronger-flavored sauce. Brown chicken stew can accommodate more assertive ingredients, such as red wine or vinegar, that would overpower the taste of chicken that has not been browned.


If you prefer a delicate-flavored, light -colored chicken dish with a creamed or herbed sauce, make a white chicken stew. However if looking for a deeper, more concentrated chicken flavor, make a chicken sauté or a brown chicken stew instead.

Kitchen Tips

  • Cook chicken stews on top of the stove or in the oven.

  • Keep the liquid at a bare simmer during cooking.

  • Cook the chicken in butter if the sauce will be finished with cream.

  • As a refinement for any chicken stew, after cooking, pull the ribs and other small bones away from the inside of the chicken breast and cut off the small bone that attaches to the breast near the wing.

  • You'll need 2 to 3 tablespoons fat to cook a chicken for either a white or brown stew. Keep in mind that this fat, plus additional fat rendered by the skin, will be discarded.

White Chicken Stew with Wine Vinegar

  1. Gently cook the chicken pieces in butter on both sides until the skin no longer looks raw. Pour over enough liquid to come a quarter of the way up the sides of the chicken.
Cooking chicken pieces in butter.
  1. Cover and simmer over low to medium heat until the chicken pieces feel firm to the touch which takes about 15 minutes in average. Then transfer the chicken to plates or a platter and keep them warm.
Cover and simmer.
  1. Tilt the pan so the liquid collects at one side. Spoon off any fat floating on top of the liquid. Discard the fat.
Tilt the pan.
  1. Reduce the liquid slightly to thicken it. Pour in heavy cream and continue to reduce until the liquid has a sauce-like consistency.
Pour in heavy cream.
  1. Pull the ribs and other small bones away from the inside of the chicken breasts.
Pull the ribs and other small bones away.
  1. Cut off the small bone attached to each breast near the wing.
Cut off the small bone.
  1. Garnish with glazed vegetables. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and spoon over the chicken.
Garnish with galzed vegetables.

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