A few weeks ago, I set out to make the perfect mid-winter chicken stew. I wanted something that was herby, woodsy and deeply savory — the kind of recipe I could see myself making if I finally decamped to an isolated cabin at the edge of some spooky woods (one of my enduring pandemic-era fantasies).
With that as my inspiration, I quickly cobbled together the ingredient list: flavorful skin-on chicken thighs, earthy mushrooms and carrots, smoky paprika and delicate, buttery leeks. While tarragon is typically associated with springtime dishes, it adds a really lovely, subtle anise-like flavor that underscores the richness of the stew — especially when paired with a splash of acidity from dry white wine.
The best part of the recipe? The homemade schmaltzy croutons that get added as the stew is ladled into individual bowls. Schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat, is an ingredient that's common in Eatern European and Jewish cooking. Basically liquid gold, it can be bought in small tubs from most butcher counters. Use it to add a luxe savoriness to everything from potatoes to fried bits of bread.
Recipe: Chicken and Wild Mushroom Stew with Schmaltzy Croutons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 pound bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 leeks — just the white and light green portions — finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces mixed wild mushrooms (blends like this are often available at the supermarket)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
- 1 tablespoon of schmaltz
- 1/2 cup bread, torn
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. Salt and pepper evenly before seasoning with smoked paprika. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sear the chicken thighs skin-side down until the skin gets brown and no longer sticks to the pot — about 4 minutes — before flipping and sautéing until completely cooked.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
- Add the butter to the pot, followed by the garlic and chopped leeks. Allow them to cook until just softened, then add the mixed wild mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste and sauté until the mushrooms are slightly browned and the entire mixture is fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the wine to the pot and stir, really taking care to scrape up the browned bits from the chicken and alliums (that's where a lot of flavor is found). Bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to reduce by half. Add the chicken stock, carrots and tarragon and continue to let the pot simmer.
- Meanwhile, shred or cube the chicken thighs. Feel free to discard the skins (or save them to render your own schmaltz!), incorporate them into the stew or fry them as a crispy topping. Add the chicken to the stew and continue to simmer while making the croutons.
- In a shallow pan, melt 1 tablespoon of schmaltz. Use it to toast the torn bread until golden brown. Rest your croutons on a paper towel to drain any excess fat and season with salt and pepper.
- Divide the soup in bowls and top with croutons and chopped parsley.
More super simple recipes to make this week:
- The viral feta pasta dish everyone's raving about is even better without pasta
- A chocolate sandwich tastes exactly as comforting as it sounds — and it's sublime
- This riff on a classic Southern pie is comfort in a bite — and the leftovers taste great for breakfast
- French-inspired lentils are the easiest cure for your winter blues — and they're impossible to mess up
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