So I know I’ve been all about my mate Theresa’s gorgeous debut cookbook: Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen. And a lovely book it is. However, that is not to say that there aren’t other lovely cookbooks out there…and another one I’m all about is: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong & David Hagedorn.
I have not had the pleasure of meeting Chef Armstrong, but I am certainly a big fan. Chef Cathal Armstrong, originally from Dublin Ireland, has a culinary empire here in Northern Virginia which includes Restaurant Eve, the Majestic Cafe, two branches of Eamonn’s – A Dublin Chipper, PX cocktail lounge and Society Fair a gourmet emporium and wine bar. He is an internationally recognized four-star chef and leader in the sustainable food movement which he attributes firmly to his Irish upbringing. Chef Armstrong has brought forth this cookbook which contains a collection of family recipes and Irish inspired dishes from Restaurant Eve. It is from this cookbook that I take this recipe for Chicken Casserole, which he fondly calls “President Obama Stew”. According to Chef Armstrong, it seems that on Saturday October 9th of 2011, while taking a little time off of work and preparing his mother’s chicken casserole for a family dinner, he received an unexpected call from his restaurant manager at Restaurant Eve. The Obamas were coming for dinner. And it wasn’t just any old dinner for them, that night they would be celebrating their nineteenth wedding anniversary. Well, needless to say, the family chicken casserole was forgotten as he rushed back in to the restaurant. The recipe I give you today is that casserole. Now I would definitely be a bit remiss if I told you that i wasn’t a little bit sorry that the Obamas didn’t dine on this casserole. Nevertheless, this is an amazing dish!
Cooked low and slow, this chicken is so savory, so succulent and so all around spectacular it is definitely elevated from a mere casserole rating. Now I will admit, I did make a couple of wee changes. The Chef does call for the use of an entire cut up chicken. I did decide to go with solely chicken thighs – less choice but better for consistency in cooking. That being said, when I cook this again- oh and I will – I will use skinless boneless thighs and will remove the bones and shred the chicken once the casserole is cooked through. But to each his own. I also LOVE mushrooms and decided to throw in some portobello mushrooms. I hope the Chef will forgive my adaptations. I will tell you this casserole, or stew even, is brilliant all on its own – so savory, thick and hearty with just the right amount of spice (who would’ve known 20 cloves of garlic was just the right amount…) but it is absolutely amazing when served over mashed potatoes.
A feast worthy of St. Patrick himself I tell you! I assure you folks will be over the moon if you serve up this feast on St. Patrick’s Day. Heck with the 20 cloves of garlic in this baby, you wouldn’t go wrong serving this up on Halloween – t’would definitely keep the vampires at bay! Though seriously, if you want to treat yourself to some amazing Irish recipes, beautiful photography and various cooking tips in general, invest in a copy of Chef Armstrong’s My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve.
Chef Armstrong's Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew)
- 1 (3 1/2 pound ) chicken – cut into 14 pieces – (or….I just used 3 1/2 lbs of chicken thighs)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large yellow onion, very coarsely chopped
- 6 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch coins
- 6 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 – inch dice
- 8 oz. portobello mushrooms, washed and sliced (*optional – my addition)
- 20 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped (yup…not a misprint….20!)
- 1 (28 oz) can whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), coarsely chopped, and their juices
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 large fresh bay leaves
- 1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped, with seeds
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- Leaves from 1 large bunch fresh bails (1 cup loosely packed) coarsely chopped.
If the chicken you purchase is not already cut up into pieces, then cut your chicken in 14 pieces, making 6 breast pieces, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and 4 wing joints. (Or just use a big old package of thighs – this is per me-not Chef Armstrong). Season them well with salt.
Brown the chicken in a large pan over high heat. Arrange all of the chicken evenly in the pan skin-side down and cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown. The pieces should release easily from the bottom of the pan; if they don’t , let them brown longer until they don Transfer the pieces to a flameproof casserole, arranging them skin side up. ( I used my largest Le Creuset dutch oven.)
Add the onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms (if you are adding them) to the sauté pan, stirring to combine them. Sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes until they are translucent but still bit firm. As they cook and water releases from them, use a flat edged wooden spatula to deglaze the pan by scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Stir in the garlic (seriously…don’t be scared- use all 20 cloves – the stew will taste amazing and somehow not over garlic-y) and then the tomatoes and flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the bay leaves, serrano chile, chicken stock, thyme and rosemary.
Transfer the vegetable mixture to the casserole. Bring to a boil then decrease the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer slowly for 45 to 60 minutes, until the chicken and vegetables are very tender. Remove the stew from he heat. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if you like. (Truth be told – here is where I would recommend removing the chicken pieces from the stew. Shred the chicken meat from the bones and stir the meat back into the stew mixture.) Stir in the basil leaves at the last second before driving. The stew can be made a day before and gently reheated on the stove or in a 300°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
I have served this chicken casserole all on its own or over mashed potatoes and I gotta say – Mashed Potatoes are the way to go. I am sure it would also be good over rice, but again go with the Mashed Potatoes for the win!
Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Chef Armstrong’s Chicken Casserole (aka President Obama Stew):
Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Potato Ricer – The key to perfect unbelievably creamy – dare I say dreamy – mashed potatoes every single time. Well, this and a good amount of butter and cream…