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May 7, 2007

EC's Southwest Chicken Stew

"It's a family joke that I just can't follow a recipe -- in fact more often than not I simply start throwing things together as the impulses occur to me! These have become known as "Mom's Experiments"! Sometimes they are winners ... and sometimes only the garbage can eats well that night!!

This 'Southwest Chicken Stew' (so named by my son) is one of the big hits! It's so yummy I had to share my recipe, such as it is. But true to form, I couldn't even follow my own original recipe!! Originally I slow cooked everything together for a long, long time (usually overnight), and then pulled out the chicken pieces to pull or shred the meat and re-add it to the stew. In my latest version, I stew the chicken alone, in either a pot on the stove or in a slow cooker (if slow cooker, 8 hours on low usually does it - I do this while I'm at work). Then I debone and shred the chicken (shredding or "pulling" meat is a technique of using two forks, going in opposite directions), and then (finally) I add everything else together and slow cook it long enough to heat everything through.

If you prefer a vegetarian version, simply omit the meat and use vegetable broth or water."

8-12 pieces of chicken
(whatever cut you like; amount depends on how much chicken you like, we like tons!)
1 reg. sz. can black beans, drained
1 reg. sz. cans enchilada sauce
2 reg. sz. can diced tomatoes (plain or flavored), not drained
1 small can finely diced, mild green chilies
(straight from the can is never chopped fine enough for my taste so I always dice even finer, or put through a processor or chopper; otherwise tiny bits can remain tough, even after slow cooking. Drain if you don't like any heat at all, leave undrained for the extra zing)
1 reg. sz. can creamed corn
(2 cans if you really like corn; regular canned kernel corn can be used, but be sure to drain first)
1 reg. sz. can of cheese soup
(for instance, Campbell's Nacho Cheese Soup)
1 small can mushrooms, not drained
(or fresh mushrooms, if you prefer and have on hand)
1 whole onion, diced fine
(can substitute dried onion flakes, if you like)
2 small garlic cloves, minced very fine or put through a garlic press
Have some stock or water on hand, just in case it all gets too thick
Your favorite kind of pasta, or rice, or this is even good as a baked potato topper

Layer the chicken in either a stew pot or slow cooker, add a bit of salt between layers. If you want to flavor your chicken, go ahead and add the usual rough chopped/chunked stewing vegetables such as onions, celery, carrots, leftover vegetable stems (such as broccoli, cauliflower cores, etc.) - whatever you have on hand, or whatever suits your tastes. Then add enough water to cover.

If stewing on the stove, bring up to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer about 4-5 hours (until pink is gone and chicken either pulls away from the bone easily, or simply falls off the bone of its own accord!).

If cooking in a slow cooker, start on high for about an hour then turn down to low and slow cook much, much longer - usually overnight or 10-12 hours.

With either method (stew pot or slow cooker), the longer simmering time is especially important if you start with frozen chicken - you want to make certain the chicken is cooked all the way through, no pink is left, and all bacteria has been killed.

When the stewing/slow cooking is done - pull out all the meat, but discard all the water/broth and vegetables. Next, debone the chicken (e.g., remove all bones and cartilage). Then, using two forks positioned back to back begin"pulling" or shredding all the meat. You can also shred with your hands, but be sure to shred - and not simply chunk - the meat.

Here are photos of the pulling process and what the finished product should look like:

Next, mix all remaining ingredients in a large bowl, just to get everything thoroughly mixed and blended. Then mix in the pulled chicken, mixing thoroughly to coat all chicken with the stew. Once again, place everything in either a stew pot or slow cooker, and simmer just long enough to heat everything through evenly. Stir every now and again to keep from sticking. If it appears to be getting too thick, simply add more stock or water.

While the Stew is heating through, prepare your pasta or whatever you've chosen. When everything is done, for individual servings and preferences, simply spoon desired amount of stew over desired amount of pasta and enjoy!!

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