Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Stew with Kalamata Olives

The healthy, elegant people at Aloha inspired me to share some winter tips for staying healthy. Living in Austin, my winter routine isn't that different from my spring, summer or even fall routine. I walk outside as much as possible, do yoga when I can and cook often. I don't fret about things like cooking with butter or heavy cream as long as I'm adding them to a vegetable (or at least there's a vegetable involved.)

But this year we've actually had a winter. I feel dirty writing that given it's nothing like what the Northeast has had but for us's been real. It's even had me researching cozy winter stews that also satisfy a hangry appetite like mine. And here is the queen of them all.

When I first made this recipe, lightly adapted from Cookin' Canuck, I fully expected to have to add parmesan cheese to make it edible. I thought it was going to taste like it sounded...healthy.

Wrong. Maybe it's the use of chicken thighs instead of breasts that gives it so much flavor. Maybe it's the comforting, soft bite of the sweet potatoes followed by the salty punch from the kalamata olives.

Or maybe it was simply a lesson that not everything has to have parmesan cheese in it. Who knew?

The original recipe uses butternut squash but because I had a surplus of sweet potatoes from Johnon's Backyard Garden, I used them instead. I also browned the chicken thighs instead of simmering them because I'm lazy and it was one less step. Next time I might even try skipping steaming the sweet potatoes first since happiness truly is only having to clean one pot after dinner.

Hopefully soon we'll be swapping winter stews for spring inspired dishes.

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Stew with Kalamata Olives

Adapted from original recipe by 
Serves 6
  • 1½ lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 1½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, seasoned lightly with salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pitted and quartered kalamata olives, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • pinch red pepper flakes, optional
  • ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley plus extra for garnish
  1. Steam the sweet potatoes until tender, about 12-15 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to a large dutch oven and set over medium heat, add the chicken. Sauté until just brown on all sides, about 4-6 minutes.
  3. Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate and set aside.
  4. Add more olive oil if necessary just to coat the bottom of the pan and add the onions. Cook stirring often (still over medium heat) until soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Add the salt, oregano and garlic. Cook, stirring often for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the sweet potatoes, bay leaf, nutmeg, tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer.
  7. Add the chicken back to the pot and bring to a boil for two minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the quinoa, cover and cook until the quinoa turns translucent, about 15 minutes.
  8. At this point you can carefully remove and shred the chicken (or at least break it up with a wooden spoon as I do because I'm lazy.)
  9. Stir in the olives, red pepper if using and 1/4 cup parsley.
  10. Taste for seasoning and serve with additional parsley.