Oven Roasted Chicken Stew with Polenta
For stew: 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trim some of the fat)
28 ounce can Roma tomatoes, chopped into large chunks, juice reserved
3-4 carrots, cut into large chunks
3 celery ribs, cut into large pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ dice
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2″ to 1″ dice
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Good quality balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
6 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups coarse, stone-ground cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter
Heat oven to 350-375 degrees.
Place a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken thighs and sear well on both sides, but don’t cook all the way through.
Remove the chicken thighs from the pan and place in a large casserole, Dutch oven, or roasting pan.
Add the onions to the skillet (you may need to add a small amount of oil if there isn’t a lot of chicken fat in the pan). Cook for a few minutes and add the garlic. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the red peppers, carrots, and celery. Cook for a few minutes longer until the peppers and celery start to soften.
Add the vegetables to the casserole or Dutch oven along with the tomatoes and reserved juice. Stir a little to distribute everything. Add the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.
Place the dish in the oven to cook for about 45 minutes to an hour. Everything will have darkened and some of the veggies on top will have roasted. Make sure the chicken has become tender. If not, it may need a little more time.
Serve on top of polenta and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Serves 4–good size.
Spray a 9″ by 13″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the salt. Add the cornmeal in a slow stream while stirring with a long-handed wooden spoon. Lower the heat so the water is still bubbling, but not a rolling boil. Cook the polenta until it gets very thick and the edges start to come away from the pan. Add the butter.
Pour into the prepared pan. Let sit for a few minutes to cool for soft polenta, or let stand for 20 minutes for a firmer polenta.
The next morning, we often fry slices of polenta in a little oil in a skillet, and serve with a poached egg, or maple syrup.)
Things to Remember:
1) Make sure you stir constantly. This will prevent lumps.
2) Most important–Be very, very careful while you stir. Those bubbles get pretty big and when they burst, the hot polenta can splash and really burn you. I have quite a few scars. Wear really good and long oven mits to protect yourself.