Upon learning that I had never prepared a stewing hen, Jeff from Copicut Farms suggested I try one since he knows I like to experiment in the kitchen.
Spoiler Alert: 15 minutes in a pressure cooker does the trick, although I know one can have equally excellent results using a crock pot or simmering or braising the bird long and slow on the stove top or in the oven.
The other spoiler alert: Stewing hens are UG-U-LY!
The hen with the ingredients (other than the neck- I put that in the freezer to use later for stock or a gravy base) going into the pressure cooker.
This angle shows just how skinny the breast is.
I was a bit short on time and I also had a hankering for garbanzo beans since, in my research, I had come across some recipes that combined chicken and chick peas, as garbanzos are also known, in a hearty stew, hence my opting for the pressure cooker method.
I came up with an outline for a recipe, posted it on Facebook so I would have it in writing, and onward into the kitchen I went to get the beans into a quick soak before cooking them with the chicken and barley. I had decided I wanted a stew and barley seemed a good choice for a fall concoction.
There are some variations in instructions for soaking beans, but generally, dried legumes bigger than lentils or peas need to be soaked about 8 hours and then drained before cooking in fresh water. If short on time, you cover the beans by about an inch of water in a pot, bring it to a boil, remove from heat, and let sit covered for an hour in lieu of the longer soak.
In a real pinch, you can opt to cook beans in the pressure cooker without any soaking, but unsoaked garbanzos would have taken way longer than the chicken and barley; plus, I’d rather soak beans so as to make them more digestible.
While the beans soaked, I gathered the first set of ingredients and cut up the chicken and seasoned it with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Cut up and seasoned with salt and pepper
Once the beans were ready to go, I lightly browned the chicken in some olive oil, added a clove or two of garlic, (about a scant tablespoon chopped) stirred until fragrant, and then added the soaked and drained garbanzos and 1/2 cup pearl barley that I had first picked over and rinsed. I tossed in two bay leaves and topped it all off with 6 cups of water, closed the lid, brought to pressure, and cooked for 15 minutes.
lightly browned and garlic just added
chicken, with the garbanzos, barley, and 6 cups of water ready to go.
After the 15 minutes, I removed the pressure cooker from heat and let it sit until the pressure came down naturally and the pot could be opened safely. (You can run a pressure cooker under cold water – the fast release method – but it can wreak havoc with some foods, such as beans!)
First I removed the chicken.
Just so you know, while I left the skin on for the flavor, it sure does not look pretty!
Then I drained the beans and barley because they were almost too done and I still had carrots and leeks to cook in the liquid.
Chopped carrot and leek – both veggies from Farmer Dave.
Along with carrot and leek from Farmer Dave, I chopped up a bunch of fresh parsley from Flats Mentor Farm to make a 2-3 tablespoons, and added a teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried thyme to the liquid.
This parsley from Flats Mentor Farm is so gorgeous I had to take a picture.
I also had a tomato that was just about too ripe, so I chopped that up to add to the fun.
I was just using up a tomato, but I recommend keeping this ingredient in the recipe. 🙂
Next I brought the liquid back to boil, added the veggies, and simmered until the veggies were tender.
While that was going on, I picked the now cooled chicken off the bones and the skin off the chicken and pulled the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces.
The just over 2.5 lb chicken resulted in just over 9 ounces of meat.
Note how dark the meat it compared to that from a chicken raised for butchering. It makes for a nice deep flavor…Nothing against Copicut Farms regular chickens! Those rock, too. 🙂 And have more meat, of course.
Once the veggies were tender, I added the chicken, garbanzos, and barley back to the stock, and heated through.
All together and ready to heat through.
All done! Delicious.
A final touch of salt and pepper was all it needed. Quick, easy, tasty, nutritious. A winner! I’ll be asking Copicut Farms to bring some more stewing chickens to the market this week, that is for sure! And, thanks for the suggestion, Jeff! 🙂