If you are thinking about a warming, hearty dinner, chicken stew is one of those recipes that always spring to mind. You can make lots of different versions of chicken stew and this dish has a very interesting history spanning thousands of years.
A stew is when two or more foods are simmered in a liquid and the liquid is served with the contents. Hungarian goulash, beef stroganoff, beef bourguignon, and coq au vin are all examples of stew recipes.
The oldest cookbook to survive, the „Apicius de re Coquinaria“, features lamb and fish stew recipes. It is not known who penned the book but there were three Romans with that name living between 1 BC and 2AD and the book is believed to date from that time.
That is not the beginning of stew history because we have discovered evidence that primitive tribes boiled food together, which is what a stew essentially is. Amazonian tribes liked to use turtle shells as cooking pots and they would boil turtle entrails with other ingredients to make primitive stews. Clamshells were used by other cultures and other kinds of shells, since they did not have cooking pots. The creation of pottery about ten thousand years ago, made stew cookery much simpler.
Domestic fowl has been around for thousands of years and chicken stew has been popular for a long time, with different cultures having their own versions of this dish. Examples include the spicy chicken stew found in Morocco or the peanut butter chicken stew favored in parts of Africa.
The Maze of Chicken Stew Types
One type of chicken stew, which is a couple of hundred years old, is chicken booyah. This is like a thick soup or a thin stew and is eaten in northeast Wisconsin. The first Belgian immigrants came to Wisconsin in 1853 and they spoke a language called Walloon, which is nothing like English or French. It is thought that the Belgian wrote down booyah because he did not know how to spell bouillon and the name stuck.
What is Southern Chicken Stew Anyway?
You might have heard of southern chicken stew too and it is still a very popular dish in some states, especially North Carolina. To make this dish, a whole chicken is parboiled in a milk or cream based broth and butter, salt, and pepper are added as well as other ingredients. This stew varies from thin to thick in consistency and from white to yellow in color, depending on the amount of butter or margarine used. Saltine crackers are often served with this dish.
Southern chicken stew is often served in the coolest months of the year and the phrase „chicken stew“ can refer to the gathering itself rather than the food. A chicken stew recipe is usually thought of as a comfort food because these recipes are cheap to make, enjoyed by nearly everybody and they are warming and flavorful. This is a common dish served at social gatherings such as church fellowships, family reunions, and community fundraisers.
The chicken stew at these events will often be made in a big cast iron or stainless steel cooking pot, maybe outdoors over an open fire. You might get coleslaw, a grilled cheese sandwich or rice served with the chicken stew.