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 two or more different foods simmered together in a liquid. Hungarian goulash, beef stroganoff, coq au vin, and beef bourguignon are all stews.
The oldest cookbook ever found, the „Apicius de re Coquinaria“, contains stew recipes, although these are fish and lamb stews rather than chicken stews. The identity of the author is unknown although there were three Romans with that name between 1 BC and 2 AD and the book is believed to date from that era.
You can actually go back even further because primitive tribes used to boil foods together, which is what a stew essentially is. Amazonian tribes uses turtle shells as pans and would boil the turtle entrails with some other ingredients. Other cultures used large shells, such as clamshells, instead of pans. Archeological evidence points to this type of cookery going back seven or eight thousand years. The invention of pottery, about ten thousand years ago, made cooking stews easier.
Fowl such as chicken has been domesticated for thousands of years and chicken stew has been a longstanding popular dish. Different cultures have different chicken stews, such as the peanut butter chicken stew preferred in parts of Africa and the spicy chicken stew made in Morocco.
Chicken Stew Varieties through Time
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.
Southern Style Chicken Stew
You might have tried southern chicken stew, which is a traditional North Carolina dish. This stew contains a parboiled whole chicken in a milk or cream based broth, butter, salt, and pepper, amongst other ingredients. Southern chicken stew varies in color from white to yellow, depending how much butter has been used. It varies from thin in consistency to creamy and thick. It is common to serve saltine crackers 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.