Monday, October 30, 2017

Joey's Autumn Harvest Stew

Ok, so let's talk about my FAVORITE new recipe in quite a long time.
Every so often, I'll come up with an idea that I can't seem to get out of my head, and this was absolutely one of those times. I was thinking that I wanted to do a savory something with fresh pumpkin. A one-pot dish sounded like a good idea... maybe a soup? or a stew? Yes, definitely something along those lines. I also thought it might be cool to add a few other autumnal ingredients. Another kind of squash, maybe some corn, and definitely something green for color. I also had the idea to include barley to add a little body to the stew. Again, ideas that just stick in my mind until I go ahead and try them. I did some googling, found a couple recipes to use as inspiration, and this was the result! This stew has the most AMAZING flavor, you won't even believe it. I'm not even kidding when I tell you that I couldn't stop eating it! It's rich but not heavy, hearty but not too filling, fresh but still very deep with flavor. It's also cozy and comforting and it'll definitely hit the spot. It only took about an hour to make, but it has the taste of something that is simmered all afternoon. And it lends itself to any number of variations. I think that's one of my favorite things about this recipe. I'll probably NEVER make it the same way twice! Want to make it completely vegetarian? Use vegetable broth and leave out the meat. Don't like barley? Add rice instead! The possibilities are endless.
 I think the reason I love this one so much is that it feels like something my Mom would make. She used to say to me "Just put it in a pot and let it cook." It sounds simple, but seriously, that's how she always did it. It's definitely the best way to cook and it's how I learned! So you should absolutely give this one a try. It definitely tastes like home, like a big hug in a bowl.
 I hope you like it :)

2 tbs butter 
2 tbs olive oil 
1 medium onion, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, chopped
several sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with cotton twine 
2 tbs fresh sage, chopped
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 tsp kosher salt 
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika 
2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
1 can cream style corn
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup pearl barley, uncooked 
2 big handfuls of kale, chopped
1/2 rotisserie chicken, pulled from the bone and shredded
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flour 
crisped and crumbled bacon, optional

In a large pot, melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute for just a few minutes until the onions begin to soften and the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the herbs, seasonings, pumpkin, and acorn squash. Toss all until well coated. Add the corn and the chicken broth. Bring it to a bowl then reduce the heat to simmer. Add the barley and give it a good stir. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Add the chopped kale and the shredded chicken. Stir in the cream. Make a slurry with the flour and 1/2 cup cold water. Add to the pot. Stir and simmer until it thickens. Adjust seasoning if needed. Remove thyme bundle and bay leaves from the pot. Serve deep soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with crumbled bacon, if desired.

This is one of those recipes where you really don't need a recipe. The amounts are just guidelines. Taste as you go, and add as much or as little as you like. It will all work!
I used pumpkin and sweet dumpling squash, but you can use butternut, acorn, or literally any of the nearly 150 varieties that are out there. Use any kind you like! Use potatoes instead of barley, add carrots, parsnips, turnips, or any other root vegetable. Use the recipe as a springboard to make it your own!

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