Stewed Chicken and Potatoes (and my #Whole30 update!)

Monday, January 06, 2020

Happy New Year! 2020 "officially" started today with the kids back in school and my inbox overflowing from a much needed holiday break. But before diving into work, I spent some time this morning getting my kitchen in order. Cleaning out the pantry is something I try to do at least quarterly, and it was a priority today because I am starting a new round of the Whole30 program! The past year has been full of major changes, and unfortunately with that came a lot of stress-eating, fast food, and overindulging. To keep it real, I feel fatigued, my digestive system is a wreck, and my eczema's been flaring up regularly. The medication I've been on caused weight gain, which comes with even more emotional baggage. All signs were pointing to my diet, so I'm happy to be kicking off the decade with a renewed commitment to being more mindful of what I eat. But here's the thing. I don't do diets, and Whole30 isn't one. It's thirty days without dairy, grains, added sugars, soy, alcohol, and legumes. Lots of foods in these categories tend to cause inflammation, so the idea is to eliminate for thirty days followed by gradual reintroduction until you've figured out what your body can handle. (You should read the full program details here.) It's not about counting calories or macros, weighing in, or any of the other activities that stress me out about dieting. The best thing about Whole30, besides the way I know I'll feel in a few weeks, is restoring my relationship with food. I still remember the initial shock of reading all the things you can't eat on the program. But what I quickly learned is that there is still a whole world of fresh food out there to choose from, and none of it has to make me feel sick.

Today's chicken stew is a great example of how you can still enjoy comfort food within the Whole30 program. This is just a good old-fashioned, rustic chicken stew with a couple minor ingredient swaps that make the recipe compliant. I used ghee as my cooking fat where I would have used butter, because ghee is lactose-free. Clarified butter, duck fat, or olive oil would also work well.  The potatoes help to thicken the broth, but I also added some tapioca starch, because flour and cornstarch are out. (Yes, you can still have your white potatoes! However, I'm careful not to go crazy with starchy root veggies every day.) This recipe is similar in method to my Stewed Chicken & Manioc, but I used a whole chicken here instead of all dark meat.

I'm not here to convince you to do your own Whole30, but I can definitely be a resource for advice and recipes if you've chosen to take that path. I'll be sharing many of my day to day meals on social media so you can grab some inspiration that way too. Five years ago, I wrote about my early experiences with Whole30 so that's a good place to start if you're new here. In my next post, I'll provide an update on what I keep in my pantry while I'm doing Whole30. The good news is that in the last five years, so many more brands have gotten behind this and it's not nearly as difficult to grocery shop for compliant ingredients anymore. (That's thanks in part to the advocacy of Melissa Hartwig Urban, Whole30's co-founder. I could write a whole post on my admiration for this woman, who I finally got to meet in person last summer!) With all that being said, if you never plan to try Whole30, my "regular" recipes will still be posted here. But I do hope you give some of these sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free meals a go as well, because I promise they hit just the same.

Stewed Chicken and Potatoes 

1 onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, sliced (discard the dark green parts or freeze for stocks)
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
4 carrots, chopped into bite-size pieces
4 to 5 lb whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces and skin removed
2 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Cracked black pepper, as needed
4 tbsp melted ghee or clarified butter, divided*
10 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, or to taste
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp mustard powder
2 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2" chunks
4 cups unsalted chicken stock, preferably homemade*
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tapioca starch, optional*
2 tsp apple cider vinegar

  • Duck fat or olive oil will also work in place of ghee. If you're not on Whole30, regular butter is fine.
  • When buying stocks or broths for Whole30, read ingredient labels. Many include sugar and other additives. 
  • Make sure to use the fine powder, not tapioca pearls. Cornstarch can be substituted if you're not doing Whole30.

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours.
Yield: Serves 6 - 8
Special Equipment: Dutch oven with lid

Before getting started, you should get your leeks, onion, celery, and carrots prepped. (I peel and chop my potatoes while these veggies cook.) Be sure to rinse between the layers in the leek thoroughly, as it tends to hold a lot of dirt.

You should also have your chicken cut up in advance. Separate the legs from the thighs and the wings from the breast. Cut each breast in half, making a total of ten pieces. Pull as much of the skin off as you can, but don't worry too much about the wings. (If you wish instead to use all dark meat, just buy the equivalent weight in bone-in chicken thighs and remove the skin.) Trim off excess fat. Season the chicken with two teaspoons of Kosher salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper.

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Melt two tablespoons of ghee in your Dutch oven over medium heat. To the pot, add the leeks, onion, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, just until the leeks and onions soften. After the first couple of minutes, season with a half teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of cracked pepper.

Stir in the garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, paprika, and mustard. Cook for another minute, until fragrant.

Layer the chicken pieces on top of the vegetables, dark meat first and breasts on top. (Nope, you don't need to sear it.) Drizzle with the remaining ghee.

Top the chicken with potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock. If it doesn't reach the level of the potatoes, add a little water to stretch. They don't need to be completely submerged. Place the thyme and bay leaves in the pot. Bring the stock up to a boil, then turn off the heat.

Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Transfer the pot to the center rack of the oven. Cook for 30 minutes, then return to the stovetop over medium-high heat. Check that the breasts are cooked through and remove; set them aside to cool. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch into a half cup of water, then add it to the pot. 

Bring the liquid back up to a boil and replace the lid. Transfer the pot back to the oven.

Allow the stew to cook until the potatoes are tender and meat is falling off the bones. Total cooking time in the oven will be around an hour, give or take. Fish out the bay leaves and thyme sprigs then give things a stir. Stir in the vinegar, which helps brighten up the flavors. Shred the breast meat and return it to the stew before serving.

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