Necessity is the mother of invention, especially within the realm of cooking.
By this point everyone has probably heard about Gwyneth Paltrow’s ill-fated food-stamp challenge. Personal thoughts aside, the actress did admit how inventive she had to be with the provisions bought. In an average week, I usually spend about that much on groceries (except this week– it sucks to be sick), which is easy enough to do since I shop at ALDI, but figuring out something to do with my provisions once I get home is always tricky, especially since seasonings are so expensive.
One day, on a whim, I decided to season the chicken I was baking with maple syrup. (Because, why not?) It smelled terrific, but I couldn’t really taste the maple when the cooking was done. I tried it again the next time I defrosted another chicken piece, using more maple. The chicken turned a beautiful gold color, but I still didn’t really taste it.
Then I hit on the idea of chicken stew. It smells great, and while the maple taste still isn’t as strong as I’d like, it’s better than when baked. I don’t have the recipe down to a science yet (I’m more of an eye-cook, honestly), but here’s the gist of it.
Chicken (I’m a liberal seasoner), onions, potatoes, and some other vegetable like celery or carrots: I drizzle maple over the chicken before I brown it, and then again when I add the vegetables. There’s water, too… enough to keep the stew from burning, but a light enough portion that it doesn’t drown the flavor. That’s the ratio I’m still working on.
It’s probably kind of a lucky discovery. Sometimes when you improvise in the kitchen, the results are great. And the rest of the time… well, then there’s the Vegetable Soup Incident. But we won’t talk about that. But speaking of soup, leftover maple chicken stew turns into excellent soup.