Monday, March 5, 2012

Cauliflower Olive Chicken Stew


I love stews.

Comforting. Warm. Healthy. Great leftovers.

That's what I think when I think of stews. I got the idea for this Greek-inspired iteration of chicken stew from the fabulous New York Times column Recipes for Health: Chicken Stews to Savor, or Store Away. In it, Martha Rose Shulman writes about how her niece is about to give birth. She provides several chicken stew recipes that work great frozen (the article is worth checking out for all of them). My good friend just gave birth to twin girls.

This made me want to try out a stew recipe.

What made me choose this one over the others offered was the interesting combination of cauliflower, chicken, and cinnamon. I also loved that she finished it with crumbled feta, though it's great without it, too. She also uses chicken legs and thighs (which I always do), as they don't try out like breasts when braised. Also, they tend to be less expensive.

The resulting dish was everything that you wanted a stew to be (see my list above), yet it was also imbued with a touch of the exotic (this came from the cinnamon). It kept great in the fridge and tasted even better the next night for dinner. I would like to try freezing a portion in the future, too.

The next time I make it, I may try doing a version in my slow-cooker. I love my slow-cooker. And I have a feeling that this stew would taste even better after simmering away all day long.

Cauliflower Olive Chicken Stew
Adapted from Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: about one hour

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
  • 6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, with juice, pulsed in a food processor
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 small or 1/2 large cauliflower, cored, broken into florets
  • 12 pitted kalamata olives (about 45 grams)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep, heavy lidded skillet or casserole and brown the chicken, in batches if necessary, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the pieces to a plate or bowl as they’re browned. Pour off the fat from the pan. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and let the onion cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until it is lightly browned and very soft. 
  3. Add the garlic and stir together for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant, then add the tomatoes and their juice, the cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is reduced slightly and fragrant.
  4. Return the chicken pieces to the pot, along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. If necessary, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. 
  5. Add the cauliflower and kalamata olives and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and the chicken is just about falling off the bone. 
  6. Stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with grains, with the feta sprinkled on top if desired.
Advance preparation: The stew keeps for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator and freezes well. With leftovers, make a delicious rice casserole by spreading cooked rice over the bottom of a baking dish and topping with the chicken and sauce. Heat through for 20 minutes at 325 degrees.


  1. After I saw this recipe in the NYT, I too tried it, but found it not particularly flavorful. The cinnamon is the dominant flavor. Also, since some of the chicken starts to fall off the bone, there can be pieces of bone mixed in that are an unwelcome addition. I am thinking that boned thighs would be a better idea. It also looks like you left the olives and the cauliflower florets whole. Good idea! This improves the overall appearance.

    1. Thanks for your notes! Let's see if I can address:

      While not overpowering in flavor, I loved the cinnamon and the combination of the braised chicken, briny olivs, and tangy feta. The stew also kicked up in flavor after sitting for a day, as most stews are prone to do. This is also why I'd like to make it in my slow-cooker next time, as braising all day should work well. I do love braised chicken dishes.

      Also, I did leave the olives whole (they were pitted) and the cauliflower was chopped, but in larger pieces. That keeps more texture in the dish.

      Finally, I only used boneless, skinless organic chicken thighs (which is what I always use for my chicken stews). The legs with bones would probably add more flavor (from the bone), but I agree that picking out pieces of bone was not appealing. For this reason, I did not use them. I am amending the recipe to use the thighs only (thanks for pointing that out). I had left it as either since I figured the choice might be good. But I agree with you (and it was the reason I did not use the legs myself).

      Overall though I enjoyed this recipe. I'm always looking for different takes on braised chicken, which I find an affordable and easy choice for dinner, but can get routine after awhile. We ate it for 3 nights in a row.

      Thanks for your comment! xx