Did you know there is a difference between a so-called “meat chicken” and the hens that are bred for egg laying and sometimes sold as “stewing hens” – even among the quality free range, pastured chickens those who follow a nutrient dense paleo style diet are always looking for? I recently learned this lesson when I placed my last meat and egg order from our local farmer… and not exactly intentionally!
We are part of Polyface Farm’s urban buying club, allowing us to get pasture-raised meat and eggs conveniently and at a reasonable price while supporting our local economy. Two or three times a year we place a big order with them, for a 1/4 cow or a 1/2 a pig, and every month during egg laying season I pick up a month’s worth of eggs and also a few cuts that sound interesting to me and challenge my culinary horizons (hence the pig’s heart still hanging out in the freezer waiting for me to get brave!). I’ve discovered that sometimes the cheapest cuts are the most exciting, like the recipe I created for braised oxtail, so when I saw “stewing hens” listed for almost $1 less per pound than the regular whole broilers, I virtually tossed one in my shopping basket.
I didn’t have a clear plan as to what I was going to do with this bird, but as soon as I saw it I realized that it was quite different than the store bought whole chickens or even the free range broilers we often get. Skinny and lanky would probably be the best way to describe it. It had diminutive breasts, and long thin legs. Clearly, my perfect roast chicken recipe was not going to work for this one! Being small breasted and skinny myself, I had a lot of sympathy for this old girl though and I appreciated the many nourishing eggs she and her comrades had provided us. So I was determined to honor her life by making something truly delicious, which I’m happy to report this recipe definitely is!
This was inspired by a recipe for stewed hen with leeks and prunes in Jennifer McGruther’s beautiful new book devoted to eating “real foods” from farm to table, The Nourished Kitchen. I highly recommend this cookbook, regardless of what style of eating you follow. It is gorgeous and inspiring!
Notes for healing diets:
- Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) – Do not use the optional cream and make sure you use a non-dairy cooking fat if you don’t tolerate ghee or grassfed butter. Otherwise, this is compliant as written.
- Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) – Do not use the optional cream. You could try substituting some 24-hour yogurt, but it might add too much of a sour flavor. Let me know in the comments if you do!
- Low-FODMAP – Garlic, fennel, and mushrooms are high in FODMAPs. Try replacing them with more carrots, celery, and possibly potatoes if they are part of your normal diet.
Mediterranean Chicken Stew Recipe:
- 1 stewing hen (or regular whole chicken)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut into quarters
- 3 tablespoons grassfed butter, ghee, or other cooking fat
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly (reserve fronds for garnish)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 ounces button mushrooms
- 2 medium carrots
- ⅓ cup kalamata or black olives
- zest from 1 orange
- OPTIONAL - ½ cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place hen/chicken in large stock pot and cover with water. Add bay leaves, peppercorns, and onion.
- Bring to boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, or until meat is beginning to pull away from bone.
- Remove hen/chicken. When it is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred (be sure to save bones and skin for future bone broth making). Set aside.
- Reserve 7 cups of the broth to return to the stew later. Save the remainder for another use.
- In now empty stock pot, melt cooking fat and saute fennel, carrots, and mushrooms with salt to taste for 3-5 minutes or until slightly softened and aromatic. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add chicken and 7 cups of broth. Bring to simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add olives, orange zest, and optional cream just prior to serving. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with chopped fennel frond for garnish.
More ways to cook a stewing hen from some of my blogger friends…
- Chicken and Dumplings – Happy Money Saver
- Stock in a Crock Pot – Stepha Friendly Foods
- Old Hen in Parsley Sauce – Reformation Acres
Shared on Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable.