I am helping the siblings write down a few of the old family recipes. While I am not old as dirt yet, some of the recipes are pretty old and varied with season and income. That required a bit of creativity at times. Since we have all prospered some, the recipes have evolved. The situation where the recipe was first remembered is something I think is important. This recipe is for red chicken stew.
When I was about eleven years old, it was all the rage for kids to get dyed chicks for Easter. It was wonderful for the kids and incredibly cruel for the chicks. I, of course, was enthralled by the chicks even when the colored down started to change to pin feathers. Since my friends and neighbors were not, I managed to acquire about dozen or so not so small chicks to be company with the one I was given.
With absolutely no clue what I was doing, I managed to raise the chicks to full grown chickens. After sometime, the neighbors must have mentioned something to my folks. This was probably two months or so after the cockerels in the flock started getting vocal.
We lived in town at that time and town folks like to do silly things like sleep in. One day after school, I noticed that of the 14 chickens in my flock, ten were missing. My dad told me that he had taken the pullets to Aunt Vera’s who kept chickens to sell eggs. Aunt Vera really didn’t need the young roosters since they were not very efficient egg producers.
I thought it was odd that the non-offensive birds were relocated while the causes of the problem were still hanging out in the coop I had built. When my mom came out to the vacant lot with a huge bowl I started getting a clue what was going on. I will save you the details, but red chicken stew was on the menu that night and the next actually, even after sending some to our neighbors.
Red Chicken Stew:
½ pound diced salt pork or thick sliced bacon
1 ½ cups diced white onion
1 cup sliced okra
1 cup diced bell pepper
3-16 oz. mason jars of canned tomatoes
6 oz. of store bought tomato paste
2 table spoons flour
Approx. 6 oz. of ketchup
Oregano, salt, pepper and a couple of bay leaves.
2 very fresh chickens quartered
In a large stock pot, sauté the salt pork or bacon until slightly browned. Add onion and peppers, sauté until translucent. Add the flour and make light brown rue. Add one of the canned tomatoes after crushing by hand and stir well to blend the rue. Crush and add the remaining tomatoes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, about a 1/8th cup of oregano and add two bay leaves. Bring the pot to a simmer and add the tomato paste, about half the ketchup and the quartered chicken. (Bring the heat up until you regain the simmer). Simmer covered 45 minutes. Remove cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the pot of rice you just put on is done.
At this point test your seasoning and consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. The sauce should coat a spoon evenly but not heavily. Add ketchup if too thick (chicken stock or water if really thick) or simmer a little longer if too thin. Depending on the tenderness of the chicken some extra time may be required. The chicken should be tender enough to slide off the bone. Serve over rice with butter beans and biscuits for sides. Serves eight to ten or provides plenty of leftovers.
Today I don’t make red chicken stew very often. When I do, there is celery added to the veggies, with garlic and cayenne pepper added to the seasoning. I also sear the chicken in the fat and set aside before adding the veggies to sauté. Since I don’t cook as much at one time, I normally halve the recipe. When I have good country sausage I will add up to ½ pound along with the chicken. It is after all a stew, so you can be creative. Oh, if you should raise chickens it is a good idea not to name them, just in case.