Curried Chicken Stew

A curried holiday time-out

Do you need a holiday time-out? When we are in the eye of the storm, a.k.a. the lull between December and New Year celebrations, it helps to step off the conveyor belt of planning, cooking, baking, and entertaining. Take a break and fix up something easy, healthy, and decidedly (not) holiday inspired. Make a fragrant warming curry and call it a culinary break.

I use the term “curry” loosely since this recipe is hardly authentic. An authentic curry consists of a mountain of whole spices and aromatics, carefully and lovingly toasted, ground, sautéed, and coaxed to create a potent paste that forms the base of a stew which simmers for an ample amount of time to infuse its flavor. (I highly recommend doing this, by the way, but suggest you wait until after the holidays.)

This yellow curry rendition gets its name thanks to a generous short-cut dump of curry powder into the soup, which in the category of quick meals does the trick. It’s a healthy soup, brimming with vegetables and thickened with coconut milk, and it’s a one-pot wonder, prepared in about 30 minutes. During a month of roasts, bakes, sauces, and icings, this soup is a spicy and refreshing hiatus, guaranteed to warm and restore before you get back to the business of any holiday festivities.

Curried Chicken Stew

Active Time: about 35 minutes
Total Time: about 35 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 to 1 1/4 pounds chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced 1/4–inch thick
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk (not light)
2 cups coarsely chopped curly green kale, Tuscan kale, or spinach leaves (tough stems removed)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves plus more for garnish
1 red or green jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide pot or deep skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot in one layer without overcrowding. Cook over medium heat until the chicken colors on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes, turning as needed. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a plate. (The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point. It will continue to cook when added to the stew.)

2. Add 1 tablespoon oil and the onion to the same pot. Sauté over medium heat until the onion softens, about 2 minutes. Add the carrot and peppers and sauté until the carrot brightens in color and the peppers begin to soften, about 3 minutes more. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Add the curry powder, cumin, and coriander, stirring to coat the vegetables and lightly toast the spices for about 15 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes, coconut milk, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Partially cover the pot and simmer over medium-low until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

3. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the kale or spinach. Continue to simmer until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through and the leaves wilt, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the 1/4 cup cilantro and taste for seasoning.

4. Ladle the curry into bowls. Garnish with additional cilantro and the jalapeño slices.

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