boston has been teasing us with 75-degree weather, which in october is just cruel. autumn is so beautiful and delicious, and the warm weather is confusing both the trees and the locals. the warm air is crying out for lemonade and fresh fruit, but i know better – pumpkin, apples, spices and warm drinks are just around the corner. they really should be here already, but since i have tickets to this weekend’s patriots/cowboys game, i’ll tolerate the indian summer a bit longer.
but i just can’t help cooking warm, spicy, creamy dishes. the stores and markets are full of fall produce, and i want it all. unless it’s 100 degrees and disgustingly humid, i love cream sauces, slow-cooked soups and comforting pastas. don’t get me wrong, light and fresh dishes have their place, but sometimes you just crave something rich and soothing.
i was going to share a pumpkin risotto recipe, but i went ahead and made a full-fledged spicy pumpkin stew instead, with chunks of chicken over fluffy rice. the perfect cure for the why-isn’t-it-fall-yet blues. i promised my mother i would post my risotto recipe, so i’ll save that for next week.
spicy pumpkin and chicken stew
2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, cored and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled finely chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 chicken breasts, with bones and skin removed, cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried oregano
15 ounces canned pumpkin*
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup spinach, roughly chopped
1/3 cup plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
*don’t hate. you’re free to use fresh pumpkin if you choose, and it’s definitely worth trying. i had canned pumpkin on hand because i use it to make dog treats, and i didn’t want to leave the house. sometimes, i get lazy.
heat canola oil on medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. add onion, sauteing past translucence and until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. add jalapeno pepper and saute for a minute, then add garlic and vinegar saute for another minute. add the strips of chicken, cinnamon, nutmeg, curry, salt, paprika, red pepper flakes, allspice, and oregano, and allow to saute until the chicken is cooked through. add a pinch each of salt and pepper for taste.
while the chicken is cooking, pull out your trusty crockpot and combine chicken stock and pumpkin. turn to high. when the chicken is fully cooked, dump the chicken and onion mixture into the crockpot. add a bit more salt and pepper, spinach and yogurt, put the lid on and allow to come to a simmer. once your mixture is bubbling, turn down to low and and let cook for 1-2 hours.
here’s the key – taste this throughout. it will almost certainly need more salt and pepper, and add more seasonings to taste if you want more smoky flavor, more creaminess, or more heat. i’m giving you the low-spice version to please most palates, but feel free to crank it up with more paprika, crushed red peppers, or curry powder. or throw in some chipotles for even more dimension. serve over rice – how much is up to you.