I had invited Priscilla for her birthday, but I was a little cooked out and couldn’t come up with anything to make. I started dreaming about the ingredients I knew she’d love – a stew of shrimp, chicken and sausage kept popping into my mind and making me hungry. So I considered what would go well with this rather unconventional trio. The cuisine of the seafaring Portuguese and hearty southern stews seemed apropro, as did capers, some wine and of course my herbs. I wanted this stew to be hearty and full with some heat from Italian sausage, a hint of sea brine, and those perfectly pink shrimp and deep brown chicken thighs.
I tried to think of a fancy birthday-sounding name for this stew, I really did, but the above is all I could come up with. Maybe simplicity is best. If you think of something better, please let me know. We ladled it out to seven happy dinner companions. There were absolutely no leftovers; it was uniformly loved. This stew is hearty and zesty but also surprisingly light due to a combination of fat skimming and opting for red and white pearls of quinoa instead of brown rice.
We simmered the quinoa in homemade chicken stock and seasoned it with lemon zest and toasted pistachios. Quinoa is not something I cook often, but Anjuli had some left over from her adventures in the woods. Where rice would have been somewhat heavy, dry and sticky, the quinoa was bouncy and light. It added its own toasty flavor and soaked up all that good stock without becoming weighted down.
Alongside our stew Ramani made some sauteed greens and chard, but any kind of greens or salad would work just as well. Lemon zest and greens help to digest the fat in the stew, and the fat also compliments the greens by insulating all those fat-soluble vitamins. This stew may look like quite a few ingredients, but it all comes together fairly quickly with very short cooking times for each protein. So eat up and enjoy. Happy Birthday Priscilla!
Note about shrimp: It is a good idea to buy your shrimp raw for two reasons. One, you will have the peel with which to make an instant, flavorful stock and two, you will ensure that the shrimp will not be overcooked. We, in the US, generally overcook this delightful seafood turning it to pink rubber. It only takes a couple of minutes to turn it pink and opaque and extremely tender.
Note about sausage: If you saute the sausage whole and then let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting it into coins, you will allow it to reabsorb those marvelous juices. Just like cooking a steak. This gives your sausage a wonderful tender texture and imparts a lot of flavor into the broth of the stew.
Weezie’s Spicy Shrimp, Sausage & Chicken Stew Serves 6 – 8
1 pound raw shrimp, 35 – 40 count
3 sprigs dried tarragon
2 teaspoons of thyme
4 sweet Italian sausages
1 hot Italian sausage
5 tablespoons olive oil
10 chicken thighs
1 Vidalia onion, 1/4 inch dice
3 cups chopped celery, 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley
10 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/3 cups wine, white or red
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Portuguese powder from Matt’s mom, or sweet smoky paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons capers packed in salt, rinsed and minced
1 cup shrimp stock
1/2 cup chicken stock, homemade
30 grinds black pepper
Marinate the shrimp. Peel the shrimp. Add one teaspoon coarse salt. Let sit overnight if you have time. Next day peel the shrimp, (Save the peels.) rinse and marinate with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3 cloves sliced garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Refrigerate until needed.
Make stock of shrimp peel. Put the peels in a small pot. Fill the pot 2/3 with water. Add 1/2 cup white wine, a stalk of celery, thyme, tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 10 grinds of pepper. Simmer for 1 1/4 hours and strain. Set the stock aside and discard the rest.
Cook the sausage. Heat a dutch oven or large frying pan to medium low. Add 1 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage and cook until done, about 15 minutes, turning frequently to ensure even browning. Turn pan off. Remove the sausages to a plate lined with paper towels. Let drain and cool for 5 minutes then cut into coins.
Brown the chicken. Put the pan back on the heat to medium low. Brown the chicken in the remaining fat in the frying pan, about 4 minutes on a side, until golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain the remaining fat from the pan.
Brown the vegetables. Heat the dutch oven back to medium low. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and celery. Saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic. Saute for 2 minutes.
Cook the stew. Add the chicken and 1/4 cup parsley, 1/2 cup of white and/or red wine, Portuguese chili powder or paprika, capers and shrimp stock and 10 grinds of black pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Add the sausage. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Turn off heat and let sit until almost ready to serve. Skim off the fat. 10 minutes before ready to serve, bring the stew back to simmer. Add the shrimp and remaining parsley and simmer only long enough for the shrimp to turn pink and opaque, 2 – 3 minutes. Serve.
You could add a yellow pepper or 3 frying peppers, cut in 1/2 inch dice in season when you add the onion and celery.
Quinoa with Toasted Pistachios and Lemon Zest
Originally from Peru, quinoa is the highest protein grain at 19% and packs a lot of flavor. It’s also very easy to cook. We dressed it up with chicken stock, lemon zest, pistachio and parsley for this dish, but you could simply cook quinoa in water with some salt. You’d soak and rinse it then add it to your pot with a 2:1 ratio water to quinoa, some salt (1/2 teaspoon per cup quinoa) and simmer it for 20 minutes, lid cocked. Then let it sit, covered, until you’re ready to eat.
3 cups quinoa, we prefer red
3 cups homemade chicken stock
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup minced flat leaf Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped, toasted pistachios
Soak the quinoa. Put the quinoa in a bowl and cover it with water. Let sit 10 minutes.
Cook the qunioa. Drain the quinoa through a small sieve or scoop it out. Add the soaked quinoa (see notes below) to a medium saucepan with water, stock, salt, lemon zest, pepper and parsley. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer, put on a cocked lid and cook for 20 minutes until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the little golden tendrils on the quinoa have started to separate from the grain. It should be tender, not chewy. Turn off the heat, add the pistachios and stir to combine. Put on the lid and let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Note: If you’re in a rush you don’t have so soak it, but it may take a few minutes more to cook. Do make sure you rinse it to remove any dirt before putting it into the pan.