Chicken, slowly smothered in a rich brown gravy until it’s falling apart. Layers of flavor are built on a light roux, the Trinity with garlic, South Louisiana Herbs and Spices and a gravy made with a rich stock. Most South Louisiana families have coveted family recipes for Smothered Chicken or Stewed Chicken. This is Sweet Daddy D’s no-angst recipe for this Cajun country classic.
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Classic Cajun Cooking
This is a perfect example of Cajun Cooking: simple ingredients and simple methods. The origins of Classic Cajun cuisine features local and readily available ingredients. So Chickens, probably raised at home or nearby and the basic vegetables for the Trinity that are grown in the back yard or on a nearby small farm made this dish a staple of the Cajun table. Add herbs and spices from the Herb garden and as much or as little pepper as the palate desires and you're on your way. Great Cajun flavors are the result of preparing these simple ingredients with simple processes: one-pot cooking. Many Cajun classics, including Jambalaya and Gumbo, are one-pot wonders as is Sweet Daddy D's Smothered Chicken. From start to finish, that big cast-iron Dutch oven is all you'll need.
Here’s What You Need
I like to start with a whole chicken and cut it up into manageable pieces. You can also use specific pieces if you want. Maybe you only like white meat, so just buy a few pounds of breasts. Thighs are great for this as I think the dark meat is very flavorful and will remain moist throughout the cooking process. A quicker and simpler option is to use a store-cooked rotisserie chicken. Check out the Hints and Tips section below for how to do that.
These basic ingredients are pretty standard. The recipe is built around a roux and the Holy Trinity (yellow onions, bell peppers and celery). Some ingredient substitutes are discussed in the Hints and Tips section below. Using Homemade Chicken Stock is a great option in lieu of the commercial stock. You can use cut-up fresh chicken to make the stock then use that same chicken in this recipe. Head down to the Hints and Tips section for how to do this.
Keep in mind that many commercial Creole seasonings (as well as commercial stock) can contain a lot of salt, so you may want to hold back on the salt until you can taste the recipe.
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Here’s What You Do
First...you have a beer. The key to no-angst cooking is mise en place, which includes preparing the cook as well as the ingredients and equipment. Start by sitting down with a beer to read the recipe from start to finish. This brief respite will give you an understanding of what you'll need and what you will do with each ingredient.
Mise en place
Gather all of your ingredients and equipment and prep everything before you start cooking. Cut the chicken into serving pieces and sprinkle them with kosher salt, ground pepper and Creole seasoning. Set the chicken aside.
Chop the Trinity (yellow onion, bell pepper and celery) and place them all in the same prep bowl. Smash the garlic and measure all the other ingredients including the wine and stock.
Build some flavor in the pan
What happens in this step? Depth of flavor is built in layers, each adding flavor and color that contribute to the final dish. We start by extracting some chicken flavor before adding the next layer with the Trinity, garlic, Herbs and Spices and a light brown roux. Here's how to build this flavorful foundation for the gravy.
Dredge the chicken pieces in the AP flour, shake off the excess flour and set these aside. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and brown the chicken pieces in some hot oil turning often to get a good sear on all sides.
[Here's my pro tip: set the heat to medium but give it enough time for the oil to get hot. You are looking for around 350 degrees Fahrenheit which can be reached with medium heat if given the time. This will make the heat easier to control so that you don't scorch the chicken or the roux]
Remove the chicken and set it aside.
Maintaining a medium heat, make a light roux. Add the vegetable oil to the Dutch oven and give it time to get hot enough to shimmer. Add the AP flour into the vegetable oil and whisk constantly for about 8 minutes. If the roux is browning too fast, simply remove it from the heat. Add the Trinity and saute for another 8 minutes, stirring often until the onions are softened and beginning to get translucent.
Add the garlic and the Herb and Spice Blend (without the Bay Leaves); stir constantly until aromatic which will only take about 2 or 3 minutes.
Make the gravy
What happens in this step? To this flavor base, you will add the stock. This is the layer of flavor that helps incorporate all the other flavors and seasonings and provides an environment in which to cook the chicken.
Now, slowly add the rest of the stock and the wine. To make sure no lumps develop, add the stock about 1 cup at a time, stirring or whisking constantly making sure everything is incorporated before adding more.
[Yet another pro-tip: out of the total 5 cups of stock, add only 4 cups at this time, reserving the rest in the event the gravy becomes too thick as it cooks].
Once all the liquid is mixed into the roux, increase the heat to high, add the bay leaves and bring the gravy to a medium boil for about 5 to 10 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally.
Smother the chicken
What happens in this step? The chicken is added to the gravy so that it can slowly cook until it’s almost falling apart and the juices and flavors incorporate into the gravy. Here's how you do it:
After the gravy has simmered for 5 to 10 minutes, add the chicken back to the Dutch oven, making sure each piece of chicken gets coated with gravy. Return the gravy to a boil before reducing the heat to a low simmer. Cover the Dutch oven and slowly simmer for about an hour or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Make sure to stir regularly so the chicken does not stick.
About 15 minutes before the chicken is ready add the green onions, parsley and butter. Stir well to combine and simmer some more.
When the butter is completely melted and mixed into the gravy, it is ready. Let it sit about 10 minutes then serve over rice.
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Hints and Tips
Yes, using a store-bought rotisserie chicken is a quick and easy way to make this recipe. Remove the skin and pull the meat off the bones. Make sure to use both the dark and the white meat. Shred the meat into bite-size pieces, sprinkle with some Creole seasoning and set it aside. Follow the recipe instructions (without browning the chicken first). After the gravy has simmered for about 30 minutes, add the cooked, shredded chicken. Let the shredded chicken simmer in the gravy for about 15 minutes before you finish with the green onions, parsley and butter.
Generally, you want to cut the chicken into 8 pieces: 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings. Depending upon the size of the pieces you can cut the breasts in half so that you have 4 breast pieces instead of 2. This will make sure all the pieces are relatively the same size and will cook at the same pace.
Yes, homemade stock is great to use. Follow my recipe for Homemade Chicken Stock. Use cut-up chicken to flavor the stock, but remove it from the stockpot after about 45 minutes. Let it cool, then pull the meat from the bones and sprinkle with Creole seasoning and set it aside. Return the bones and skin to the stock and simmer until it's done. Strain the stock and skim off any excess fat.
The gravy thickens because of the roux and the long cooking time. Make sure to have some extra stock to add in case the gravy is thickening more than you want. More wine or even water will work if you don’t have more stock. Using less oil and flour (say ¼ cup each instead of ½ cup) will make a thinner roux, but it’s mostly the cooking time. Make sure to keep the lid on and the heat low while you simmer the chicken. Of course, if you want a thicker gravy, remove the lid or offset it to partially open while the gravy simmers.
Leftover Smothered Chicken can be held in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. It can also be kept in the freezer for 4 to 6 months. The key to safe leftover storage, either in the fridge or the freezer is using an airtight container or a vacuum-sealed bag. Reheat on the stove or the microwave after defrosting overnight in the fridge.
Yes, the roux can be made with butter or bacon grease. Use the same quantity as the vegetable oil.
Smothered Chicken is perfect over long grain rice. It is also great over wide noodles, like egg noodles. Some great side dishes for Smothered Chicken are Creole Green Beans, Brabant Potatoes, Cajun Stuffed Potatoes and Macaroni and Cheese.
Use a dry white table wine, one that you would drink yourself. I usually use dry vermouth and I always stay away from "cooking wines". Besides dry vermouth, a couple of options are chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. You could also substitute dry sherry (this will affect the flavor profile a bit) for the dry white wine (1 for 1) or white wine vinegar (1 part wine to ½ part vinegar).
In the mood for more Creole and Cajun dishes?? Check these out:
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Yeah You Right!
Cajun Smothered Chicken
Here's What You Need
- 1 chicken cut up into pieces - about 4 pounds-see Notes
- ½ cup AP Flour plus some for dusting the chicken
- ½ cup vegetable oil plus some to brown chicken
- 1 large yellow onion chopped
- 1 medium bell pepper chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 5 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 5 cups chicken stock see Notes
- 1 cup green onions about 1 bunch, chopped
- ¼ cup parsley chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon basil
- ½ teaspoon thymes
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus some for chicken
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper plus some for chicken
- 2 bay leaves
Here's What You Do
- Cut the chicken into serving pieces and sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper, set aside. See Notes
- Coarsly cop the yellow onion, bell pepper and celery and place all in the same prep bowl.
- Smash the garlic; measure all the other ingredients; mix the wine and stock together, set aside.
- Place about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Dredge seasoned chicken pieces in AP flour, shake off the excess and brown in the hot oil. Turn the pieces often to brown on all sides without burning. This can be done in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan.
- Remove the chicken and set it aside.
- Maintaining a medium heat, add ½ cup of vegetable oil to the Dutch oven. When the oil is shimmering, add ½ cup of AP flour.
- Stir or whisk constantly to make a medium roux, about 8 minutes. See Notes.
- Add the Trinity to the roux and mix together to coat all of the vegetables with the roux.
- Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often until the onions are softened and beginning to get translucent.
- Add the garlic and the Herb and Spice Blend (without the Bay Leaves).
- Stir to combine and simmer until aromatic, about 2 or 3 minutes.
- Deglaze the bottom of the Dutch oven with about ½ cup of the wine-stock, making sure to mix all the fond into the gravy.
- k. Next, slowly add about 5 cups of the wine and chicken stock about 1 cup at a time; reserve the remaining liquid to add later if the gravy is too thicj.
- Stir constantly as you add it to thoroughly blend the stock into the roux, making sure there are no lumps before adding more liquid.
- Once all the liquid is mixed into the roux, increase the heat to high.
- Add the bay leaves and maintain a medium boil for about 5 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chicken back to the Dutch oven. Stir to coated all the chicken with the gravy.
- Once the gravy returns to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.
- Simmer for 1 hour or until the chicken is falling off the bones, stirring regularly so the chicken does not stick.
- About 15 minutes before the chicken is done, add the green onions, parsley and butter to the Dutch oven. Stir to combine and simmer until finished.
- If you want the gravy to be thicker, offset the lid while it simmers. If it is getting too thick, return the cover to the pot. Add the reserved stock if needed.
- Serve over rice.