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A Quicker Take on a Slow-Cooked Chicken Stew

A Quicker Take on a Slow-Cooked Chicken Stew

Shared by Rinat Tzadok
Recipe Roots: Morroco > Hadera, Israel > Tel Aviv, Israel

A few weeks ago, we got a glimpse into the childhood of Cook in Residence Rinat Tzadok, who inherited much of her Moroccan cooking heritage from her grandfather, Moshe Hamo. He immigrated to Israel with his family from northern Morocco in 1958, and took on the cooking duties in his household after his wife passed away. According to Rinat, Moshe’s inspiration often came from the market, where the ingredients dictated what he would make. “Every day he went to the store, and if today the zucchini was fresh, he’d get zucchini,” says Rinat. He used the vegetable often in a simple chicken stew that he made a few times a week. “It’s not made with a lot of spices, just salt and turmeric,” says Rinat. “My mom told me the secret is that he cooked it for a long time. The zucchini became like a jam, very soft with lots of flavor.”

As an adult, Rinat adapted this slow-simmering recipe to her quicker-paced life. “Life was different when he made it,” says Rinat. “He started in the morning and if it took one or two hours, it was okay for him. Today people aren’t going to make chicken for two hours, they don’t have time for this.” In her adaptation, she abandons the bone-in chicken pieces for tidy chicken meatballs, which she boils separately from a zucchini mixture that’s cooked down with celery, an ingredient that her grandfather used, too. The entire recipe, from beginning to end, takes just a fraction of the time of the original. “The kids love it, everybody loves it, and it looks better,” says Rinat. “But it still captures the flavor.”

Photo by Dave Katz

Photo by Dave Katz

Moshe's Turmeric Chicken

Serves: 6
Total Time: 45 minutes, plus 30 minutes chilling time

Ingredients
For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground chicken, preferably thigh meat*
1 medium onion, coarsely grated
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
½ cup chopped parsley
½ cup breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Stew:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 small zucchini, trimmed and sliced into ½” rounds
5 stalks celery, cleaned with tops, cut into 3-inch strips
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
Couscous or rice, for serving

Preparation
1. In a medium bowl, mix the ground chicken, onion, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of the oil, turmeric, salt and pepper and combine well. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prepare a medium pot of boiling salted water and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the turmeric.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the stew: In a medium pot, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini, celery, turmeric, salt and pepper. Toss to combine the ingredients by picking up the pot with a kitchen towel and swirling. Add the water and pepper flakes, if using, and bring to boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, 5 min. Season with salt, to taste.
3. While the vegetables cook, shape the ground chicken mixture into 1/4 cup-sized balls (slightly larger than a golf ball in size) and add to the boiling turmeric water. Cook until the meatballs float to the top of the pot, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs from the broth and add to the simmering zucchini and celery. Simmer until the meatballs are fully cooked, 15 to 20 minutes more. 
5. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with couscous or rice.

*For the best result, use a meat grinder to ground fresh chicken thighs. Some butchers and meat counters will take a package of chicken thighs and ground them for you.

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