In trying times, share a meal with friends

October 14, 2001|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

During this time of national crisis, my husband and I have both felt a strong need to be with others, so when a couple suggested that a group of friends come to their home for a potluck dinner, we eagerly accepted. Each of the other guests arrived with comfort food. I made a chicken stew with tomatoes, mushrooms and bacon, while another contributor appeared with her family's broccoli and raisin salad. Some had gone to a nearby deli and selected cheeses and cold cuts for starters, while our hosts prepared a casserole of roasted potatoes, onions and peppers as a side dish and baked brownies for dessert.

Being with others was a positive step during these troubling times.

Chicken, Tomato and Mushroom Stew

Makes 4 to 5 servings

4 ounces thickly sliced bacon (4 slices), cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil plus more if needed

salt, freshly ground black pepper

3 to 3 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, including 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 thighs and 2 legs, washed and patted dry

3 / 4 pound brown mushrooms, cleaned, dried and quartered through the stems

3 / 4 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup of 1 / 4 -inch diced carrots

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 28-ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock

3 / 4 cup red wine

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary plus 4 to 5 attractive sprigs for garnish

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage plus 4 to 5 attractive sprigs for garnish

Place large, heavy, nonreactive skillet (with lid) over medium heat and, when hot, add bacon and cook, turning, until crisp and golden. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon drippings and add 3 tablespoons olive oil or enough oil to coat bottom of pan. Heat until hot.

Salt and pepper chicken pieces well. Add to pan and saute, turning them until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes. If necessary, add more oil to pan. When chicken is browned, remove and drain on paper towels. If not enough oil remains in pan, add 2 to 3 tablespoons more oil or enough to coat pan lightly. Heat until hot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Once again if there is not enough oil left in skillet, add 2 tablespoons more or just enough to coat lightly and heat until hot. Add onions and carrots and saute 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add tomatoes along with stock, wine, chopped rosemary and chopped sage. Return chicken to pan and bring mixture to a simmer. Lower heat, cover and cook at a gentle simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 40 minutes.

Remove pan from heat. Remove chicken pieces to side dish. Using slotted spoon, remove 3 / 4 cup of the cooked vegetables from pan liquids and puree them in food processor or blender.

Stir pureed vegetables into skillet to help thicken sauce. Return chicken, reserved mushrooms and bacon to skillet. Taste sauce and season with more salt and pepper if needed. (Chicken stew can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat when needed.)

To serve, mound chicken stew on heated serving platter and garnish with bouquet of fresh rosemary and sage.

Betty Rosbottom writes for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

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