Chew On This

One cook’s go-to dish: chicken stew

aweigl@newsobserver.comJanuary 28, 2014 

I’ve long been a collector of my friends’ and relatives’ go-to recipes: the ones that become people’s dinner party standbys, the ones that they make for new parents and grieving neighbors, the ones that they are asked to make again and again for potluck suppers.

Like a restaurant’s specialty of the house, I see these dishes as the specialty of the home kitchen.

I discovered one such recipe this fall when I traveled to Siloam, a rural community 30 miles northwest of Winston-Salem. I was reporting a story on sonker, or what people outside of Surry and Wilkes counties call cobbler, for the February issue of Our State magazine. After watching the octogenarian sisters, Mae Crissman and Geneva Mabe, make a peach sonker, we sat down to eat chicken stew, made by Crissman’s daughter, Joy Hemmings.

The chicken stew was thin and creamy, studded only with bits of chicken and topped with crumbled saltine crackers. It was simple and delicious. I was lucky enough that Hemmings agreed to share the recipe.

In the past year, Hemmings said the chicken stew has become a regular in her cooking repertoire; in fact, when I called her last week, she was making some for a neighbor whose father had recently died.

Her mother used to make the stew from scratch, using bone-in chicken. But Hemmings’ brother figured out a shortcut by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Hemmings adopted that practice and uses her mother’s trick of making a creamier stew by adding a can of strained cream of chicken soup. Joy makes it her own by using two spice blends for seasoning.

“I think it’s really tasty,” Hemmings said. “I know it’s rich, but you aren’t going to eat that every day.”

We’re going to start highlighting local home cooks’ go-to recipes on the third Sunday of the month on the Taste page of the Arts & Living section.

So tell us about your friends, relatives and neighbors who have a specialty dish that they’re celebrated for making, and we’ll spread the gospel of these go-to recipes.

Send your nominations to or to my attention at News & Observer, 215 S. McDowell St., Raleigh, N.C. 27601.

Joy’s Chicken Stew

Adapted from Joy Hemmings in Siloam, N.C.

1 (3- to 4-pound) rotisserie chicken

1 can cream of chicken soup, strained

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Seasonings, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon McCormick Hot Shot! Black and Red Pepper Blend, or more to taste

1 (15-ounce) can chicken broth

1 pint half-and-half

1 cup milk, or more as needed

Saltine crackers (optional)

REMOVE chicken meat from the bones of the rotisserie chicken. Set meat aside.

MELT butter in a 5-quart Dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat. Add chicken meat, strained cream of chicken soup (you want to strain out the soup’s chicken meat). Stir together. Add Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Seasonings and McCormick Hot Shot!. Add chicken broth, half-and-half and milk. Stir and taste; add more seasonings if necessary.

HEAT stew until it is really hot but do not boil. Serve with saltine crackers to crumble on top of the soup.

Yield: 8 servings.

Weigl: 919-829-4848 or; Twitter: @andreaweigl

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