Cajun Chicken Stew

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When I was growing up in Louisiana, nothing made my mouth water like the smell of onion, bell pepper, and celery cooking in my mom's dark Cajun roux. For maximum flavor, use the whole chicken and leave any fat attached.

Difficulty: Easy - for beginners
Serves: 6 Servings

Preparation time:
Cooking time:

Ingredients

•3 to 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
•1 (3- to 31/2-lb) chicken, cut into serving pieces
•2 1/2 teaspoons salt
•1/2 cup all-purpose flour
•1 medium onion, chopped
•1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
•1 celery rib, chopped
•3 cups water
•1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
•3/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
•Accompaniment: cooked white rice

Method

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot (preferably cast-iron) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt. Brown chicken in 4 batches, turning, about 5 minutes per batch, transferring as browned to a large bowl.

Add enough of remaining oil to pot to total 1/4 cup fat, then stir in flour with a flat metal or wooden spatula and cook over moderately low heat, scraping back and forth constantly (not stirring), until roux is the color of milk chocolate, 10 to 20 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery and cook, scraping back and forth occasionally, until onion is softened, about 8 minutes.

Add water to roux mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until roux is incorporated. (Roux will appear curdled initially, but will come together as it reaches a boil.) Add chicken and any juices accumulated in bowl, then simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Stir in cayenne, scallion greens, and salt to taste and serve over rice.

Cooks' note:Stew improves in flavor if made 1 day ahead (without scallion greens) and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Reheat, then stir in scallion greens.

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