It’s finally starting to feel a little bit like fall in NYC, and I am Logan-style PSYCHED. You know I love summer for its crop tops, thong bikinis, and festive cocktails, but as of this week, I’m officially over it. I’m worried about my freckles, I’m sick of corn (sacrilege, I know), and one more wedding might actually kill me.
Bring on the sweater weather and weekend Instagram photos of everyone picking apples! This kid’s ready.
What I appreciate most about fall (barring decorative gourds, duh) is the sense of new beginnings. September has always been my January, and I tend to feel more motivated, organized, and generally badass this time of year. I’m particularly pumped about this month, as my horoscope promises “exciting opportunities on the horizon.” (FYI, I only believe in astrology when the stars are in my favor.) I have no idea what these opportunities are, but I certainly hope they involve me getting an assistant and/or doing some sort of food-themed collaboration with Beyoncé. I can’t wait.
This week has already been rather thrilling because, drum roll please, my roommate started a fancy new job yesterday. I’m not going to go into the details of what he’s doing because I have no idea for the sake of his privacy, but he’s very busy and important, and I couldn’t be more proud.
With the exception of some brief anxiety following an impromptu decision to cut his own sideburns (why?!), the Dude was incredibly relaxed leading up to his first day of work. I, on the other hand, was not. While Logan lay on the couch Sunday night casually watching the fooseball, I was all kinds of panicky on his behalf. What was he going to wear? Did he remember to pack everything in his man purse? Would he make friends? Should I send him with snacks?! I now understand how my mom felt whenever I started a new school year. So many things to stress about!
In order to distract myself, I asked Logan what he’d like for his first day feast. He initially said he didn’t care (which led me to believe he was ill and/or much more nervous than he was letting on), but then he requested one of my “dank creation bowls.” For the record, “dank creation bowls” are what I make during the week when I need to clean out the fridge, and they usually look something like this or this. After I had agreed to make the aforementioned bowls (“with sausage!”), the Dude changed his mind and asked for stew.
Stew was a random choice, especially for mid-September, but I ran with it. Honestly, I LOVE stew, and given my current hankering for fall weather and food, I was practically itching to break out my Dutch oven and simmer something warm and comforting on the stovetop. I considered a short rib situation, but that seemed overly aggressive for the summer-fall transition stage, so I went the chicken route. Allow me to introduce Smoky Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Kale…
This stew is a total sexpot. Tender butternut squash and juicy chicken thighs are simmered with onions, garlic, and tomatoes, and spiced with smoked paprika, oregano, cumin and a tiny pinch of cinnamon for warmth. There’s also a little chicken sausage in there for added depth and heartiness, and tender kale provides the necessary greenery. It’s sweet and savory with smoky undertones, and each bite works some serious magic on your taste buds.
Logan mostly just repeated “Fuck, that’s good,” throughout his first and second bowls, which is a pretty solid assessment.
In other good news, Smoky Chicken Stew happens to be a boss on the nutrition front. It’s packed with protein, fiber, folate, beta-carotene (which fights cancer), and tons of antioxidants thanks to anti-inflammatory butternut squash and superfood kale. Paleo peeps, this one’s for you. Ditto to all the glutards and Dude Dieters. WHOOP.
Needless to say, busier fall days call for simpler meals and less cleanup, which is just one more reason to fangirl over this one-pot wonder. If you buy pre-cut butternut squash (I obviously did), the entire recipe only requires about 15 minutes of hands-on time, and it’s 200% idiot-proof. You basically just add things to a pot, and then leave the whole shebang to simmer for half an hour. No muss, no fuss.
But wait, there’s more! Smoky Chicken Stew is one of those epic meals that actually tastes even better the next day, after the flavors have had time to get extra friendly with each other. So those of you cooking for one (love you) should be freakishly excited about leftovers. Sassy desk lunches and cozy couch dinners for daysss.
Happy almost fall, friends! I’m very much looking forward to doing a classier version of this photo shoot with my roommate ASAP.
Smoky Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Kale: (Serves 4)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces (2 links) spicy chicken sausage, diced
½ Spanish onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup canned diced tomatoes (I like to use fire roasted tomatoes when possible for extra smokiness.)
3 cups cubed butternut squash (go for ½-inch cubes)
½ bunch lacinato kale, center ribs removed, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
-Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot add the chicken sausage and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces (2 links) spicy chicken sausage, diced
- ½ Spanish onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes (I like to use fire roasted tomatoes when possible for extra smokiness.)
- 3 cups cubed butternut squash (go for ½-inch cubes)
- ½ bunch lacinato kale, center ribs removed, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot add the chicken sausage and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add the onion and garlic to the sausage and sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the smoked paprika, oregano, cumin, ground cinnamon and cayenne (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, butternut squash kale, chicken thighs, and chicken stock to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until the liquid is just simmering. Cover and cook for 25 minutes.
- After 25 minutes, carefully remove the chicken thighs from the saucepan to a plate or cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat into small pieces.
- Scoop about 1 cup of butternut squash from the pot and mash it with a fork. (Don’t panic if there’s some tomatoes and kale in the mash, it’s all going back in the pot anyway. Duh.)
- Return the shredded chicken and mashed squash to the saucepan and simmer, uncovered for another 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt if needed. Ladle stew into bowls and serve hot.