Fall Fest 2010: Soup or Stew?

What exactly makes a recipe a soup and not a stew? Or vice versa? The ingredients? The broth? The texture? Its place on the menu? Is it just in the name? Does anybody really know? Do you know?

I don’t. Not really, anyway. I just did some quick research to settle this question burning on my heart and mind and pretty much came away more confused than before. Perhaps I need to go to culinary school to get a definitive answer…

The only thing I could come up with is that generally speaking, stews are heartier than soups. There are apparently other factors but they seem to fluctuate depending on the kind or type of stew/soup in question. Here’s an article that explains it very well, but still didn’t help me decide if this recipe is a stew or a soup or what.

This is actually a combination of two different recipes, both labeled “stew” by the authors. While the ingredients were essentially the same, one called for significantly more liquid than the other, so I compromised.  One was cooked slowly in the crock pot, while the other was finished on the stove top rather quickly. I opted for the slow cooker because that is a lot more convenient for me and does seem more stew-like to go along with the name.

I will confess that, although I found this stew/soup delicious, my DH was turned off a bit by the presence of the apples. This is a switch for us: normally I hate cooked apples, but for some reason, they didn’t bother me as much in this recipe. Personally, I think the unique contrast of the sweet apples with the savory meat and vegetables was intriguing and still comforting, as a soup/stew should be. Why don’t you give it a try and decide for yourself? And while you’re at it, let me know if it’s a soup or a stew!

Chicken Apple Stew/Soup
4 medium potatoes, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 small-medium apples, peeled if desired, and chopped
1/4-1/2 cup chopped onion
1 rib celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups cooked cubed or shredded chicken
2 cups chicken broth
1-1 1/2 cups apple cider or juice

Place the vegetables in the crock pot. Sprinkle the spices evenly on top, and then place the chicken next. Pour the broth and juice over all. Cook on high 4-6 hours.

You can certainly adjust the ingredients to your family’s tastes. You can increase (or decrease) the onion and garlic, or  you could add some parsnips to the mix. If you want a thicker stew, decrease the liquid. Typically, this type of stew would be made with chicken breasts, but I used what I had (which ended up being cheaper!), which was shredded chicken from a previous meal.

This doesn’t seem like the QUICKest recipe I’ve ever made or featured here on my blog, if only because of all the vegetables that need prepping.  The good news is that the time spent is all on the front end: once it’s loaded in the slow cooker, your job is done, and when it’s time for dinner, dinner is ready. This is the perfect recipe for those days when you have a little more time in the morning than in the evening (if that ever happens!).

Again, for the same reason, it’s not the EASY-est, either. On the other hand, it’s not exactly complicated. The hard part is chopping veggies, and anybody can do that.

It’s very CHEAP, especially if you do as I did, and use any old chopped up chicken rather than boneless skinless chicken breasts, which are rather expensive. I also used homemade chicken broth, and juice rather than cider (although this is the time of year to get cider at the best price possible… unfortunately, we had just enjoyed the very last drop of cider the day before I made this stew!).

This is a very HEALTHY soup, with all those vegetables. A couple servings of this soup, and you’ll have your quota of veggies for the day! OK, slight exaggeration, but still. Lots of vegetable goodness in this recipe!