Chicken and parsnips and college

By Mir
October 9, 2015

College sounds like a terrible addition to a chicken and parsnips dish. It would make it taste funny! But I am a poor planner and so I am jamming two wholly unrelated things together, plus I am giving you a recipe I sort of Frankenstein-ed together just because I liked it. Hey, you get what you pay for, here.

First, college: It’s that magical time of year when everyone with a high school senior is freaking out about college applications, so I wrote about it for Alpha Mom. You should probably go read it if college applications are in your kid’s future, because if I learned anything while asking around, it was that College Insanity has this pernicious habit of making itself look totally reasonable to its victims. To wit: Some people told me with COMPLETELY STRAIGHT FACES that their kid applied to 20+ schools. TWENTY. OR MORE. They didn’t think that was weird at all. That’s because crazy doesn’t know it’s crazy, but don’t worry, because I’m only too happy to point out how utterly bonkers that is.

Second, I made a super yummy dinner last night and it made me happy, though I discovered on Facebook that apparently parsnips are quite polarizing. People seem to either love them or hate them. Me, I love them. Otto, too. Chickadee had an alternate meal because we were eating animals, and then Monkey was very suspicious and told me the parsnips “taste like nothing” so I told him to shut up and eat his nothing. (I kid. I didn’t tell him to shut up.) If you’d like the recipe and a lot of parenthetical commentary, read on.

Chicken and Parsnip Stew (based on this recipe)

4 stalks celery w/ leaves, diced
4 medium sweet onions, diced
6 large carrots (peeled/chopped)
1 pound parsnips (peeled/chopped) (mine came in a 1-pound bag; it was about 7 good-sized parsnips)
1.5 – 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (the original recipe used chicken thighs and those would be great, too… all I had in the freezer was white meat)
4 cups chicken broth (one box, if you’re using the kind from a box, which I was, because I lost all my homemade stock the last time our freezer crapped out, thanks for bringing up that painful memory)
2-4 cups vegetable broth (start with two and decide if you want more)
2 cups dry white wine
1 inch-long “knob” of peeled ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
thyme, rosemary, basil, salt, lemon pepper
thickening slurry of your choosing (I used coconut flour/milk, but if gluten isn’t an issue, all-purpose flour would be fine)

The original recipe called for all-day cooking in a crock pot, with a note that you could achieve a similar result in a 350-degree oven with a dutch oven and about 3-4 hours. I am ALL ABOUT those all-day crock pot recipes, believe me. But because 1) I am a dumbass who forgot to think about dinner until about 2:00 and 2) my chicken was frozen solid, I did this in sort of a fussy way. I started the pot on the stove, bringing the broth, wine, garlic and ginger to a boil, then simmering the chicken (whole) in it for about 45 minutes. While that was going, I chopped all my veggies; then I fished out the ginger and dumped the veggies in, tasted, seasoned, and moved the pot to the oven. If you want to make it in a crock pot, go ahead. Also if you have more time than I did, even frozen chicken would be fine just in the oven. I was sort of hedging my bets because no one likes salmonella for dinner.

A few notes on flavors: I added ginger and garlic because I love ginger and garlic. Also I used dry spices because that’s what I had, and while I went heavy on the originally-called-for thyme (maybe a tablespoon to start, and more later?), I also added a little rosemary and basil because why not? You don’t have to. In fact, I suspect this recipe is VERY forgiving and you can do whatever you like. Similarly, I used lemon pepper because I like it, but you could use regular pepper and add lemon juice or skip the lemon altogether (but don’t, because chicken loves lemon). I would love to tell you how much of each spice to use, but I just taste and adjust as I go. (But always do salt last, especially if you’re using non-homemade broth. That stuff tends to be salty.)

And a note on wine: I doubled and tweaked the original recipe, which called for an equal measure of broth and wine. I love wine as much as the next person, but that seemed like a ridiculous amount of wine to me. Also, I’m not going to lie, part of the reason I did the stovetop-simmering was to make sure the chicken was cooked, but it was also to make sure the alcohol cooked off. So I went from their 2 cups wine/2 cups broth of booziness to 2 cups wine/AT LEAST 6 cups of broth (more if you like) and some rapid cook time. (Getting my kid drunk was not on my to-do list for yesterday.)

Anyway. I put the whole shebang in the oven for about 3 hours, then I pulled it out, removed the chicken pieces and shredded them, added them back to the pot, tasted/adjusted spices, and made my thickening slurry. I hate the word slurry because it doesn’t sound like anything you want to eat, but basically it’s just a 1:1 mix of a thickener and a liquid, so I did a couple of tablespoons of coconut flour and a couple of tablespoons of milk (heated in the microwave to aid in dissolving the flour), and then mixed that into the pot to take it from “soup” to “stew.” I did NOT thicken it very much, because coconut flour is finicky and can turn gummy (which I didn’t want), but it was sort of enough to make it heartier overall. (Want it thicker? Add more slurry.) That said, I used the aforementioned 6 cups of broth and next time I will use 8. This was mostly meat and veggies and the broth was deliiiiiiiiiiicious and I wanted more of it.

If you don’t like parsnips you could just make this with potatoes, instead, I guess. But to me the whole point was the parsnips because I like parsnips. Also I like saying parsnips. PARSNIPS PARSNIPS PARSNIPS! (I am aware that I’m a dork.)


  1. Amy

    The alpha mom link goes to a 404 error. Love your blog!

    • Mir

      Alpha Mom is having some issues at the moment… will get that resolved ASAP!

      • Mir

        Seems to be fixed now. :)

  2. meghann

    Heh, you said “knob”.

  3. Mary K. in Rockport

    I am so lazy that I use instant mashed potatoes as thickener. They dissolve instantly (none of that slurry business) and also taste good.

  4. Corey

    Because some parts of your family life and mine have been operating in parallel for a few years, I LOVE that you’re writing a good bit about college application craziness. It’s very reassuring to read your take on avoiding the hysteria while still making progress. Thank you! We’re off to tour an in-state school while not panicking on Monday.

    • Mir

      You know, I think the very unexpected benefit of the insanity of the last few years is that neither of us got caught up in the whole “Must be the BEST!” panic that so many of her peers seem to be feeling. There was a long, terrible chunk of time when college seemed impossible. Now that it isn’t, I think we’re all very clear that the goal is reasonable progression, good fit, etc. My kid has some pretty lofty goals, but I love how level-headed she’s turned out to be in terms of how to achieve them. I say it all the time, I know, but: we turned out to be very lucky!

      (And have a great trip!)

  5. jwg

    Have you tried mashing parsnips along with potatoes? Add lots of butter,of course.

  6. Chuck

    I would have said, “You’ll eat nothing and like it!” but I doubt Monkey has seen Caddyshack so he probably wouldn’t get the reference.

  7. Megan

    When our daughter was in middle school my husband swipped her phone and texted “my feet smell like parsnips” to a group of her friends. She’s a sophomore in college now and we still laugh hysterically because parsnips, really??

  8. andrea

    Parsnips = yum! We make a dish we call veggie mash: equal parts parsnips, carrots, and rutabaga. Boil until soft enough to mash all together. Butter, salt & pepper to taste.

  9. Jeanie

    I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten parsnips. I love vegetables so I’d be willing to give them a try.

  10. Mary

    Making a pulled chicken “lasagna” today. Using planks of zucchini and summer squash as the noodles. First time trying this so we’ll see how it goes. Putting parsnips on the grocery list for next week’s meals! Thanks Mir… <3

  11. mamalang

    I am spoiled. My daughter’s AP English teacher holds college work days once or twice a week in class. The kids get to fill out their common app, research schools, talk about schools, write essays, etc. all with her help. This combined with my daughter’s natural tendencies have made the crazy not so crazy. :)

    • Mir

      Yeah, my daughter’s teacher is doing the same thing, now, but they didn’t start until after she’d finished her applications!!

  12. Daisy

    I grew parsnips in the garden this year. We’ve discovered that Amigo, formerly hater of all things vegetable, enjoys parsnips. My parsnips weren’t the biggest, but when they’re fresh from the ground, they have the biggest flavor ever.

  13. L

    Does it stink up the house when you cook parsnips? Am I getting confused with turnips? Our csa has given us turnips lately and I’ve realized that cooking them really stinks up our house.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever understand the difference between turnips and parsnips.

    • Mir

      I think you’re thinking of turnips. Parsnips look like white carrots, while turnips sort of look like smooth potatoes. And I think turnips have kind of an acrid smell when you cook them, which parsnips do not. (I am a huge fan of mashed turnips, but I am the only member of our family who will eat them!)

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