Cooking the books: The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine

I’m not entirely sure where I picked up my copy of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine, but it was probably in a bin of unwanted items that had been donated to the Concordia Co-op Bookstore, before I moved to Austin. (Check the local Half-Price Bookstores here in Austin, if you’re looking to score, as they might just have a copy.) At any rate, this pocket-sized cookbook contains 425 pages of recipes made with wine, as well as information on how to choose wines to drink or stock your cellar, and it was totally worth the 50 cents I paid for it (according to the pencil marking on the inside front cover).

I grew up watching Jeff Smith’s Frugal Gourmet program on PBS, so I knew from previous exposure that the book was going to be a good bet, but I never realized how truly awesome some of the dishes really are until I actually started cooking them at home. After all, anything can look great on TV when a professional is doing the cooking, but how will those same dishes stand up to the test in a not-so-tricked-out home kitchen?

As a home cook, I’m a big fan of recipes that involve minimal specialty ingredients, as well as anything that will have multiple servings I can freeze and reheat in the future. The recipe below for Chicken and Chickpea Stew from the “Spain” section fulfills both of my requirements, and as an added bonus it can be made on a weeknight if you make some of our quick ‘n’ easy substitutions. Check this out:

Shoestring Austin’s Simplified Chicken & Chickpea Stew
(based on a recipe from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine)


  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • all the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, torn up into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 slice bacon
  • 2 c. chicken stock (preferably from a can or carton, rather than made from the bouillion cubes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 1/2 c. dry sherry


  1. Heat a large frying pan and add the oil. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and remove from the pan.
  2. Fry the slice of bread in the remaining oil. Remove it and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, sauté the onion, tomatoes and bacon. Cook until the onions are clear.
  4. Place these veggies into a big (6-quart) lidded Dutch oven, and add the chicken pieces and chickpeas.
  5. Deglaze the frying pan with a bit of the broth (i.e. pour in some of the broth and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan). Add the pan drippings and all the stock to the pot, along with bay leaf, salt and pepper.
  6. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the chicken is tender. (The original recipe required about 45 minutes, since you only browned the otherwise uncooked chicken, but since you’ve just browned pre-cooked chicken, this shouldn’t take as long; probably 10-15 minutes).
  7. In the meantime, crush the garlic into a small bowl. Break up the fried bread and add to the garlic, along with the yolks of the hard-boiled eggs. Mash the mixture with 1 T. of the sherry, creating a garlic/egg yolk paste.
  8. Chop the white of the eggs.
  9. When the chicken has been simmering for 10-15 minutes, add the garlic paste, chopped egg whites, and remaining sherry.
  10. Stir the pot carefully and simmer for another 10 minutes and you’re done!

The Frugal Gourmet recommends enjoying this dish with a light red Rioja wine on the side, which sounds great to me. I’ve made this dish the “long” way, with a full chicken, and even that doesn’t really take too much prep time. You just have to keep an eye on the simmering pot and stir it every once in a while, since it’s on the stove for 45 minutes. If you’ve got the extra time, I’d definitely give it a try that way to see how you like it, but our weeknight version with the pre-cooked chicken will shave off quite a bit of cooking time, getting your meal on the table faster, and will still give you a lot of the original recipe’s great chicken stew flavors. This is a great wintertime dish to warm you up, and if you like you can serve it over rice as well. Enjoy!

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