Monday, December 28, 2015

Comfort Chicken

If you combine chilly weather with a desire to have a made-ahead and read-to-heat meal that is also comfort food, you would probably end up with this recipe, too. This Chicken Stew with Biscuit Toppers is a made-from-scratch one dish wonder. Better than a pot pie, especially the ones from the freezer section in your market. You know the ones...the crust is like cardboard and about as tasty. Better than beef stew when one of the folks who will be eating with you doesn't eat beef. Although it is a humble dish, this stew will warm you and charm you with the tender chicken, almost caramelized onions, and wonderful savory gravy. Add the heft of potatoes and sweetness of peas and you can understand why this might become one of our family's go-to recipes.

I made this for a crowd, so I used a lot of chicken - eight good sized chicken thighs as a matter of fact. I ended up with two and a half pounds of chicken chunks and a nice amount of chicken broth. I cooked down the left over broth when I finished making the stew and it's ready to be part of a nice chicken soup, so don't throw out the chicken poaching water, OK?

You can adjust the amount of aromatic vegetables and potatoes and peas to suit yourself. I used red potatoes, but you can also use Yukon gold or Idaho brown, just be sure to not over cook them. They should be tender and cooked just enough so you and pierce them with a knife. You can also cook the onions, carrots and celery in butter instead of olive oil if you prefer. The biscuits can be made with a mix like Bisquik, or you can make them from scratch or you can purchase refrigerated biscuits in a package. Just be sure to make the rest from scratch for the best flavor and because it just tastes so good!

By the way, you can eat this the same day you make it. I usually try to make it a day before because I find that dishes like this with cooked onions often taste better after sitting a day to let the flavors meld.

Chicken Stew Topped With Biscuits

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4-5 medium Yukon gold potatoes or thin-skinned red potatoes
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, washed and finely chopped
2 carrots, washed, peeled, and cut into half coins
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock

your favorite biscuits (savory)

Rinse the chicken thighs and place in a large heavy bottomed pot. It's OK to stack them on top of each other. Cover with cold water and then bring the water to a boil, with the pot covered. Once boiling, remove lid and simmer until chicken is tender, about thirty minutes. (At this point I let the pot cool off for a short while, then placed the covered pot into the refrigerator until the next day).

Let pot cool, then removed chicken with tongs and simmer broth while you cut up the chicken. You can use this broth for the 3 cups of chicken stock later in the recipe. The chicken should be cut into bite-sized pieces. You should have about 2.5 pounds of those pieces when you are done. Set aside.

Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces and cook over medium-high heat, covered in water, until tender and just cooked enough that you can pierce them with a knife. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

In a large heavy bottomed pot heat the olive oil, then add the onion and celery and carrots. Cook over medium heat, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Onions will be translucent. Add the garlic, lower the heat, and cook another 10 minutes, stirring often, Onions will be browned here and there. Add the dried thyme and sage, salt and pepper and stir to combine with the vegetables in the pot. Cook 1 minute. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the flour, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute, still stirring, to cook the flour. Add the chicken broth all at once, stirring constantly. Continue to stir and cook until mixture thickens. Add the cooked chicken and the potatoes and stir gently to combine and coat all with the gravy. At this point I usually cover the pot and let the stew sit in the refrigerator until the next afternoon or evening. If you do this, then gently re-heat the stew the next day and continue on with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and make your favorite biscuits, either from scratch, from a mix or use refrigerated biscuits. Bake the biscuits according to package directions or the recipe directions.

While biscuits are baking, heat 2 cups frozen peas (the microwave works well for this). Put the stew in a large casserole dish, top with the hot peas, and put into the oven until the biscuits finish cooking. When the biscuits are baked, take the casserole from the oven, top with the biscuits, spacing the biscuits apart, then serve at once. Serve 6-8 people.

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