Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Andrea Chesman: Bird and Biscuits

Bird and Biscuits

A cookbook writer never rests. Maybe a recipe seems perfect as it goes into print, but inevitably, an improvement occurs. Such is the case with my chicken potpie, one of the family favorites for years. The biscuit lovers requested that I bake the biscuits separately from the creamed chicken and vegetables. The biscuits absorbed too much moisture was the complaint. Not much of a change, as it turned out, but oh, what a difference! The biscuits remain tender, and the creamed chicken seems richer. This is comfort food, there’s no doubt about it.

The chicken (or turkey) can be leftovers from a roasted bird or from making stock, or it can be quickly prepared by poaching split chicken breasts for 35 minutes. I change the vegetables with the seasons. It’s winter now, so I used golden beets, carrots, rutabagas, and turnips. I could have also used celery root, parsnips, salsify, or winter squash. Good choices for the summer are corn (removed from the cob, of course), carrots, green beans, or zucchini. Frozen peas are always good.

With a food processor, biscuits are really easy to make — no rolling required.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F with an oven rack in the middle of the oven. For ease of cleanup line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in the buttermilk, and process to make a soft dough.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, and knead a few times to make a smooth ball. Pat out the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Cut into 3-inch rounds. By gathering the scraps and patting out again, you should get 12 biscuits.

4. Place biscuits in the refrigerator while you prepare the creamed chicken and vegetable mixture.

Creamed Chicken Mixture
4 cups cubed vegetables, peeled if necessary
6 tablespoons butter, chicken fat, or any vegetable oil
2 shallots, minced, or 2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
6 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups cooked chicken
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons sherry or dry white wine (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. If you are using fresh root vegetables, put in a saucepan, cover with water, and add about 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil and boil until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If you are using fresh summer vegetables, steam over boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. If you are using frozen vegetables, remove from the freezer.

Adding the vegetables

3. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

4. To make the creamed chicken, heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, if using, and sauté until fragrant and limp, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, and stir until all the flour is absorbed into the oil. Whisk in the stock, and stir until thickened and smooth. Stir in the chicken, vegetables, dill, and sherry, if using. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Keep hot while you bake the biscuits.

5. Remove the biscuits from the refrigerator. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.

6. To serve, split open one or two biscuits for each serving. Ladle the chicken and vegetable mixture over the biscuit halves and serve immediately.

Note: Serve biscuits as soon after baking as possible. They are best on the day they are made, but day-old biscuits (if they last that long!) are delicious toasted.

Biscuits — fresh out of the oven

Adapted from Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman © 2008
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