Saturday dinner: Chicken and biscuits

Entertaining a group is a challenge, in a good way. Entertaining a group that has children involved is just a challenge.

I use the opportunity of having friends over for dinner to try something new. Try something new, pull out some stops, and leave ’em wanting more, right? The problem is that one can’t get particularly crazy when kids are involved. You still have to stay pretty vanilla to keep their attention.

Saturday night brought friends to the house, including two single-digit aged boys. Now, since The Kid exists solely on breakfast food, I don’t worry too much about her. Our friends’ sons are less picky about the food they eat, but I did not want to do anything to scare them away from the table.

Autumn brings the clarion call for comfort food. A stew sounded good, but I wanted something more. The best chicken and biscuits I’ve ever had is served on a regular basis at Jake Hafner’s in North Syracuse. I figured the chicken stew would be easy and that I would just pick up some biscuits during Saturday’s trip to the farmer’s market.

Wrong.

I could have sworn that there was a black woman who sold homemade biscuits each weekend. Either I was making that up or she really did skip Saturday. “No big deal,” I thought. Wegmans will have biscuits.

Wrong again.

Wegmans only makes biscuits during strawberry shortcake season. Since there was no chance that I was going to take my newly cleaned kitchen and mess it up by making my own biscuits, Pillsbury had to do. They were servicable. Nothing special, but not completely offensive.

WHAT WORKED: I was afraid that roasting the chicken breasts would dry the meat out, but I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor that the shreds took on.

WHAT DIDN’T: I followed Ina Garten’s recipe (below) to the tee, but the stew did not thicken. It was good, but a little soupy.

WHAT DID THE KIDS SAY: I think that I heard the toddler say that it was good. It’s possible that he stole a piece of The Kid’s waffle.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes. I think I would double up the roux’s volume, and try to find a homemade biscuit.

Chicken stew
Adapted from Ina Garten and FoodNetwork.com

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 carrots), blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 10 oz. package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Note: I don’t particularly like baking, so making my own biscuits was out. Prepare your biscuits per the instructions on the package.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Shred the chicken with two forks like pulled pork.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hotchicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.

Serve by placing a biscuit in a bowl and ladling the stew over the top.

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