PENINSULA KITCHEN: Chicken stew with biscuits helps warm cold nights

WE’RE MARCHING STEADILY toward the longest night of the year, bracing ourselves against freezing temperatures.

Last week, a friend watched surfers catching waves west of Port Angeles.

Surfing in these waters in December.

Goodness.

Hurricane Ridge Road got plowed and folks are up snowshoeing and playing in the white stuff.

I spent a chilled hour walking during a fairly epic rain squall without a hat last week.

Could use a warm-up

I’m thinking we could all use a warm-up.

The length of the recipe might seem daunting, but it really does come together easily.

I prefer skipping the canned cream-of-whatever soup that often is included in recipes for chicken stew and instead make a quick roux to thicken the stew.

Can master roux

Roux is fat and flour cooked together to thicken sauces.

You can feel fancy after making this dish because you’ll have mastered a roux, too.

Use whatever vegetables and meat you have around for this.

In a pinch, you can even use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables from the grocery store.

No matter the ingredients you scavenge from your fridge, your stew will delight even your most frigid adventurer just in from the cold.

Stay warm and eat stew.

Carrie’s chicken (or turkey or pork) stew with buttermilk biscuits or dumplings

3 cups cooked and cubed meat (chicken, turkey or pork)

3 to 4 cups cut up veggies par-cooked or raw (I’ve used leftover roasted roots before, but carrots, celery broccoli, green beans, potato, peas, carrots or whatever you have around is awesome, too).

Your favorite biscuit recipe ready to rock in dough form. My favorite biscuit recipe follows this.

For the stew base:

One cube butter (½ cup)

1 large (2 cups chopped) onion

½ cup flour

5 cups hot water plus bouillon or broth of choice

¼ cup heavy cream

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat Oven to 375 degrees. In an oven safe Dutch Oven, melt the butter and sauté the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent.

Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for two minutes.

Add the hot water plus bouillon or stock to the sauce.

Simmer over low heat for one more minute, stirring, until thick.

Add 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed protein and veggies. Mix well.

Place the whole shabang in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuit dough.

Pull your stew out of the oven, cut biscuits and place raw rounds onto the top of the stew. Bake 15 to 20 minutes more or until biscuits are cooked through. Enjoy.

Note: To make in advance, refrigerate the stew and biscuits separately. Bake the stew for 25 minutes, then place the biscuits on top, and bake for another 30 minutes, until done.

For chicken and dumplings, start the very same way. Instead of baking, heat the stew on the stove top to let the flavors mingle.

Place globs of biscuit dough right into the stew. Let them simmer covered in the pot for about 15 to 20 minutes. Done.

Basic buttermilk biscuits

The secret to good biscuits is to work the dough as little as possible and try not to fuss too much.

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons butter (½ a cube)

1 cup chilled buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

Using a cheese grater, grate butter into the dry mixture.

Using clean hands incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until it’s crumbly. Don’t work it too much, or you’ll melt the butter.

Don’t fuss if it’s uneven, no one’s grandma paid much attention to evenly distributed butter in their biscuits.

Add the buttermilk. Mix just until all of the flour mixture is moistened.

Dump all of this onto a lightly floured countertop or bread board. Pat into a nice circle and fold over onto itself.

Do this again three or four times. If it’s sticking to your hands, add a tiny bit of flour.

Pat out the dough into a 1-inch thick round-ish shape and cut out biscuits. Reshape dough to get more.

The less you mess, the more tender the biscuit.

If you just want to bake biscuits and not use them on your stew, place them on an ungreased baking sheet touching each other and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

________

Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.

She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.

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