This winter has been mild, pleasant, and, I might say, quite enjoyable for this Farmer. I must confess, it is my second favorite season – I love seeing the lines of the limbs against the winter blue sky, the rye grass beneath the gray pecan groves, the deep shadows of thick pinelands, and the general thought of a time for rest before the high buzz of the coming vernal equinox.
Speaking of the latter, spring-like temps have abounded this winter in my neck of the woods, my appetite, though, still turns towards the foodstuffs of cold winter days. Chilies, soups, stews (this dish notwithstanding) have been on my plate and on all those, too, who have supped with me this season. I love making a big pot or pan of something that will feed me for days as well as my staff, family and friends – when you make this dish, all three will surely be in tow!
This dish is also a memory bank of flavors for me. First off, the creamy chicken stew bit is a reminder of a Middle Georgia institution – The New Perry Hotel. They served a cream of turkey soup with hard tack biscuits that was a staple of Middle Georgia cuisine. It never fails, when folks find out where I’m from, they always have a memory or story about The New Perry Hotel. It was always the stop of all stops for those en route to Florida or Georgia’s Golden Isles and many a family has dined at the white linen clad tables, eaten this very soup, adored the camellia prints on the walls and the live specimens in the garden, and smiled at the bud vases filled with the latter blossoms or whatever may be in season.
Mrs. Mary makes THE BEST biscuits. I cannot duplicate, recreate or copy hers. They are small but not tack-like. Butter browned tops with gauzy innards, these divinities are my favorite thing she makes. She will even make them and freeze them for me. But since I cannot have Mrs. Mary’s biscuits, Mary B’s brand of frozen biscuits is a close second. I love the tea biscuit size and the larger size too. This line has won this Farmer over to store-bought biscuits. I use them for this dish and conserve my Mrs. Mary’s for selfish indulgence and very, VERY special occasions. I did learn to share in kindergarten but since Mrs. Mary cannot come cook that often, her biscuits are a treasure I hoard!
Combining memories of The New Perry Hotel and Mrs. Mary’s biscuits makes this dish ever so much more delightful. I made a batch and it has fed us for days. I’m sure another batch is due before Old Man Winter bids adieu. Since I’m somewhat of a grownup now too, I even paired a wine with this dish. An “un-oaked” chardonnay, meaning it is fermented in a metal case not an oak barrel. One tastes more of the grape than the wood and this wine won me over. Besides, it was under twenty dollars at Whole Foods and so the bargain factor added to the charm.
With this wine, I’m toasting to Creamy Chicken Stew with Biscuits. I hope a skillet, casserole dish, Dutch oven or whatever brings you comfort of this recipe finds its way to your table. Add some parsley for winter zest and color and a nod to garden living too! From this Farmer’s home to yours, may the comfort of winter be warm and delicious!
Creamy Chicken Stew with Biscuits
- 4 thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 medium red onion or ½ large onion (chopped)
- 2 cups of raw carrots, diced and chopped into rounds
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- Heavy dash of seasoned salt
- Heavy dash of Nature’s Seasoning
- 2 TBSP. Olive oil
- 2TBSP. Butter
- 12 Mary B’s buttermilk biscuits
- 1/3 cup of heavy cream
- 1/3 cup of sour cream
- ¾ cup of flour
- 4cups of chicken stock
On a greased baking sheet, dress the chicken with olive oil, seasoned salt, and Nature’s Seasoning. Remove biscuits from package and allow them to come to room temperature. Roast at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and dress the other side of chicken. Continue roasting for another 5-7 minutes – a total of15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. While the chicken is still warm, shred the chicken with two forks and set aside – this should yield approximately 2-3 cups.
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven pan, and add the onion to the oil, followed by butter, seasoned salt, chicken bouillon cubes, and Nature’s Seasoning. Remember what this Farmer says – oil for temperature and butter for flavor! For the oil browns the onions and such and the butter is the flavor part.
Once the onions become translucent, add the chopped celery. After the celery starts to tenderize, add carrots. Once carrots, celery, and onions are tender, add the garlic to the mixture and cook for another two minutes, stirring to incorporate well.
Add flour to the vegetable mixture, constantly stirring for one minute (keep stirring so that the mixture does not clump or burn.) Once the flour and vegetable mixture is thickened and the roux is forming, add the chicken stock, followed by the heavy cream and sour cream. Stir until the sour cream is dissolved and bring to a simmer. Add the shredded chicken, stir it into mixture, and remove from heat.
In a greased casserole dish, add the chicken stew mixture, leaving ¾ inch at the top. Place thawed biscuits on top of the casserole, baking at 375 degrees until the biscuits are golden brown on top. Fair warning – your kitchen will smell divine! Add thyme leaves or sage to the biscuit dough for a flair of flora but this is marvelous in its own simplicity too!