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Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's for Dinner, Wild?

Tonight I bring you: Homemade (nearly) from Scratch Chicken and Biscuits!

In my defense, I have, in the distant past, made this dish entirely from scratch: cooked the chicken breast, chopped the veggies, made the white sauce flavoured with bouillon, made the baking powder biscuits....but in all honesty, I really prefer this version. It takes far less time, tastes better, and is probably in the long run FAR more economical!

Here's what you do:
 Purchase one (or better yet, two!) rotisserie chickens from your favourite place to buy them. I get mine at Costco: the chickens are bigger, cheaper and better tasting than those at either of the two big grocery stores around here. What you see in the picture above is the skin and scraps I save for my dogs, 2 breasts saved for sammiches, and about 4 cups of torn up mixed white and dark chicken meat. I tear it by hand, because I think you lose less of the juices that way.  Set the meat aside, preheat the oven to 375 and start the sauce.

This is what it looks like: the drippings from the bottom of the package the chicken came in, and a small piece of cchicken fat. Whether it's chicken, turkey, beef or pork, you can't make proper gravy without fat! Heat this until it's almost all liquified. If you want, substitute butter or margarine for the chicken fat. In a real pinch you can even use vegetable shortening or oil, but the taste won't be the same!

When it's all liquified, shake some flour over it. There are places where you can buy special flour shakers and they tell you this will stop lumps, but I just dip a clean hand into the bag of flour usually, pinch up a small amount and sprinkle it fairly evenly across the surface of the heated fat, like so:
Now I use my nonstick whisk to whisk this into a paste. This is a roux, and it's essential to good gravy or white sauce. It looks kind of unappetizing even when it's done right, so let's skip to the next step: add your liquid. In this case, we're using milk.Whisk until all the large lumps are gone and it's got a nice smooth consistency. Don't worry if you have a few small lumps left at this point: they will likely cook down in the next steps.

What we have now, if we want to get fancy about it, is a chicken sauce veloutine.  Let it cook until it's slightly thickened, then add in my secret ingredient, the Better than Bouillon paste in chicken flavour.
I really like this product for a few reasons: no MSG, no artificial colouring or flavours, and much lower in Sodium than powdered or cubed bouillon products. Whisk that in. Now comes the time for your first major cheat:

I use about half a container. Mixing this with the homemade base makes for a better tasting sauce than either tastes on its own. Whisk until thoroughly combined and bring to a bubble, but not a full boil. Add frozen veggies to your taste. I used about 1.5 cups EACH of Peaches & Cream corn and Peas & Carrots mix. Add liberal amounts of fresh cracked black pepper. Use about as much as you think you need, then turn the crank on that sucker a few more times. I really prefer fresh cracked pepper, as I think it tastes spicier!

Let that bubble merrily away over medium heat for a bit. Take your chicken meat and place it in the bottom of your baking dish. Usually, I use a Pyrex dish but every once in a while, after Hubbs has busted his hump cleaning the entire kitchen, I will buy a disposable foil baking dish. That way, there is a lot less mess for me to neglect to clean up right away!  I used about 2 cups of my cooked chicken, and poured the sauce/veggie mix on...If needed, to distribute chicken and vegetables proportionally throughout the dish, stir with a wooden spoon. Then, set the mixture aside to mellow while you get the biscuits/dumplings ready.

 Yummy, huh?

In tonight's version I used prepared biscuit mix. Sometimes I use the buttermilk fridge biscuits, but I use the store brand, not the laughing little fat guy in the baker's hat brand, and I didn't want to go to THAT particular grocery store, so I went with the baking powder version.

I like to tinker with the flavour, so I added black pepper, grated parmesan, and mozza cheddar mix to the basic recipe on the box for drop biscuits. I confess...I don't like my dumplings all doughy on the bottom, so I always pop them on a baking pan and into the oven for 5-7 minutes just until the bottoms set. Then I pull 'em out and set them on the chicken mixture. Sprinkle some paprika on top to make it look pretty! (I really don't think it affects the taste much, but it does look nice!) Bake at 375 until the biscuits are browned and ready!
Dish up and enjoy!

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