Iowa Chicken Pie
I invited some friends over for some home cooked, Midwestern comfort food. This dish was basically deboned chicken baked in thickened chicken stock with biscuits on top (clearly). I found this recipe in a collection of Saveur magazines that a friend gave me. (I just love the pictures on the web site.) I think I have better comfort food chicken dishes in my repertoire than this turned out, but it was fun to cook.
The recipe called for a seven to ten pound stewing chicken, which I don’t think you can find in grocery stores (at least where I live). So I bought two organic chickens at my farmers market. I bought organic chickens because I had just seen Food, Inc. These two chickens cost me almost thirty dollars. Although I felt good about this purchase, I also felt poor. So poor I don’t think I can always buy organic chickens, at least while I’m still a barely employed graduate student. Also, when I bought them I didn’t expect them to be frozen, but man, were they ever frozen. I kept changing the cold water in which they defrosted for almost four hours.
While the chickens defrosted, I prepped some vegetables that were destined to boil with the chickens. I realize cooking with curly-leafed parsley is sacrilegious in some circles, but that is what grows in my yard. I threw these vegetables into two separate large pots with the chickens and a lot of water for about an hour.
Then I took the chicken out of the pans to be deboned and strained the broth. Isn’t that broth an amazingly rich color? The broth went into the fridge to cool down and have the fat solidify.
An hour or so in the fridge and the fat had hardened across the top of the broth.
Then I just had to scrape the fat off the top. Sure this looks pretty gross, but cooking isn’t glamorous (despite what food bloggers and their amazing pictures convey). Then I returned the broth to a pan, boiled it for about an hour, added some floor to thicken it, and then poured it into a backing dish that contained all of the deboned chicken.
With the broth poured on top, this was ready to go into the oven, bringing us to our last task: making the biscuits.
Like so many biscuit recipes, this one started with cutting butter into small pieces and keeping it cold. I stuck mine into the freezer for ten minutes or so while I gathered the rest of my ingredients and cleared a place to roll out the biscuits. Counter space is at a premium in my small kitchen (small by Iowa standards, probably not by NYC standards).
Then I tossed the frozen butter into the dry ingredients, before I took my pastry cutter and made this mess look like corn meal. Next, I added some whole milk until the dough stuck together, kneaded it for just a second, rolled out the dough and a heavily floured surface, and cut out my biscuits.
I arranged my biscuits on a cookie sheet, but most of these were destined to bake on top of the chicken dish. About twenty minutes into cooking, I pulled out the chicken and bubbling broth and put fifteen biscuits on top (three biscuits across in five different rows). I had four extra biscuits, so I guess I could have made these biscuits thicker. On that note, I wasn’t that impressed with these biscuits, so if I make this recipe again I will probably make a different biscuit recipe.
About fifteen minutes later, this dish was ready to come out of the oven and cool down just a bit before we ate into it. Like I said earlier in this post, this recipe was good, but I have better comfort foods of the chicken variety. I loved that this was served at church suppers in Vermont. While my supper wasn’t preceded by church attendance, I was glad to mark the end of my weekend with this dish.