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Chicken and Biscuits

8 Jan

Chicken and Biscuits

All good things must come to an end, and so it was that our whirlwind season of feasts and gluttonous repasts was over. Yet we resist and fought bravely to the end, carrying into January our still-vivid dreams of rich gravies and sauces—not to mention a newly cultivated appreciation for post-meal naps. But even so, ringing in the New Year always produces that mysterious effect of switching on a heart-achingly enthusiastic resolve to actualize long neglected goals or to just start afresh. For me, I revived the ever perennial resolve to adopt a lifestyle of well-being and fitness; yet good food and taste, those cannot be sacrificed. So this was going to take a bit of creativity. I knew the key was to begin by making small compromises that won’t make you fall off the bandwagon by mid February.

My newfound commitment would  be tested on a particularly cold Monday, the eve before the so-called polar vortex would assail London and when  a particularly daunting evening of legal research loomed. Sure, my first impulse was to order-in greasy Chinese—nothing better than mysteriously non-perishable, battered goodness.

But good choices were made that day. I steered myself towards my well-stocked fridge and tasked myself with putting together something that’s going to be satisfying for my conscience and my stomach.

It starts with a chicken broth—so purifying after the onslaught of flavours from last month which, by the fifth holiday dinner, seemed to run into each other. Fortunately, a typical post-holiday send-off from my family usually includes a jar of chicken or beef broth. So my broth of choice is familiar yet full of taste and goodness, so simple yet still complex. I have chicken thighs in the freezer, and lots of it. So I brown them a little and add them to the broth to make a hearty soup. I like  soups a little on the denser side, toeing into stew territory—so I added a little flour to my aromatics, browning in butter, to make a roux. Then in goes some white wine (the drier the better) and the best chicken stock you can find. Top it off with a few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.

While all that was getting to know each other in my soup pot, I felt butter biscuits were in order, just to indulge a tiny bit. They turned out really flaky and buttery and complemented the chicken really well. Take a bite between spoonfuls of soup or dunk them in the broth. I’m almost reminded of a really good chicken pot pie.

INGREDIENTS

CHICKEN SOUP

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ lb lb. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 medium carrots (about 1 lb.), peeled, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 small celery root (about 12 oz.), peeled, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups peas
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves

BISCUITS

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus more for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

CHICKEN SOUP

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook skin side down until, 8–10 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Carefully drain all but 2 Tbsp. fat from pot. Add carrots, celery root, onion, peas, and leek; stir frequently until softened and beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes.

Add butter; stir until melted. Add flour and stir constantly until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add wine and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 5–8 minutes.

Add chicken, broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 35–40 minutes.

Discard herb sprigs and bay leaves. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat, discarding skin and bones.

Return shredded chicken to soup. Season with salt and pepper

BISCUITS

Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter. Using your fingertips, blend until pea-size lumps form. Add buttermilk, sour cream and chives.

Using a fork, mix until just combined. Gather mixture into a ball and knead in bowl just until a shaggy dough forms, 3 or 4 times.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface and pat into a ¾”- to 1”-thick round. Cut out rounds with a 2” biscuit cutter or small glass. Gather dough and repeat patting and cutting. Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet; brush with egg.

Bake biscuits until golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Revised from recipe via Bon Appetit

Candy Apples

21 Oct

I must confess, the idea of covering a perfectly good piece of fruit in pure sugar syrup is very strange. But I have a weakness for all things festive, and these glossy–red beauties make me so pleased to be in the autumn season.

I tried this candy coating recipe in a much smaller batch at first. But candy–coating is a bitch to work with, especially if you’re stopping to wipe it off the tables, floors, walls, or your own person every couple of minutes. It can also harden on you in less than 5 minutes so I found that making it in a greater quantity than you actually require to coat the apples will buy you more time to work with it, since the syrup hardens faster in smaller amounts. And this way, coating is easier too because you can fully cover those apples in one go.

Ingredients

6 Granny Smiths (small to medium sized)

5 cups white sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 1/2 cups water

Red food colouring

Other: popsicle sticks, candy thermometer

Directions

Place popsicle sticks into each apple at the stem end.

In a saucepan on medium high heat, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until mixture reaches 300-310 F. Approximately 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 4-6 drops of red food colouring. Dip apples, holding them by the stick and let cool on parchment paper.

The trickiest part of the process is probably gauging when your syrup concoction is ready to come off the burner. Most recipes will suggest using a candy thermometer and waiting until the syrup reaches 300-310 F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer on hand, try a simple test: drip a bit of the mixture into a bowl of cold water, if it hardens immediately into a brittle glob, it’s good. Mine took about 25 minutes to become ready.  And when it begins to smell fragrantly of caramel, start doing the test every couple of minutes.

Now for the best part—digging in. I didn’t cut mine, didn’t think it was possible in fact. I like to begin with a part of the apple that isn’t coated (a point of weakness, if you will) and go to town.

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