Ballad of Petey’s chicken stew
Ladies and germs — we have an authentic Christmas miracle.
I’ve mentioned before how impossible is it to get Petey to choose our evening meal. I get bupkis, neither by spontaneous utterance, nor when he’s prodded by a spouse who shall not be named.
The look that comes over his face when queried looks like the befuddled expression the Kardashian sisters’ features might assume if asked to define the word discretion. Complete and utter stupification.
So I was pretty darn stupefied myself when he began to broadly hint for chicken pot pie. After 31 years of my hopeful expectation being dashed by his flummoxed non-response, frankly, I didn’t know what to do next. It had never happened before.
Then Petey had another choice to make — crust. I gave him three options: classic two-crust pie, hand pie or topped with biscuits. My beloved spouse chose the biscuit option. The only thing was, at that point it stopped being pot pie, and became chicken stew with biscuits. But that’s OK. He’d actually made a choice, and I was running with it.
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, quartered and sliced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 medium-sized waxy potatoes cut into ½ cubes
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1/3 cup dry sherry or white wine
½ pound chicken, cut into bite-size chunks
1 ½ cups chicken stock
¾ cup whole milk
Salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 375. In a large heavy pot, melt butter. Add all veggies except peas. Add bay leaf, thyme and season. Cook until the vegetables have some color, and the onions and celery are soft and translucent. Add the raw chicken and peas, mix to combine. Sprinkle on flour and stir until it coats everything. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add sherry. When all the liquor is cooked in, add stock and milk. Cook until it’s thickened and bubbly.
Pour into greased 8x8 casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with raw biscuits. Either four large (3 inch), or 12 2-inch biscuits. You can use a half batch of my brown butter biscuits, your own recipe, or even canned biscuits. Brush tops with butter. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Return to oven and cook for 25 minutes or it’s hot and bubbling, and the biscuits are cooked and browned.
After cutting out biscuits and covering the stew, there was enough dough left for two large biscuits. I rerolled the dough, cut it into two, and froze the remaining “second chance" biscuits for another time.
I was really proud of the finished dish. It was pretty and smelled yummy. I got ready to plate our dinner. All of a sudden, the phone rang, something came up, and we had to run out, and leave my gorgeous dish untouched. I covered it with plastic wrap, and stuck it in the fridge.
A few days later we were going to eat it for supper. But I had a problem. The biscuits, which had been golden and crispy, now were soggy and sad. Also, if I baked it again, the chicken, which I had tried to keep moist by adding it raw, would overcook, and be dry and tough. What to do?
I peeled the biscuits off, brushed them with some butter, and baked them until they were dry and crispy. I would use them later, as croutons, for soup or salad. I then dished the stew out into two bowls — I’d nuke ‘em until hot and bubbly.
Then I took my “second chance” biscuits out of the freezer, brushed with butter, and baked them off by themselves. Once the stew was hot, I topped each with a hot, fresh biscuit. Petey loved it.
I took what was left, put it into two bags, and froze them. Now I can either make more biscuits for it, or make some pie dough, and either do hand pies, or individual pot pies.
I was really jazzed when Petey actually requested something specific for dinner. And in 30 years, when he does it again, I’ll be ready.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is email@example.com.