Chicken Stew With Old South Buttermilk Biscuits

DSCN0703I feel quite fortunate to live near Diane St. Clair’s Animal Farm in Orwell. Recently interviewed on the radio show “The Splendid Table,” St. Clair has a small herd of  just ten Jersey cows. I heard about her years ago when I read Thomas Keller uses only her butter in his Per Se restaurant in Manhattan. Sometimes her butter is sold at the coop, but I’ve only been able to get it once because it sells like hot cakes when it’s on the shelf.

The conversation between St. Clair and host Lynn Rosetto Kasper revolved around her new cookbook, The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cook Book, which focuses on her latest project, buttermilk. Today’s buttermilk sold in stores is made mostly of low-fat or skim milk with added cultures. St. Clair’s buttermilk is just that, the leftover milk that remains after making butter.

After hearing the interview, I saw the coop also sells St. Clair’s buttermilk and I was able to buy a quart. When I was very small, I remember milk delivered to my home and sometimes we would get buttermilk. While there was a little tang to it,  it also had a rich creaminess to it, and St. Clair’s tasted just like I remembered. Since I bought this small bottle of liquid gold, I wanted to use it in something where it would shine. So I thought of buttermilk biscuits. Chicken pie suppers are popular in the fall, and since I didn’t go to the one I usually attend, I thought I’d make some chicken stew to accompany the biscuits. It made for a homey and delicious meal.

Helpful Kitchen Hint: Full disclosure, I made two batches of these biscuits. The first batch, we each had one, and the rest made their way to the compost pile; they weren’t biscuits, they were hockey pucks! So pay attention to rolling them out to ¼ inch in thickness; the first batch I rolled it like pie crust, so when baked they were thin and hard. The second time I made these, I pulled out a larger biscuit cutter, and paid attention to the thickness. I only got 12 out of the batch, but they were perfect; airy, with paper-thin layers, just the way they should be! 

The chicken stew was something I created one Sunday night. I had put together the ingredients in my head and thought I knew how it would come out and I wasn’t disappointed. And eating the leftovers a couple of evenings later with the “real” batch of biscuits was even better!

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The second batch of biscuits. Look how light and airy they look!

Old South Buttermilk Biscuits
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, by Amanda Hesser

Yes, I bought Crisco to make these biscuits. I honestly didn’t know how butter would work in combination with the buttermilk, so I decided to stay true to the recipe. 

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
¾ cup buttermilk, or more as needed
Whole milk for brushing (optional)

  1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Grease a baking sheet. Sift together the dry ingredients twice into a bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles course cornmeal.
  2. Add enough buttermilk to produce a soft dough, and stir until the mixture forms a ball. Knead lightly in the bowl until the dough holds together, about 30 seconds.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and roll to ¼ inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a small biscuit cutter and put on the greased baking sheet. If a glazed surface is desired, brush the tops with milk.
  4. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 1 to 2 dozen biscuits, depending on the size of your biscuit cutter.

Cook’s Notes: 

Hesser says she used low-fat buttermilk, so she added 2 more tablespoons of shortening, so 6 in total.
• I didn’t use the milk to glaze the biscuits. Not necessary, in my opinion.
• My biscuit cutters were about 3 inches, so it made for just one dozen.
• If you don’t have a flour sifter, don’t worry; I put all my dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisked the flour for a minute or so. A perfect solution!

DSCN0708Chicken Stew
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
½ cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen chopped green beans (or fresh)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons light cream or milk
Splash of white wine, optional
Freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste

  1. In a large Dutch oven, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook until they are barely soft. Add the carrots, peas and green beans. Stir and cook for about five minutes.
  2. Add the chicken breasts, broth, and wine, if using. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat and cook for about 15 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and milk or cream. Add it to the stew and stir until it starts getting thick.  Add salt and pepper and serve with the biscuits.

Cook’s Note:
• I prefer my stew to be on the thicker side rather than thin. Add a little more broth if you like it thinner.
• Some serve biscuits on the bottom of a deep-dish bowl with the stew on top and some serve the biscuits on top. I prefer them on the bottom, that way the stew can make the biscuits nice and soft.

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Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

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A drive over the mountain recently displayed no leaves left on the trees. Winter is coming. But sometimes we are treated to breathtaking sunrises, which brings beauty to the day.

Put me in the camp with former president George H. W. Bush–I don’t like broccoli. But I usually put some in my grocery cart each week. It’s dark, green, is filled with vitamins and nutrients, and everyone says you should eat it because it’s good for you. The only time I ever like it is late July and early August when I buy it at the farmer’s market; it was picked that morning and it so fresh it’s sweet. Steamed with a little bit of butter, salt, pepper, and a squirt or two of lemon, I could eat a huge bowl of the stuff. But any other time of the year, I’m less than enthused. So one day I said to myself if I should eat this, I’m going to eat it MY way!

It’s been a while since I’ve brought you a soup recipe, and in fact a while since I’ve even made a soup. But with the weather turning colder, I wanted something to warm me mid-day and decided to create a blended soup using the broccoli and  cheddar cheese I had in the fridge. This made just slightly over two cups, and was enough for two lunches; I am the type of eater who gets tired of eating the same thing every day and two days is about my max, so it was perfect for the week’s end of lunches.

I know how I’m eating my broccoli from now on!

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Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup
For a vegetarian version, you can easily substitute water or vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. And be careful with the cayenne; don’t just dump some in like I did! Add it 1/8 teaspoon at a time to taste. 

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
½ onion or about ½ cup, finely diced
About 5 cups of chopped broccoli
2 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth or water, more if needed later
¾-1 cup grated cheese
Cayenne pepper, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Add the olive oil to your soup pot and gently warm over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and sauté slowly until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Stir in the broccoli, and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat for the broccoli to simmer until very soft, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Lower heat and with a soup ladle, puree the soup in a blender or food processor in batches until all the soup is very smooth and creamy.
  5. Stir in the cheese, cayenne, if using, and the salt and pepper. Add more liquid if needed, and serve!

Some Exciting News for My Vermont Kitchen!
Starting this week, My Vermont Kitchen is now a member of Cooking Light magazine’s “Bloggers’ Connection.” My Vermont Kitchen joins just a handful of food blogs from across the country that partner with the magazine. Since I’ve been a reader since the 1990s and really learned how to cook from the recipes in the magazine, I think this is a perfect collaboration. And don’t worry that things will change here; you’ll still receive a recipe every Wednesday morning, you just might get a few more each month! So it is a win-win situation for all!

Homemade Applesauce

DSCN0687How could I let the month of October go by without an apple recipe?

Growing up, every Sunday we would pile into the car and go about eight miles to Ellie’s to pick up our weekly apples. Ellie reminded me a lot of my Grandma Koli, and she had a wonderful farm stand and gift shop, which was a bit on the old-fashioned side with little china trinkets. (It was the first time I saw the sign, “you break it, you buy it” which always led me to wonder if I actually had enough money in my piggy bank, just in case!) Ellie always let my brother, sister, and myself pick out one apple to munch on the way home. The apples would be in wooden crates and I would always dig through to find the biggest, reddest apple. It is an autumn tradition I remember fondly.

Subconsciously–or not–I’ve continued this tradition every fall. The apple orchard in our little town used to be on my long Sunday walk, so I would walk, pick up my apples (and cider doughnuts), and then walk back, exercising off the just-eaten doughnuts. But a few years ago, they moved their “store” to their other orchard, a few miles away that is not on my regular walking route. I have walked it, but it’s on a main road and my backpack would be laden down with apples, cider, and sometimes maple syrup, so it’s just not fun. Since the move, I drive over every Sunday after 4 p.m., when the apple picking crowd is starting to thin, and select my apples and Concord grapes for the week.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: I use Cortland apples for both applesauce and pies, as their flavor is sweet, not too tart, and they have a bit of water which is good for baking. If you select a harder apple, like a McIntosh, they will be great, they’ll just take longer to cook and more sweetener, depending on your taste. Another tip, if you have a food mill, you don’t have to worry about paring the apples; just core, dice, and the food mill will eliminate the skins for you! Cooking with the skins on adds a bit of pink to the sauce!

Homemade applesauce is delicious and easy to make. All you have to do is peel and dice some apples, put it in a saucepan with a little bit of water, and leave it on the stove top to cook. Add some more water, if needed, sweetener, cinnamon and/or nutmeg, and you’re done! And this time of year is perfect; a roasted chicken, some roasted root veggies, a simple green salad, and you have a perfect autumn meal to warm you on a chilly evening!

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Homemade Applesauce
I like my applesauce to have a little bit of texture, so I sometimes don’t cook the apples fully, so there are pieces of apple. Honey adds a different layer of flavor, but you can always use white or brown sugar.

4 Cortland apples, fairly large
1-2 Tablespoons honey or sugar
¼ cup of water, more if necessary
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

1. With a paring knife, peel and dice the apples. Place in a saucepan with ¼ cup of water.

2. On low heat, cook the apples, occasionally stirring them. Add more water, a quarter cup at a time, if you find they are getting too dry. When the sauce it at the consistency you like, add one tablespoon of honey or sugar, taste test, and add more to get the right sweetness.

3. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. You can keep this in the refrigerator for at least four weeks.

Just in Time for Halloween!
In case you missed this recipe last year, I thought I’d bring it to you again. Surprisingly enough to me, it was my most popular recipe EVER! Sadly, it is not my own, but it was fun to make and you could whip up a batch this weekend for the little trick-or-treaters who will knock on the door next Thursday or give away to your co-workers like I did!

Candy Corn Cookies

Eat Even More Kale! Kale Salad

It doesn't get more beautiful than this at dusk these days.

It doesn’t get more beautiful than this at dusk these days.

So I’ve brought you a couple of kale recipes through the years, sautéed kale and kale chips. This is the latest recipe that I’ve been making almost nightly for supper, Kale Salad. When the eater of the house wants more than one helping of salad, or make that kale in general, you just know it’s good!

A couple of weeks ago after a long walk with friends, I was asked if we wanted some kale from her garden. Never one to say no to fresh veggies, I accepted a large bag, even though I had just bought a bunch at the coop the day before. While I figured I’d make a big batch of kale chips, I remembered a salad recipe that I make every fall.

Kale is a hardy enough vegetable that it can withstand the first few frosts here in Vermont, and I’ve always found it to be sweeter in the fall than it is in the summertime. Which is why it makes for a delicious salad.

Because kale is tougher and less delicate than normal salad greens, the first step to take is to do something to make it a bit softer and a little more palatable to taste, which means massaging it with a little bit of olive oil. Many recipes I’ve seen have you massaging the kale for several minutes; I don’t think that’s necessary, one minute or so is fine unless your kale is extremely dry And while I feel silly literally giving my salad greens a massage (when I’m the one who needs it!), I tell myself I’m moisturizing my hands and fingernails!

This recipe is loosely based on one I used many years ago from a Food Network show. Gone is the original, but this is my rendition.

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Autumn Kale Salad
Apologies, I didn’t give you this recipe last Wednesday, because I found out October 2nd was National Kale Day

4-5 stems of kale, removed from the stem, rinsed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
Olive oil
Almonds
Raisins
Salt

Salad dressing
The juice of half a lemon and honey. Depending on how old your lemons are will depend on how much juice it makes. Add the honey one teaspoon at a time to get the right balance of sweet and sour.

1. In a large mixing bowl, tear the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add a couple teaspoons of olive oil, and “massage” the oil into the leaves for about a minute.

2. Add some almonds cut in half horizontally, and a small handful of raisins.

3. Add a little bit of salad dressing and mix. Add salt to taste.

In the Media
One of my favorite podcasts I listen to is “America’s Test Kitchen.” A combination of recipes, advice, and food observations, the one I recently listened to included an interview with food writer, Michael Pollan. I always wonder why so many children–and even adults–have food allergies these days. I can’t walk into a room without someone having a gluten, dairy, or nut allergy these days. Pollan makes the observation that given our hyper-awareness for germs in this day in age that perhaps we humans are not exposed to the germs our parents and grandparents were, and thusly that lack of exposure has allowed our guts to not get the good bacteria we actually need. This theory made a lot of sense and is one I’d never thought of before.

You can listen to the episode here,  America’s Test Kitchen Podcast.

Roasted Fall Fruit

You probably wouldn't recognize the crabapple tree this time of year. The bows are heavy with the tiny apples.

You probably wouldn’t recognize the crabapple tree this time of year. The boughs are heavy with the tiny apples.

If you have the urge to make a quick dessert this month, but you don’t want to go to the effort of making a pie, cake, or cookies, this is the perfect time of year to roast late summer and fall fruit. Yes, the technique just like you would vegetables! By slow cooking, the sugar comes out and makes a delicious  compote that is as comforting as pudding.

I have roasted both peaches and pears (separately) and they are fabulous. Just remove the skin, slice thinly, and place into a mixing bowl. Add a dash of sugar (brown, white, or a mixture), a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a little bit of butter. Place into a oven-proof pan and cook at 325 degrees until the fruit is soft. You can serve this with cream, ice cream, or just on its own.

The beauty in this recipe is it’s a “set it and forget it” kind of dessert. (Please forgive the quip, but it’s true!) You can put it in the oven if you are roasting a chicken or during dinner if you have guests. Of course, if you actually do forget it in the oven, it can overcook, but it would have to be in there for hours for that to happen. Just keep an eye on the clock and cook no more than an hour.

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Sometimes I read stories in the newspaper that just make me smile. (Believe me, these days, that is rare.) So when I read this story the other night, I knew I had to share it, since it relates to the enjoyment of dining with others.

Enjoy!

A Nightly Dinner Out That’s Like Therapy