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!


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.

A Strawberry Solstice Celebration!

For those of us living in the northern climes, summer can’t get here fast enough. From the crisp cold of November to the warming and mud of March, I feel as if I live in a small cave. It’s dark when I get up in the morning, dusk-ish when I go to work, and dark when I leave work. Lamps that aren’t touched during the summer are all glowing in an effort to bring lightness to our lives. Outdoors on Saturday mornings, I notice things that I bypassed during the week because I’m not at home during the light of day. April and May brings warmer weather, the removal of snow tires from our cars, and a general lightness, both physically and emotionally. The bulky sweaters and turtlenecks are replaced with t-shirts and dresses.

So when the sunny and light-filled day of June 21 comes along, that means two things– the longest day of the year and strawberries! Several afternoons on my way home from work, from the middle to end of June through the first couple of weeks of July, I stop at the store for a quart of strawberries. On the weekends, I go up the road to a farm and buy a couple more. Nothing compares to a fresh Vermont strawberry. Nothing. And since our growing season is short, about a month, I take full advantage of it!

Once a year I make my favorite, strawberry shortcake, and sometimes this is our dinner, our whole dinner. Or breakfast. Or brunch. Or lunch. Or snack. Really, any time is a perfect time for strawberry shortcake! If I’m making it for a crowd, I will make a large biscuit in a cake pan, let it cool, slice it in half horizontally, lay down a layer of whipped cream and strawberries, and put more cream and berries on the top. It is fairly easy and really beautiful and you will get oohs and aahs at the table. Since it was just two of us this evening, I made the biscuit and cut it into eighths, so I can individually wrap each one and stick them in the freezer for another meal.

This biscuit, which comes from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, which was given to me as a gift from my dear friend, Sarah, many Christmases ago, is the best one I’ve found so far. Just a little sweet, not crumbly, and really complements the berries and cream. Dojny’s instructions are for using a food processor; Luddite that I am, I did this by hand, but either way will work.

And if you’re watching your weight or are gluten intolerant, a small bowl of berries and whipped cream makes an equally delicious dessert! I’ve had both this week!

Egg Biscuit Cake
From The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces (Cook’s note: I used salted butter and cut the salt to 1/4 teaspoon)
1 egg
1/2 milk

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dried ingredients. Add the cut butter and with a knife or pastry blender, work it into the flour until it is crumbly. In a small bowl, add the egg and mix in the milk. Make a small well at the bottom of the flour mixture, add the egg and milk, and mix until everything is incorporated. (Cook’s note: The author suggests putting this on a floured surface and kneading together. I did this in the bowl instead.) Place into a greased 8-inch cake pan and pat into a circle.

In terms of baking time, these are Dojny’s instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When you put the biscuit in the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. (Cook’s note: Since my oven is a bit more fussy, I cooked the shortcake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or so and just kept a watchful eye on it.) 

Homemade Whipped Cream
Take either whipping cream or heavy cream and put it in a bowl with a splash of vanilla and a few teaspoons of sugar (I am always taste testing as I’m whipping it to make sure there is just the right about of sugar.) With a hand mixer, turn to high and continue to move the cream around. Stop when you reach the consistency of whipped cream you like. Beware, if you go too stiff, you’ll make butter!