Chicken and Biscuits

When I was growing up, there occasionally would appear in my family’s cupboard a product called Chicken in a Biscuit.

These were crackers that tasted like chicken. I think my dad liked them. Even as a very young child, I knew that something about this just wasn’t right. Crackers aren’t supposed to taste like meat!

Chicken in a Biscuit crackers frighten me in some primal way, even though I now know they simply have a little chicken base mixed into the cracker dough. Still, I do enjoy the flavors of chicken and biscuits. And with yet another hurricane heading for poor, embattled New Orleans, I felt it was a good time to make some comfort food.

I debated whether to make fresh biscuits for this dish, or simply used the kind that comes in a tube. I’m still a little cautious about my own biscuits, scones and other quick breads, seeing as how I thought they nearly killed me once.

In the end, I opted for the store-bought variety due to time constraints. I’m glad I did because these biscuits were more like puff pastry, with layer upon layer of butter dough.

This is a very simple and old-fashioned dish. The innovation I added was to cook the biscuits right on top of the chicken stew, sort of like a chicken pot pie. Given the biscuits’ puff pastry-like qualities, it essentially was chicken pot pie.

Only I forgot to add the frozen peas that I bought. Oh, well. Something to make it better next time.

Chicken and Biscuits

1/2 lb Cooked Chicken, pulled from bone and chopped (I used leftovers from BBQ Chicken I made the night before)

2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 White Onion, medium dice

2 Carrots, peeled and medium dice

2 Celery Stalks, medium dice

14oz can Chicken Broth

4 TBS All-Purpose Flour

1 TBS Chicken Base

1 cup Frozen Peas, thawed (which I bought but forgot to add!)

1 tube Buttery Biscuits (makes 8 biscuits)

Sea Salt

Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

1. Put an oven-safe pot over a medium heat. I used my Dutch Oven. When hot, add EVOO. When smoking, add onions, celery and carrot. I threw in a diced green bell pepper from our garden because we are up to our ears in them, but they aren’t usually a part of this recipe. Stir around, cover and cook until onions are translucent, about five minutes. Stir in chicken, cover and cook another minute or two to heat the chicken through.

2. Add flour and chicken base to the chicken/vegetable mixture. Stir around until the flour begins to brown a little, about two minutes, then hit it with the chicken stock. Stir, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes, stirrring once or twice. The stock will thicken during this time. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 350F. Place uncooked biscuits directly on top of chicken mixture then put the entire pot, uncovered, in the oven and cook until biscuits are browned on top, about 25 minutes.

To serve, remove or two of the biscuits to get at the chicken stew, ladle some of the chicken mixture into a bowl and then cap with the biscuits.

This chicken and biscuits is so much better than a box of crackers!


Corned Beef Hash

A confession: One of my guilty pleasures is corned beef hash.

The kind that comes out of a can and looks like dog food. I know, right?

Whenever my wife and I go out to breakfast at our favorite diner — or anywhere for that matter — I always order the same thing: Corned beef hash and eggs over easy with Greek toast. It’s become sort of a running joke between us that someday I will order something else, but that day has never arrived.

I just love the way corned beef tastes, especially when it’s all mixed up with the eggs and the hash browns. Health food, it’s not. But I could eat it every morning if I wasn’t afraid I would die of a heart attack before I turned 50.

After this weekend (St. Patrick’s Day, remember?), I found myself with some leftover corned beef and potatoes. So I thought, why not try to make “healthy” corned beef hash? At least healthier than the kind that comes out of a can.

Chef’s tip: In most restaurants that serve breakfast, the corned beef hash they sell still comes out of a can. They are just really big cans.

Anyway, it turned out delicious, although it didn’t hold together the way the canned stuff does. I think if I had a meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid, I would have put it through the grinder to get that kind of consistency. But the flavor was still superior to the canned version and the crispiness as perfect.

So a belated happy St. Patrick’s Day to everybody. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do with all this cabbage!

Corned Beef Hash

1/2 lb corned beef, cooked

2-3 red potatoes, cooked

Fresh cracked black pepper

1 TBS sunflower oil

1. Chop corned beef until fine. Cut potatoes into small dice size. Combine in mixing bowl and season generously with black pepper. You probably won’t need to add any additional salt because the corned beef already has a lot of salt in it.

2. Put cast iron skillet on the fire. When hot, add oil. When smoking, place corned beef hash in pan, being carefuly not to splash yourself with the hot oil. Use a spatula to form a rough patty shape.

3. Fry corned beef over medium heat until bottom is brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip patty with spatula then fry other side until brown and crispy. Remove to plate lined with paper towel to remove some of the grease, then transfer to serving plate.

I made hash browns out of the leftover red potatoes by passing them through a box grater, seasoning them and then frying them until crispy in a cast iron skillet. The corned beef hash and hash browns can be made ahead of time and kept warm in a 200F oven if you are making breakfast for a big group of people and want to make eggs to order.

What sort of guilty pleasures do you indulge yourself in every once in awhile? Share your story in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!


Matzo Ball Soup

With cold and flu season just around the corner, now is a good time to break out the only sure-fire cure for what ails you.

No, not Nyquil. I’m talking, of course, about Matzo Ball Soup.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup

I first discovered this miracle cure back in the late 1980s, when a single bowl of this magical stew at Mort’s Deli under the L tracks on Wabash Avenue in the Loop almost immediately cleared up lingering cold symptoms I had been battling for a couple of days.

From that moment on, I was a believer.

Sadly, Mort’s has not survived. The spot is currently occupied by a Popeye’s Chicken. Some people call it progress!

(A quick side story: One Sunday morning back in the late ’80s, I was walking into the building where I worked as a news reporter when I heard gunshots coming from the parking garage that also housed Mort’s. Intrepid cub reporter that I was, I ran to the scene and called my city desk from a pay phone. Then I saw that the actor Robert DeNiro was firing a gun at a bunch of policemen. Holy smokes, I told my editor, this is a huge story! It was only then that I noticed the movie cameras and lights. They happened to be filming “Midnight Run” that morning. So much for my scoop!)

Some people claim the curative powers reside in the matzo ball itself, with its pinch of schmaltz, or chicken fat, and the seltzer water that gives this dumpling its lightness. Others argue that the rich vitamin and nutrient content of the chicken stock is responsible. I think it’s a perfect combination of both.

Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock

Which is not to say you have to be sick to enjoy Matzo Ball Soup. It’s light, delicate flavor is delicious anytime.

Making Matzo Ball Soup doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, whenever I make chicken stock I will freeze it for whatever cooking needs I have. It’s way cheaper than buying canned chicken broth. Making the matzo balls is simple and they also can be frozen.

Combine the two and it’s like chanting a magic spell. You will be healed. Also, sated with a delicious and inexpensive soup.

So this cold and flu season, don’t get caught off guard. Prep your chicken stock while you still feel well, and keep a lookout for a cannister of matzo meal at your local grocer. A lot of places will stock it only this time of year.

And if you see Robert DeNiro in a shootout with police, don’t call it in to your city desk. Unless you want to be made fun of. A lot. Forever.

Matzo Balls

Matzo Balls

Matzo Ball Soup

For the Chicken Broth

3-4 chicken backs, or 3 lb necks backs and wings

3 celery stalks, rough chop

3 carrots, rough chop

2 parsnips, rough chop

2 white or yellow onions, quartered

1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally

1-2 bay leafs

TBS whole black pepper corns

TBS sea salt

About 1-1/2 gallon water

Place chicken in stock pot and cover with about 4″ water. Bring to boil. Add remaining ingredients, being careful not to splash yourself with boiling water. Return to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook 3-4 hours, uncovered, occasionally skimming the scum off the top.

Remove chicken and vegetables by pouring through a colander and cheesecloth (or a clean dish towel) into another large pot. Cool completely and skim fat before refrigerating or freezing.

For the Matzo Balls

1/2 cup matzo meal

2 beaten eggs

2 TBS schmaltz (rendered chicken fat, or you can use vegetable oil)

TBS sea salt

1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

2 TBS seltzer water (or chicken stock)

Mix ingredients together in bowl until moist. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and refigerate 30 minutes to make dough more workable.

Fill large pot with water and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.

Wet your hands under the faucet to make it easier to handle the dough. Form 1″ balls in the palm of your hand and roll into ball shape. Drop them one at a time into the simmering water. Cover the pot tightly and cook for about 35 minutes. The balls will expand to more than double their size as they cook. Remove and cool.

Assembling the Soup

Heat a little chicken stock in a sauce pan. Drop in 2-3 matzoh balls and cook about 5 minutes until heated through. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with a little chopped parsley or dill, if you have some lying around.

Feel better.

What other comfort foods do you crave when you are feeling under the weather? Share your ideas in the comments section below. And thanks for reading my blog!