01 February 2011

Vermont Chicken and Biscuits

Dear Lissy,

It's barely above zero and snowing hard, so tonight seems the perfect evening for the King Arthur Flour Chicken and Biscuits supper.  This has been a family favorite for years, and is probably the dinner most requested for birthdays.  Dad likes a side dish of peas and carrots to stir in, I prefer a green salad to cut the creamy richness.

This is the dish I bring in for new mommas, grieving families, and even chemo patients.  It's New England comfort food at it's very best, and even tiny children love it.  If you're bringing it in to a friend, remember to use a disposable pan.  They don't need the extra trouble of clean-up when their lives are already topsy-turvy.  I like to give disposable plates and cutlery, too, a little extra touch I learned from my first boss.  A fresh or frozen fruit salad makes a nice side dish and is gentle on the tummy.

Don't be put off by the fact you start with a whole chicken.  If you poach the chicken the night before, dinner still goes together in under 45 minutes.  The recipe has three parts:  poaching the chicken and reducing the stock, pulling the meat and making the sauce, and mixing the biscuit topping.  You'll probably remember that I spread the biscuit dough on like a cobbler at home rather than scooping individual biscuits.

Chicken and Biscuits, cobbler-style

one 5-pound roasting chicken, or 5 pounds of chicken parts, including light and dark meat*
1 large onion, cut in chunks
2 large carrots, cut in chunks
5 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 quart water

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) chicken fat (reserved from poaching liquid, above)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter
6 tablespoons 1 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 1/2 cups chicken stock (prepared from poaching liquid, above)

2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) shortening or reserved chicken fat, it there's enough
1 large egg
2/3 cup (5 3/4 ounces) milk
*If you decide to use leftover cooked turkey or chicken, you'll need 2 to 2 1/4 pounds of boneless, skinless meat, which is between 6 and 7 cups of meat.

FILLING: Place the chicken (or chicken parts), onion, carrots, parsley, thyme and salt in a deep stock pot. Add the water; it should almost cover the chicken (if it doesn't, add more). Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer the chicken and vegetables for about 1 1/4 hours (for a whole chicken) or 45 minutes to 1 hour (for chicken parts), till chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and vegetables, discarding the vegetables and spreading the chicken on a platter to cool. Boil the stock till it's reduced to 2 1/2 cups; this will take about 45 minutes. If after 45 minutes there's more than 2 1/2 cups of stock remaining, simply measure out 2 1/2 cups, and save (or discard, or pour on your dog's food) the rest. Alternatively, you can use 20 ounces of canned chicken broth, about 1 1/2 cans.

SAUCE: Skim the fat off the top of the stock, reserving 4 tablespoons and discarding the rest. Place the 4 tablespoons of fat in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of butter, and heat over medium heat till butter is melted. Add 6 tablespoons of flour, and stir to combine. Gradually pour in the 3 1/2 cups stock, whisking constantly. Cook and stir the sauce over medium heat till it comes to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer it for 5 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and tear it into 1-inch pieces. When the sauce is ready, stir in the chicken and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add ground black pepper and additional salt to taste.

Spoon the chicken into an 8 x 12-inch (or similar size) casserole dish; the dish should hold 2 to 3 quarts, and should be wide rather than deep, in order for the biscuits to fit on top

BISCUITS: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender, your fingers, or an electric mixer, cut in the shortening till the mixture is crumbly. Whisk together the egg and milk, and stir into the dry ingredients, mixing just till fully combined. The dough will be very wet and sticky.

ASSEMBLY: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using a spoon or cookie (or ice cream) scoop, drop the batter in golf ball-sized rounds onto the chicken, spacing them evenly and leaving a bit of room in between for expansion. Place the chicken and biscuits in the oven, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm.Yield: 8 to 12 servings, depending on the appetites involved.
Nutrition information per serving (1/12 of recipe, 181g): 413 cal, 24.9g fat, 25g protein, 18g complex carbohydrates, 1g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 101mg cholesterol, 609mg sodium, 241mg potassium, 74RE vitamin A, 2mg iron, 152mg calcium, 216mg phosphorus.

Bless and be blessed,


  1. Have you been holding out on me Bekki????? I happen to find your post from the Raising Homemakers link up you told me about. And now I know, so be prepared, I'll be stalking :)
    This recipe looks great, I think it is worth trying to make the biscuits egg free so we can enjoy this as a family. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is a great (egg-free) stew topper:
    2 cups self-rising flour
    1/2 cup Crisco
    1 cup milk

    Cut Crisco into flour. Add milk and beat into a paste. Drop by Tablespoons on top of stew and bake at 475 until just turning golden.

    To make as biscuits, toss egg sized balls of dough in additional flour to coat. Grease just the spots on the pan where the biscuits will be placed. Bake in top 1/3 of oven at 500 degrees for 8-9 minutes until just barely golden.

    I'm planning to get several months under my belt before I publicize the blog. I know I want to do the homekeeping "notebook" for Lissy, and I'm hoping this will give me a little extra motivation. Stalk all you want, and feel free to offer any suggestions for improvements :-)

  3. I made a variation of this for dinner tonight, and it was so delicious! We had a whole roasted chicken for dinner last night, but Adam never made it home for his dinner break, so I had plenty of leftover chicken. I made stock last night with the carcass too.
    Tonight as I was trying to figure out what to do with the leftover chicken for dinner, I remembered this recipe on your blog. I was pumped when I saw that I needed homemade stock too since I had done that step already :) I only had about 2-3 cups of shredded chicken, so I decided to saute carrots, onion, celery and green beans to add to the chicken to stretch it out. The gravy was awesome and the biscuits were heavenly on top. Adam really enjoyed this too.
    thanks for sharing!

  4. Is it 2 1/2 cups of stock...or 3 1/2 as later stated for sauce?

    1. 3-1/2 cups is simmered until reduced which intensifies the flavor and thickens it slightly. Hope that answers your question. Feel free to contact me again.

    2. 3-1/2 is simmered down to 2-1/2.