Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Simplicity Of Cooking

Good evening everyone! Welcome to day 2 of the great snowpocalypse - the cleanup. When it was all said and done, we piled up a solid 7 to 9 inches (depending on who you ask) of the white stuff. That combined with 30 MPH winds made last evening a nightmare for those out and about. This morning, the winds died down and the roads were cleaned (very well, when you consider the mess that was on them only hours before) and everything returned to normal. I don't know about you, but this snowstorm seemed to be more hype than it was worth. All the news talked about is how terrible things were going to be and how the greater metro would grind to a halt due to the weather. Neither of those things came true. (Obviously, if you live in south eastern Iowa or the Chicago region - this is a different story!) Not that I'm complaining, it's just interesting to see a snowstorm deliver so little of an impact after a forecast was proven to be accurate.

Now that we have all safely survived the great snowstorm of 2011, we can move on to more important things, like tonight's recipe! Tonight, my recipe is the definition of simplicity and culinary creation. I made this recipe on my own, no outside sources consulted, and ended up with a dish that delivered such great flavor - the best part? I used things we already had in the freezer / pantry! No groceries, no recipe and a great meal - here's how you can make this wonder dish yourself.

The Recipe: Chicken Gravy On Biscuits
This is an Out Of The Culinary original creation!

What You'll Need:

2-3 Chicken Pieces (Thighs, breasts, whatever you have in the freezer or left in the refrigerator)
2 Cups Chicken Broth
Frozen Vegetable Mixture (Or fresh chopped carrots, peas and green beans, again, whatever is available)
3-4 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Thyme (Dried)
6 Fresh Biscuits, Bread Slices or Russet Potatoes (To make mashed potatoes)

My inspiration for this dish came from meals my mom used to make when I was growing up. It was common practice for her to turn leftover chicken into chicken gravy and serve it upon fresh biscuits, egg noodles or mashed potatoes. The ingredients were usually whatever we had leftover. Corn, peas, carrots, whatever needed to be used up from a previous meal made its way into the pot with the chicken and via a process (which at the time I assumed was simple 'mom magic') ended up as a nice, thick gravy that was full of flavor and filled you up!

Setting out to duplicate this end result, I started with what I had - 3 pieces of chicken. 1 frozen thigh, 1 frozen drumstick and one fresh breast. I also had a bag of frozen vegetables (a mixture of carrots, peas, corn and green beans) and simple put together a process that made sense to me.

The easiest way to get chicken soft and shred-able (best for gravy that way) is to cook the living daylights out of it. Enter the slow cooker. I love my slow cooker simply because it makes the evening meal so much easier. Pop in a few ingredients, set the dish to low and come back at the end of the day to a wonderful dish that is ready (or very near ready) to eat.

To make your own version of chicken gravy on biscuits, simply add whatever chicken pieces you have to a large slow cooker (they can still be frozen, it doesn't matter) add your vegetables (fresh, chopped, frozen - whatever you prefer). Add enough broth to barely cover the top of the vegetables - this was abot 2 cups for me, but it could vary based on the amount of chicken you are using and the size of you slow cooker. All that's left is to set the cooker on low and let things cook for a solid 5 to 8 hours.

After your ingredients have had all day to stew, all you have to do is a pluck the chicken from the slow cooker. Most of the meat should fall right off the bone, but if you still have some sticky pieces, be sure to pluck it free with tongs. Add all of your meat to a small bowl and, using tongs, simply toss the chicken until it breaks apart into smaller strands. This shouldn't take a whole lot of effort - usually the chicken is falling apart before you get it out of the slow cooker!

That's all that remained on the bones
After only a few tosses with tongs

Next, add the thyme and 2 tablespoons of flour directly to the veggie mixture in the slow cooker. Stir until everything is mixed well and evaluate the mixture. If things still seem soupy, add another tablespoon of flour and stir. Repeat this process until the veggie/broth mixture turns slightly 'stew like'. Add the chicken and stir again. Return the slow cooker to low (or the warm setting if your cooker has that option) while you work on the biscuits / potatoes / noodles or whatever you are going to serve the gravy on.

For this dish, I decided to use a few russet potatoes that we had in our pantry. This meant that I (finally) got to use another Christmas gift - the Rotato. If you're not familiar with the Rotato, let me just say that it is a device created by the kitchen tool gods to make your life 1000% easier. My least favorite kitchen activity is peeling and preparing potatoes. I hate it. It's time consuming, it's a mess - I can't stand doing it. The Rotato takes the potato on its stand, and with a push of a button, spins a little peeler blade around the spud until its shed of all its skin. All you have to do is chop the tater and you're good to go. In 1 minute I had 3 large russet potatoes peeled, sliced and into a pot of boiling water. If you don't have a Rotato - go get one. You'll love it. I promise!

The Rotato in action! 
All that's left is to serve the gravy on top of the biscuits, potatoes or whatever you decide to serve it on and enjoy!

The Results:

I'm stuffed to the gills. Absolutely stuffed. This dish turned out much better than I ever imagined it could. There is something to be said about simplicity in cooking. When the flavors of the dish are natural, simple flavors that blend together this well - it goes toe to toe with any French culinary creation you could muster up. The best part is it took maybe 5 minutes of prep time before and 10 minutes of prep time after (and that was just for the potatoes) and the dish was done. Factor in the fact that we had all of the ingredients on hand and you end up with a dish that simply cannot be beat.

In the end, my attempt to recreate a dish based on childhood memory was successful. It wasn't just like my mom's dish, but that's okay. It was delicious in its own right - and it's my own dish, that makes it even better.

This concept doesn't have to be limited to chicken either - simply add a roast, replace the chicken broth with beef broth and you can create a great beef gravy on biscuits too. Your only limit is the amount of leftovers in your pantry and your own imagination! If you've never cooked up a dish like this - give it a shot this weekend. You'll be glad you did.

That's all we have for you tonight. Maggie is in the kitchen tomorrow night to close out our week. Be sure to stop in tomorrow evening to see what she's got cooking. Until then,


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