Depending upon where you happen to find yourself in the world, the cold weather is upon us- or will be soon. Now is the time to get your arsenal ready- to have your comfort food ducks in a row. And if you have someone in your household that works outside for a living- even in the bitter cold of winter- like I do, then it’s vitally important to have a strong repertoire of hot, filling foods. This dish definitely fits the bill! It even makes fantastic leftovers and can be packed into a hot food jar (thermos) and taken for lunch or dinner. Oh- and as an added bonus, this will make your house smell amazing! Bake it on the same day as you do a maple apple pie (keep an eye out for the recipe) and you could sell tickets for people to come and smell your living room 🙂
The ingredients for this casserole are pretty straightforward. If you don’t have any tomato paste on hand you can use ketchup, but don’t skip it completely. I used to because I couldn’t fathom using tomato anything in gravy. I was sorely mistaken! Even the small amount that’s called for in this recipe adds a layer of flavor and richness that will be lacking if you leave it out. There will be a flat note in an otherwise beautiful composition. And it doesn’t taste of tomato at all, so don’t worry about that.
Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees so it’s waiting for you. Then get out a skillet or frying pan that is big enough for all of your filling ingredients plus the 4 cups of gravy. So you need a BIG one. Heat the olive oil or bacon fat (adds a touch of smokiness that is awesome!) over medium high heat. Put the chicken in the pan and cook until it’s no longer pink. Add in the ham and carrots and cook them all together until the chicken browns, about 5 minutes.
Transfer those to a bowl and set aside, then lower the heat to medium. In the same pan, melt the butter and cook the onions until they’re soft. Add in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to incorporate. Congratulations, you’ve just made a roux! Let the roux cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, to get rid of the raw flour taste. Break out your whisk and add the chicken broth and milk to the roux. Whisk while you’re adding the liquids so you don’t end up with huge lumps of roux. Once all of the liquid is in the pan, whisk until there are no lumps except onions and garlic.
Now you can add the meats and carrots back into the pan. Add the Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and peas and bring to a boil. Taste the filling to check for seasoning. Add salt and white pepper to taste. You CAN use black pepper, but I prefer the flavor of white pepper and it eliminates having black specks in a light colored sauce.
Once you have the filling seasoned to your liking, start on the topping. I usually get the dry ingredients put together while the chicken is cooking. If you didn’t, that’s fine too- just do it now. The filling can sit for a little while. Once you have your dry ingredients mixed (including the Parmesan cheese), grate your butter into them. I just stick the box grater at an angle in the bowl to save on dishes.
See how nice and small those pieces of butter are? They make it SO MUCH easier to incorporate into the flour! I do this just about every time I have to incorporate cold butter into flour. You could cube the butter and work it in, but why??
So evenly (and easily) mixed! Yay! Add the milk and stir to make a sticky biscuit dough. This isn’t the type of biscuit dough that you can roll out and have pretty biscuits for sandwiches. This will form a craggy topping of biscuits (looking not unlike the topping of apple crumble dessert, hence the name) that are perfect for eating with stew.
**There’s a lesson here, boys & girls: if you need to add more liquid to biscuit dough, DO NOT start pouring from the jug, lest the dog bump into you and you add more than you were planning on. Sigh… the dough should be less wet than this; it should look almost like a slightly dry cookie dough at the wettest.**
Spread the chicken filling evenly into a 13 x 9 baking dish and drop the biscuit dough in gobs of about 2 tablespoons (I’m totally guessing!) all over the top. I usually get about 12 gobs (technical term) out of this batch of dough.
Bake this in your preheated oven, uncovered, for about half an hour. You want the filling to boil for about 10 minutes and the topping to be nice and browned. If your topping gets too brown before the filling boils, turn your oven down to 400 degrees and cover the dish with foil. You may also want to get your oven calibrated, or at least get an oven thermometer so you can make sure it’s at the right temperature. Once the filling boils you can take the foil off and finish the dish. Just don’t let the topping burn.
**Had my biscuit dough not been too wet, this would look MUCH closer to an actual crumble top. It still tasted wonderful, it just looked differently than it was supposed to. So be careful when adding extra liquids to mixtures!**
This recipe originally came from another blog site, and it was pretty good. But it was overly complicated and the result wasn’t, personally speaking, worth the effort. It also had a few ingredients that we don’t really care for, so I started playing and this is what the dish morphed into. I hope this helps inspire you to start planning for the cold weather to come 🙂
For the Filling:
About 2 T Bacon Fat or Oil- enough to cook the chicken and onions
1 1/2 Lbs. Chicken, diced (white or dark meat, either is fine)
8 Oz. Ham, chopped (just about any thicker sliced ham will work- just don’t use shaved)
1 Medium Onion, diced fine
4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced
4 Medium Carrots, diced small
6 T Butter
1 t Tomato Paste
1/2 C Flour
3 C Chicken Broth
1 C Milk
1 1/2 T Dried Parsley
3 Splashes Worcestershire Sauce (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 C Peas (fresh, frozen, or canned and drained well)
Salt & Pepper to taste
For the Topping:
2 C Flour
2 t Baking Soda
3/4 t Salt
1/2 t White Pepper
6 T Butter, frozen and grated
1/2 C Parmesan, grated (fresh is best, but canned works too)
1 C Milk
*Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
*In a large skillet, heat the bacon fat or oil over medium high heat and brown the chicken, adding the ham and carrots about halfway through.
*While the chicken is cooking, combine the dry topping ingredients, including the cheese.
*Grate the butter either directly into the bowl or onto a chilled plate (if using a box grater; a chilled bowl will work for using a flat grater).
*Gently mix the butter into the dry ingredients. Set aside in the fridge.
*Once the chicken is brown, transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside.
*In the same pan, lower the temperature to medium and melt 6 T butter in the same pan.
*Cook the onions until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
*Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir well. Cook the roux, stirring every minute or so, for about 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste.
*Whisk in the chicken broth until no lumps remain, then add the milk. Whisk together to ensure there are no lumps.
*Add in the Parsley, Worcestershire sauce, peas, and the chicken & veggie mixture. Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally.
*Turn off the heat and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
*Retrieve the bowl of biscuit ingredients from the fridge and pour the milk over the mixture, stirring gently until incorporated. Get the biscuits well mixed, but don’t over work the dough or the topping will be tough.
*Coat a 13 x 9 baking dish lightly with butter or spray with cooking spray and then pour the filling into it.
*Drop the biscuit mixture evenly over the filling in 2 T gobs until you’ve used it all.
*Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the biscuits are a deep golden brown. If the biscuits brown too quickly and the filling isn’t boiling yet, cover the pan with foil or an inverted baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.