This is comfort food at its highest level. As a stress reliever, it is on a par with yoga, neck massages and Xanax. It is most appreciated during the cold, damp days of autumn and winter but it can warm your heart on any day of the year. Serve this to your family when you, or any member of your family has had a particularly difficult day. Your family might not talk much during meal, but that’s okay. Sometimes we all need a quiet time to heal together.
2 Tbs. cooking oil (I like to use canola oil)
2 lbs. chicken skinless chicken breast
4 cups of chicken broth (32 ounce boxed broth or stock works well)
1 ½ cups whole milk
6 Tbs. butter
6 Tbs. flour
3 tsp. dried onion flakes, crushed
1 ½ tsp rubbed dry sage
½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 can of large buttermilk or home-style biscuits (8 count)
Add oil to hot, oven-proof pan. I like to use my trusty cast iron skillet. Pan fry the chicken breasts at low to medium heat, turning every few minutes.
While the chicken is simmering, bake the biscuits. Pull the biscuits out of the oven just as they puff up and before they brown. They will go back into the oven after they have been added to the chicken and gravy.
Remove the chicken when golden brown. Cut or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Let’s pause for a moment to talk about roux. When I was just a young, fledgling cook I was curious about roux. I realized that many recipes called for a roux. I saw chefs on TV, like Paul Prudhomme, prepare roux using intense heat. They heated the pan, added oil and just as the oil began to smoke, they added the flour and whisked constantly. – – – And, they warned us that a beautiful roux could turn into a burnt mess if it was overcooked.
By the time I got up the nerve to make a roux, I burned it. The next time, I under-cooked it and I was left with a gritty roux that tasted like flour. I couldn’t seem to find a way to control the roux. I was at a loss. I didn’t know if I would ever produce a good roux. And then, I attempted to make a roux by using low heat. Wow…instant success!
I discovered that the entire process could be done with low heat. Melt the butter or oil very slowly. Whisk the flour in until it becomes a soft paste. Whisk until all of the graininess of the flour is gone. Add liquid, little by little, and whisk to remove any clumps. In fact, I often turn the heat completely off as I add the liquid, to avoid clumping. I turn the heat off when the roux reaches a white or blonde color. I don’t push it to a peanut butter or dark chocolate color. Most of my dishes that require a roux need it for thickening more than flavor and I am happy with that.
Prepare a roux by deglazing the pan with a splash of chicken broth. Turn the heat down to low and add butter. When the butter has melted, add flour and whisk until the flour becomes silky, smooth. Add chicken stock, a little at a time and whisk. Add the crushed onion flakes, dry sage, black pepper and salt and stir. Add the remaining chicken stock and milk and continue whisking while the gravy thickens. Once the gravy has reached your preferred thickness, turn the heat off.
Add the chunks of chicken to the pan and mix with the gravy. Split the biscuits in half and pack them tightly together on top of the chicken and gravy. Dab some gravy on top of the biscuits, to prevent them from burning. Heat in a 350° oven for 10 to 15 minutes.