Chicken an’ Biskit: Poultry Through the Ages

I don’t remember how it got started, but we have one of those private family jokes about a crusty old timer going on and on about “chicken an’ biskit, chicken an’ biskit.” From some old Monty Python, or maybe Kids in the Hall? Don’t know. Anyway, it’s a solid in our household now.

I buy pastured chicken from the farmer’s market, and in case any sad soul out there is eating supermarket chicken and thinking, as I used to, ‘Am I just imagining things or did chicken used to taste like something? Like… chicken?’ Local family farms are still producing that old-fashioned chicken flavor, in chickens no less. No test tubes involved.

Of course, ethically raised meat is expensive. It should be. $4 a pound for a whole chicken (half of which is bones) might seem expensive if you’re used to supermarket prices, but when I think of all the work that goes into just plucking and dressing a chicken I can hardly believe they sell them for that cheap. It’s all a matter of perspective.

We eat meat at most meals. Locally raised goat and chicken or grass-fed beef from Whole Foods. At least once a week, I cook a chicken or roast and allow us a bit of a gorge, then eek the leftovers out in the next meal (or meals). A few nights ago we had two guests for dinner. I cooked a 4 pound chicken. We ate up most of it, but after a thorough picking over I was able to glean enough bits and pieces to make chicken an’ biskit the next night.

I usually make dumplings actually, which are just a biscuit recipe plus an egg. Is there any more satisfying food than dumplings? But yesterday I had leftover actual biscuits, and thought, what the hell? Time for some real chicken an’ biskit.

I’m not at all sure how the crusty old-timer in whatever original piece of comedy ate theirs, but I made a quick chicken stew with carrots, onions and peas and then topped each bowl with a split biscuit, so that the bottom sides got all soggy with chicken juices. So yum, so fast.

Here’s the journal of a single bird in my kitchen:

Unbelievably Easy Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Fill a baking dish with cut potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Quarter your chicken, if you don’t know how check out my photo heavy tutorial from last year. Quartering a chicken might not exactly be “easy” but it’s almost the only work involved in the recipe. Place the whole breast in the middle of the baking dish, on top of the taters, with a thigh/leg on each side. Put the back bone in the fridge for stock later. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces, and add any spices or herbs you like.

Bake at 375 for an hour to an hour and a half. To test for doneness poke around in the thick parts with a fork, the juices should be clear, not pink. Quartering makes the breast and thigh cook more evenly than whole roasting, and all the pieces get a beautifully burnished skin. Also, all the fat runs down into the potatoes and oh my dear god! Those are some spuds worth eating! Every bit as good as mashed potatoes and gravy, and a fraction of the work.

After the hurricane of dinner has abated, carefully pick every last bit of meat off of the bones, including the ones left on your kids’ plates. They’ll get cooked again, fear not the germs, my friend. Put the bones into a pot with the reserved back bone and make a good strong stock. Leave one pint of broth in the fridge with the meat, and freeze the rest.

Chicken an’ Biskit, Two Ways

Pour the reserved stock into a pot and add a good bunch of chopped carrots and onions, celery if you have it. Aim to fill your pot no more than half full, veggies should be barely covered by stock. Bring to a simmer. While it’s cooking, make your favorite recipe of biscuit dough (what? You don’t have a favorite? Remedy, coming soon!), substituting an egg for 1/4 cup of the milk. When the carrots are just tender, add the chicken pieces and frozen peas, salt and pepper to taste and bring back to a boil. No need to thicken this stew, the dumplings will do that as they cook in the broth. Scoop spoonfuls of dough over the top of the boiling stew. Turn the burner down to low, lay a tea towel on top of the pot rim (careful of the flame under there!!!!!), set the lid atop that, then fold the corners of the towel up over the lid to keep them out of harm’s way. Cook 5-10 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through.

If you have leftover biscuits, which are never very good plain, this is an awesome way to use them up. Make the stew as above, but thicken just a bit at the end with a roux. Lay the split biscuits on top right after adding the frozen peas, then just turn the heat off and let it sit for ten minutes. The heat will equalize and the biscuits are good as fresh again.

Make sure to yowl, “Chicken an’ biskit! Chicken an’ bisket! Chicken an’ bisket!” in a crusty voice as you rally everyone to the table.