Mark the scoreboard with another win for the novice stepmom! Here comes another hard-won victory at the dinner table. This is comfort food in a skillet – chicken and vegetables in a creamy gravy, topped with golden brown biscuits.
Before entering the new world of marriage and family life, I had made this dish from America’s Test Kitchen “Cook It In Cast Iron” cookbook for my husband using a recipe titled, “Southwestern-style chicken and biscuits.” Eric was immediately enthusiastic about it, raving about the complex flavors but still finding it “familiar.” The original recipe calls for red peppers in the stew and the biscuits are stuffed with scallions, cheddar cheese, and a hint of cayenne pepper.
Eric even thought this would be a good recipe to try out on the kids. But the first time I introduced it a few months ago, things didn’t go very well.
After poking at the suspicious red bits (red pepper) in the sauce, the 7-year-old took a bite of biscuit and immediately grabbed his tongue with two fingers. “It’s spicy!!” he declared.
It goes without saying that there were plenty of leftovers.
But I felt that with a few small adjustments I could “kid proof” this otherwise “adult” recipe.
We recently started a menu board in the kitchen, writing out the meals for the week so the children can mentally prepare themselves for foreign-sounding dishes, such as “chicken and biscuits.” As Sunday evening approached, I tried to hide my trepidation – would this be another #dinnerfail?
The kids were less successful in hiding their trepidation.
Nonetheless, I persevered and tried not to make a big deal about dinner.
To make things as ordinary as possible, I left out the red pepper and instead of using only frozen corn as the ATK recipe calls for, I added 1 cup of assorted frozen vegetables. Then I made the biscuits plain, dropping out the scallions, cheddar cheese, and cayenne pepper. In another time saving hack, I found already diced celery and onions in the grocery store. Then I made homemade applesauce as a side dish.
One word of note: This isn’t a quick recipe; it’s better prepared on a weekend when you have some time to putter in the kitchen.
When kids carried out their plates to the table, I happened to catch a glimpse of the 13-year-old sister doing a quick taste test and giving a thumbs-up sign to her brother. I tried not to smile.
Besides Eric raving about the meal, no one actually said anything, but by meal’s end, the plates were clean! Then the heavens opened and the angels sang, and I did a secret fist pump under the table.
This recipe makes about 4 adult servings with two biscuits each. But for kid portions, one biscuit was enough – allowing for second helpings and leftovers for lunch the next day.
One-skillet chicken and biscuits
Adapted from “Cook It In Cast Iron” from America’s Test Kitchen
For the chicken:
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 celery ribs, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1/4 dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme)
3 tablespoons flour
2-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (corn, beans, carrots), thawed
For the biscuits:
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken broth
1. Set the oven rack in the middle and preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Trim fat from chicken, pat dry, and season on all sides with salt and pepper.
3. Heat 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes then add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat until shimmering.
4. Settle all the chicken into the pan and brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from skillet onto a plate. Set aside.
5. If the pan looks too dry, add an additional tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add celery and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened and slightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
6. Stir in thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly stir in chicken broth, scraping up any browned bit from the skillet, until sauce is smooth. Bring to a simmer.
7. Settle chicken, along with any accumulated juices on the plate, back into the skillet. Reduce heat to gentle simmer, cover and cook and additional 12 to 15 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through.
8. While the chicken cooks, get your biscuit mix ready by combining the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
9. Transfer the chicken to a carving board, let cool briefly, and then pull apart with two spoons. Stir the shredded chicken, along with the frozen vegetables (it’s OK if it is still frozen), into the skillet.
10. In the biscuit mixture, make a well in the center and add the cream and remaining chicken broth. Stir until just combined.
11. Using a greased 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out the dough and drop into rounds on top of the chicken mixture in the skillet, about 1/2 inch apart (you should have about 8 or 9 biscuits).
12. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 20 minutes until biscuits are golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
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