Pulled a trusty standard out of the freezer today – A Cut-Up Whole Kosher Chicken! We had another mouth to feed tonight and he has a ravenous appetite so I thought it best to lean towards “better safe than sorry” and make sure no one went to bed hungry. Dinner is now over and the kitchen has been cleaned to make ready for morning madness. When I arrive into the kitchen early in the morning the last thing I want to see are any remnants of last night’s dinner! I want to turn on the heat under the kettle and stare at in a daze until it bellows steam and I can make a strong, wonderful cup of coffee. Dinner was really lovely though. There were a couple of steps involved but also some big breaks in-between so no real pressure to speak of. The cheddar crust was particularly good. I used “Dubliner” cheddar and it had a strong, grainy, almost salty taste. The peas captured a sort of old world flavor which was comforting while also adding a nice contrast to the creamy sauce. It is a great dinner to make for a crowd because it’s guaranteed please everyone!
You will need: 1 cut up chicken – 4 lbs or so (I buy a kosher chicken which means it has been brined or, given a salt bath – the meat is moist and tender and I don’t need to use salt in my dish – if you are using regular chicken, make sure to add 1 tsp salt to the skin when you are seasoning), 2 small onions, 4 sprigs of thyme, 2 medium carrots, 1 celery stalk with leaves, 1 cup frozen baby peas (any pea would do actually), 4 garlic cloves, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1/2 cup white wine, 2 tbs olive oil.
For the Bechamel Sauce: 3 tbs unsalted butter, 3 tbs unbleached white flour, 1 cup milk (whole or 2% will do), freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt.
Making bechamel: While chicken is cooking, make the bechamel sauce: Melt
butter in pan on low heat. When butter is melted add flour and stir vigorously
until the flour becomes a smooth thick yellow sauce. slowly add milk while still whisking. Let the sauce cook and thicken. When it is thick (about 5 minutes) remove to a little bowl and cover until needed.
Cheddar Bread Crust: 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, 4 tbs unsalted butter, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (strong or mild depending on your preference!), 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (I use lowfat because it’s usually all I can find).
Making Dough: Put flour in bowl and add salt, baking soda, pepper and swirl together with hand whisk. Chop butter and add to flour. Rub between fingertips until flour feels like “rubble” add cheese and mix in. Make well in center of dough and add buttermilk. Mix with wooden spoon until it becomes a dough ball (it will be on the wet side). Cover with tea towel and set aside until needed.
Ok – you will need to prep and cook your chicken first! Take a 12″ saute pan and throw in the following: diced onion, thyme, chopped celery, sliced carrots, garlic
cloves (whole, left in skin), white wine, 1 cup of chicken broth and grind some pepper over the vegetables. Lay chicken skin side up in an even layer. Cover skin with olive oil and grind some more pepper (and salt if not using a Kosher
chicken). Place in oven and time for 40 minutes. . (While chicken is in oven make sauce and dough and set aside). Take out and add 1 cup of broth (pour over chicken) and return to oven for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place chicken on a plate. Cover plate with foil and let chicken rest and cool for 15 minutes or so. Take garlic cloves out of pan, remove from their skin and mash into pan juices. Add last of chicken broth to pan (1/2 cup). Add peas and the bechamel sauce to the pan and stir to incorporate. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take meat and skin off bones and return meat to the pan. Stir meat into broth and sauce mixture and turn pan on to medium heat and let the sauce get hot. Turn off heat and place dough on top in “blobs”. Don’t worry about
the dough not completely covering the top – there should be gaps. Turn oven down to 400* Place pan back into oven for 20 minutes or until the dough is a golden color. Take out and allow to cool for 5 minutes before dishing out!