Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chicken and Dumpling Casserole

I love to cook but I hate doing dishes. Luckily, Michael is all too happy to be my live-in dish washer. Unfortunately, when I was growing up my mom wasn't too crazy about filling that role. So, needless to say I didn't get to cook much when I lived at home. Most of the times that I was allowed to cook, I was making my signature dish: chicken and dumpling casserole.

I don't remember where I first found this recipe but it quickly became a family favorite. If you like chicken pot pie but you don't like to fuss around with pie crust, this is the recipe for you. Fluffy drop biscuits float atop a creamy mix of chicken and veggies. What I love about this dish is that it is so versatile. It's a great "use-up-what-you-have-in-the-fridge" recipe. I used peas this time but you can replace the peas with any frozen veggies you like. If you have some fresh produce to use up, sauté them with the onions and the celery to soften them up before you add the broth. You can cook the chicken for this casserole any way you choose, but I prefer shredded chicken over big chunks. I'm using the chicken left over from making stock but you can also cook up a couple of chicken breasts in the crock pot and it will shred up beautifully. Below I offer a recipe for drop biscuit dough, but you can also use Bisquick. 

This casserole is also freezer-friendly. There are two options for freezing. Option 1: Freeze just the chicken mixture. When you're ready to use it, thaw it out, put it in a baking dish (if you didn't freeze it in one), top with biscuit dough, and bake. Because it's thickened with flour, you may notice a bit of separation when you thaw the mixture. Just give it a good stir before you top it with the biscuit dough. Option 2: Assemble the casserole in a freezer and oven safe dish. Par-bake it at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool, cover, and freeze. If your dish is glass, when you're ready to cook it, place it in a cold oven then turn on the heat to 375. If your dish is metal you can preheat the oven then put in the frozen casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove and bake for another 30 to 45 minutes, until the biscuits are browned and the chicken mixture is hot all the way through. 

Chicken and Dumpling Casserole
Prep: 30 minutes     Bake: 30 minutes
Serves 6

Chicken Mixture
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon all purpose seasoning (optional)
16 ounces chicken broth or stock
10 oz frozen peas (or other frozen veggies)
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan* sauté the onion and celery in butter until soft. Add the garlic and cook for for one minute. Add flour, sugar, and all-purpose seasoning. Cook for one minute. Slowly stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook until thickened. Add the chicken and peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. 

*To cut down on clean-up I use a deep cast-iron pan and take it directly from stove-top to oven.  

Biscuit Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (can substitute another cup of all-purpose flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (I prefer non-hydrogenated) or coconut oil
10 ounces milk

Mix together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening until the mix resembles a coarse meal. Slowly stir in milk. Drop spoonfuls of biscuit dough directly onto the chicken mixture. 

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.