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Beer Chicken Stew with Biscuit Topping

If you are looking for a rib-sticking cold-weather
supper, look no further than this chicken stew with biscuits on top. It’s kinda halfway
between chicken & dumplings and a pot pie, and it comes courtesy of my dear friend Ben
Harrison, who is very kindly using my biscuit recipe from an earlier video. Grate up a stick of frozen butter straight
out of the freezer, using the big holes on a box grater. Then quickly, you’re gonna toss
it into two-and-a-half cups of flour. The traditional Southern biscuit flour would be
White Lily self-rising flour. If you can’t get that, I’d do cake flour plus three teaspoons
baking powder and one teaspoon salt. Ben lives in California so I’m guessing that’s what
he did. You could totally use all-purpose instead of cake flour — they just won’t
be as soft. Chill that in the fridge while you start your
stew. Get yourself maybe 8 ounces of mushrooms — any
mushrooms. Those look to be creminis. You can see Ben trimming away the woody stems,
and then just cutting them up into big, thick slices. Mushrooms shrink a ton when you cook
them, so always cut them bigger than you want them. Then you’re looking to get maybe two cups
of whatever cut-up aromatic vegetables you want. Ben’s got a couple carrots that he is
notably not peeling because this dish is rustic AF. Thickly-sliced quarters is what he’s doing.
Now he’s gonna peel a few shallots. You could totally use any form of of onion. “I am ^$&%ing weeping after cutting up thosWell,
t.” Aww, poor little baby. Why am I dunking my
own friend? Two reasons: He’s irritatingly tall, unlike me, and unlike me he actually
went to film school, which is why his footage here looks irritatingly good compared to mine.
Is that not the most California-looking light you’ve ever seen? Now he’s cutting up a bulb of fennel. That’s
the celery-like vegetable that tastes of licorice, but only mildly so. I freaking love fennel.
Even if you don’t like that flavor of anise, you really should try fennel bulb. It cooks
up really sweet. Get yourself half a pound of bacon and cut
it up into big ol’ chunks. You can see Ben there is using a thick-cut bacon. That’s gonna
get you really luscious, chewy chunks in the end. Thin-sliced bacon would give you these
disappointing little crumbles. Hell, use slab bacon, if you can get it. Put a big oven-safe pot on like medium-high
heat. A dutch oven was born for a meal like this. Throw your bacon in and get it frying.
Get some color on it, and get most of the fat melted out. While it’s going, prep your chicken — four
chicken thighs. “Poultry is much more expensive where I live.” He’s got boneless, skinless, which saves you
some effort. I you only ever cook with chicken breasts, you’ve gotta give thighs a try in
your stews — so much more flavorful, and when they’re slow-cooked, the texture is just
unctuous. Ben is tossing them in flour, a very old-school technique. Out comes the bacon with a slotted spoon,
so as to leave the fat behind. Then Ben is gonna fry them thighs in that there bacon
fat, which is one of my favorite sentences I’ve said lately. That flour is helping him
get some golden color on that meat. Later it’ll help the sauce adhere to the chicken
pieces and it’ll thicken the sauce a little bit. Out it comes — that meat is nowhere
near cooked yet but that’s totally fine. He was just browning the outside. At this point, Ben pours off about half of
the fat in that pan, because he is a nearly seven-foot wee-little baby with delicate sensibilities.
I’d leave it in, but if you don’t want your stew too greasy, dump out some of the fat.
Vegetables go in, and they should really quickly release enough water that you can use it to
deglaze the pan before the stuff stuck to the bottom starts to burn. Mushrooms go in, and then Ben is scraping
in the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme, but use whatever herbs you like, fresh or
dried, doesn’t matter. Bacon goes in, followed by the chicken, and rather than dirty another
cutting board, Ben is just using his kitchen shears to snip the thighs into big bite-size
pieces, right there in the pan. You could cut them up normal-like before you put them
in, or just let them fall apart naturally as they cook, whatever you want to do. Then comes one 12-ounce beer: lager, or anything
else on the light side. I fear the proliferation of very hoppy pale ales and such has resulted
in some disappointed home cooks. They try to stew with that stuff and it makes their
dinner really bitter. Go with a lawnmower beer, or if you don’t want to cook with alcohol,
might I suggest a lesser quantity of apple juice. You don’t want things too sweet — use
apple juice cut with water. And even if you use the beer, you’re gonna need some water
— enough to make sure everything is covered in liquid. Salt and pepper — be conservative with
your seasoning because this is gonna reduce, and you can always taste it and add more later.
Get it hot, then take the heat down to a simmer and let it keep going uncovered for 30 or
40 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened a bit and the chicken is getting
nice and soft, during which time you can preheat your oven to 450 F and make your biscuits. Butter and dry ingredients come out of the
fridge, and in goes a cup of cold buttermilk. Buttermilk gives them an insane yogurty twang.
In fact you could use plain yogurt loosened up with some plain milk. Just barely bring
everything together, then pour a ton of flour on your table, dump everything out, gently
mold everything into a blob and just roughly roll it out to maybe an inch thick. Fold it
over on itself once, quick roll. Fold it over again — a little flour on top if it’s starting
to stick, roll it out to an inch, fold it over again, and repeat one or two more times. Rolling and folding with those little cold
shreds of butter in there will give you a flakey, layered texture. If you used warm
butter, it would just melt the dough into a homogenous mass. Get it rolled out to an
inch thick the final time, and then cut your biscuits. Ben is just using a metal one-cup
measure. And try to leave as little in the way of scraps as possible. You can gather
up the scraps like that, roll them out again and punch out a few more biscuits, but they
won’t have the same laminated texture. If your stew isn’t ready yet, get those biscuits
in the fridge before the butter starts to melts You could taste your stew for seasoning now.
You can see how it’s looking reasonably thick and glossy, but it shouldn’t look too thick,
because it’s gonna cook some more. Float your biscuits on top like beautiful little butter
clouds, and speaking of butter, Ben’s got some that he’s melted in a pan with pepper
and herbs, and he’s using that to brush the biscuit tops. Nice move. That’s gonna help
the biscuits brown in the oven, which is where the whole pot goes now, 450 for 20 or 25 minutes
or until the biscuits look done. It’s that dry heat that makes this different from chicken
& dumplings, which is usually done exclusively on the stovetop and therefore you don’t get
that crispy caramelized top there. That is an autumnal delight, right there. Pour yourself another beer. That Drunk Shimoda
pint glass is actually podcast merch — it’s an inside joke from The Greatest Generation
and The Greatest Discovery, which are very funny and shockingly popular podcasts where
Ben and our mutual friend Adam Pranica irreverently review various Star Trek shows. I actually
wrote a lot of the music for those podcasts. You should check them out — links are in
the description. You might also consider the podcast Friendly
Fire, where Ben and Adam sit at the feet of aging indie rock icon John Roderick and they
all talk about war movies. I feel there’d be a big overlap between people who’d like
that podcast and people who’d like this stew. Not sure why, but I’m pretty that’s a true
thing I just said. Thanks, Ben, for the recipe. And stop being so tall.


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