27 January 2015
Chicken and vegetables veloute
After a roof leak, a furnace replacement, a refrigerator breakdown, an influx of mold, and many bouts of sneezing, all within the past six weeks, I was more than ready to eat some serious comfort food last weekend.
We went to the store and got some basic ingredients: chicken, celery, carrots, onions. We put them all in a pot. We cooked them. We made a simple sauce. We mixed it all together and threw in some noodles. And then I ate an entire bowlful and trundled off blissfully to bed.
If you are currently buried in snow, you will definitely want some too.
This chicken and vegetable dish could not be easier, and yet it is the kind of food that completely satisfies. It's grandma cuisine: no-fuss, country-style, hearty, easy, tasty food, made of plentifully available ingredients, and offered in abundance. And yet you can absolutely make this for a big Sunday dinner and impress everyone at the table.
We adapted this from a Jacques Pepin & Julia Child recipe for chicken pot pie, which in itself is clearly a totally classic basic. Instead of making a pastry crust, we decided to toss the whole shebang with egg noodles, for a super-comforting and simple feast.
If you want to make an entire chicken, go for it. If there were any meat-eaters besides me in the house, we would have. Just double all the veg (or even triple them, for extra everything) and get going. Any leftover chicken, vegetables, and broth can be refrigerated and transformed into chicken soup (or sandwiches, or risotto, or an amazing variety of other things) the next day.
Chicken and vegetables veloute
Adapted from Comfort Food. Serves 4.
1/2 chicken (at least half bone-in dark meat)
1/2 head celery
2 medium yellow onions
salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf
2 cups dry white wine or dry vermouth
plenty of water
10-12 button mushrooms
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
egg noodles or rice to serve
parsley to garnish
Put your chicken into a large pot -- 5.5 quarts or more. We used a bone-in leg and thigh piece, skin on, and a separate breast. This was more than ample to make four servings. If you're doubling the recipe and cooking a whole chicken, leave it whole.
Wash and trim your vegetables. Cut the head of celery in half vertically. Scrub or peel the carrots. Split the leeks and rinse them well under running water. Tie the celery, carrots, and leeks into a bundle with a loop or two of butcher's twine. This will make it easy to remove them later.
Peel your onions and cut them into eighths. The mushrooms can wait a few minutes.
Put all your vegetables into the pot with the chicken. Season the pot with salt, pepper, a good palmful of thyme, and a bay leaf or two. Add the wine or vermouth.
Now fill the pot with enough water to just cover all the contents. Make sure the chicken is submerged -- weigh it down under some of the vegetables if necessary.
Bring your pot to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. While you're waiting, wash your mushrooms. You can cut them in half or leave them whole.
Next, add your mushrooms to the pan. Bring everything to a boil again, cover, and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Leave the pot to simmer very gently for 45 minutes to an hour, or until your chicken is completely cooked through.
At this point you will have a lovely pot of chicken broth full of nicely poached delights. Taste the broth and correct the seasonings. Remove all the meat and veg from the pot and slice them into bite-sized pieces. (If you don't want to bother with the rest of the recipe, you can simply add the pieces back to the broth and serve it as soup right now.)
Make the veloute. In a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk vigorously to create a roux. Let the roux cook for a minute or two, whisking occasionally. Then begin adding your poaching broth to the roux, whisking it in ladle by ladle. We used about 6 cups total, but you may want to use a bit more or less broth, depending on the amount and thickness of sauce you desire. Butter + flour + broth = sauce veloute.
Mix your chicken and vegetables into the sauce, taste and correct the seasonings one last time, and you are done.
Serve over egg noodles, rice, mashed potato, or your choice of other grain, and garnish with a handful of chopped parsley.
You can also get fancy (sort of fancy, anyway) by topping a casserole dish of chicken, veg, and sauce with a pastry crust or a recipe's worth of drop biscuit batter, and baking the whole thing until lovely and brown. Or just ladle everything into individual bowls and butter a pile of toast for dipping. It's all good.
Are you relying on huge vats of hot, simple food to beat the storm? What comfort food are you eating this week?