Cooler blustery days just make me want to snuggle into my house and see what I can create in my kitchen. Today is just one of those days, so I headed into the kitchen to see what comforts I could find.
First, there must be a cup of something cozy. So bust out your favorite tea, coffee, cocoa, or chai.
When I was a young adult fresh from high school, I was often conscripted to help my mom cook up lunch for my sisters high school lunch co-op. Always on the menu was Mashed Potatoes with Chicken Gravy. When I say chicken gravy, I am not talking about the stuff you get on the side. No, this is chunks of shredded chicken swimming in gravy served over fluffy buttermilk mashed potatoes. So today I pay homage to that comfort classic.
Up first, slow poaching some chicken breasts in the crockpot.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (because that is what I happen to have on hand, because they are super easy to shred, and because I have a serious aversion to chicken on the bone) went into the crockpot along with all the things that make chicken taste awesome: sage, onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, & salt. Add enough chicken stock to cover the chicken, then cook for 4 hours.
Letting the crockpot do the work, enabled me to handle some work emails and invoicing, care for a sick kid, and check a few chores off my never-ending list.
Once the chicken is done, turn it off and let it cool. I left the chicken in the liquid until it was cool enough to handle. Now comes the best part of the whole boneless skinless chicken breast usage. I tossed the chicken in a ziplock gallon bag, sealed it and then just smashed it with my hand! Hooray! shredded chicken with so little effort.
Strain out the cooking liquid and store both the liquid and the chicken (seperately) in the fridge until you’re ready to make gravy. This will allow the liquid to settle so you can separate out the fat once it hardens.
All that is left is to make mashed potatoes. I like Yukon Gold potatoes for this as they handle being mashed up and mixed up without becoming gummy. So peel and dice, add to a pot with water and plenty of salt. The larger your dice, the longer it will take to cook, so if you’re in a hurry, take them down a little smaller and watch them close. Boil until tender, drain and mash away. Add butter, buttermilk, salt, pepper and whatever else you want to flavor up your potatoes. In our house it is garlic salt and fresh pepper and a dollop of sour cream. For these potatoes I don’t want to add any competing flavors, this is the bed of our dinner and I want the chicken and gravy to be the star!
For the gravy, you’ll use a medium saucepan to warm up a couple tablespoons of the chicken fat you skimmed off the cooking liquid. I like to mice up a shallot or a couple of tablespoons of onion and give it some time to brown up in the fat. Add a couple tablespoons of flour and let it cook into the fat for a few seconds before you start adding the cooking liquid into the pan. Add it in a steady stream while you wish. This will help prevent those pesky lumps from showing up in your gravy. Let your gravy come up to a boil and then simmer until it reaches the desired thickness. Once your there, add back in the shredded chicken along with a swirl of cream or half-and-half. simmer until the chicken is warmed through.
Serve with warm dinner rolls and classic peas and carrots on the side, or whatever is your favorite easy veggie dish.