Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: A little summer comfort

Cathi Litzenberger offers up some cold-weather recipes that are perfect for June's rainy, cold, wet weather

It’s been said that Canadians talk more about the weather than any other topic whenever we gather, and this is certainly true in my world the past couple of months.

And now, spring is done; summer is here. Really? And where, pray tell, has the sun been hiding? My garden was planted late and I fear the seeds have rotted, as only the radishes have sprouted in the cool rainy weather.

Perhaps by the time this column is printed we will see the sun, but just in case, I’m offering a couple of comfort recipes that will be sure to lift the spirits of long-suffering residents. The first is a delicious chicken stew topped with a buttermilk biscuit. The second recipe is a very good split pea and ham soup — perfect comfort for a rainy day. Enjoy.

Chicken N’ Biscuits

1 large chicken (about 4 pounds)

2 quarts water or broth

1 bay leaf

4 cloves garlic, cut in half

1 whole clove

3 carrots, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium new potatoes, cut into small cubes

3 ribs celery, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 large onion, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

6 mushrooms, quartered

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cream or milk

1 package (8 portions) buttermilk biscuits, baked according to the package directions.

Rinse the chicken and place it in a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid. Add the water, bay leaf, garlic, and clove. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Skim foam from the surface, cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Carefully remove the chicken to a bowl to cool. Strain the broth into another bowl and reserve. Discard bay leaf, garlic, and clove.

Place the pot back on medium heat, and add the butter, carrots, celery, onion and mushrooms. Sauté the vegetables in the butter for 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the flour begins to smell like cooked pie crust.

Add the reserved broth and whisk into the flour and vegetable mixture. Add the potato cubes, salt, pepper, herbs and spices. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

In the meantime, remove all the cooled chicken from the bones, and tear into large chunks. When the vegetables are done, stir in the cream, and the chicken. Bring back to simmer, and cook for 5 minutes to heat the chicken through. More liquid can be added in this step if the gravy is too thick.

Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve hot in bowls, topped with a buttermilk biscuit.

Slow-Cooker Ham and Split Pea Soup

1 (16 oz.) pkg. dried green split peas, rinsed

1 meaty hambone, 2 ham hocks, or 2 cups diced ham

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 ribs of celery plus leaves, chopped

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

1 tbsp. seasoned salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp. fresh pepper

1- 1/2 qts. hot chicken stock or water

Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the order given; pour in stock or water. Do not stir ingredients. Cover and cook on HIGH 4 to 5 hours or on low 8 to 10 hours until peas are very soft and ham falls off bone. Remove bones and bay leaf. Mash peas to thicken more, if desired. Serve garnished with croutons. Freezes well.

Serves 8.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.