We had a wonderful weekend with some very dear friends. On Friday, our friend, Leslie Westbrook, flew in from her beautiful home on the Chesapeake in Easton, Maryland to spend the weekend with us. Due to some serendipitous events, we wound up having access to a modern mountain home in Blue Ridge for the weekend. The house was very unique, and it was located in a very picturesque setting along the Toccoa River. In addition to Leslie, our friends Cory Wilson and John Clark joined us on Friday night, and Jennifer Dunn and Carmen Slaughter visited us on Saturday night after winding their way there on the North Georgia Art Ramble. We had a great time in the mountains, and I cooked chili and bacon jalapeno cornbread for dinner on Saturday night. We told stories, laughed, watched some classic Christmas specials, played Scrabble and relaxed. The weather was rainy, but it gave us a perfect excuse to stay inside and enjoy the good company and fellowship.
We arrived back at One Britt on Sunday around noon, so we had some time to make a few local stops on the North Georgia Art Ramble. We visited the studios of Elly Hobgood, Laura and Frank Ellis, and Phoebe Maze. We also stopped by the holiday shop at the Cherokee Arts Center. Jeff Brown and I bought a few things, and Leslie really racked up! She was very impressed with the quality of the work in our community, and we are going to have to ship a load of art to Maryland! While we were out, we also took Miss Leslie by the Cherokee Market to meet Lisa Meyer and sample some of Momma Kay's home cooking. Of course, Leslie was very impressed with the charm and quality of produce at the market, and she agreed it would be a terrible loss to loose this historic building and worthy local business to a gas station and convenience store.
After rambling into the dark, we finally returned home to catch up, relax and prepare Sunday Supper. Jeff, Leslie and Jazpur joined me in the kitchen while I prepared a Southern Chicken Stew with Herb Biscuits. The base of the recipe came from Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa. Her recipes are a great place to start, and I added a few personal touches along the way. The dish turned out beautifully, and it really warmed the soul on a rainy night in Georgia. Of course, catching up with our dear friend was the icing on the cake.
The coming week will be another busy one at work, and I begin my orientation for City Council as well. On Wednesday night, my team and I will enjoy our annual holiday celebration dinner at Seed Kitchen in Marietta. I look forward to a great meal and spending time with the greatest team in design: Matt DeFrain, Elizabeth Seidle and Kurt Seidle.
Here's hoping your holidays and weekends are also filled with great friends, good food, love and laughter.
- Southern Chicken Stew with Herb Biscuits
(Adapted from Ina Garten)
3 whole chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 carrots), blanched for 2 minutes
1 cup chopped celery
1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups frozen small pearl onions
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
For the biscuits – Or use your own favorite biscuit recipe and add herbs of your choice:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or herbs such as sage, thyme or rosemary
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan, and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice.
In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, celery, peas, onions, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or wax paper, and bake for 15 minutes.
While the stew is baking, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter or clean aluminum can.
Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.