Like many beloved dishes, chicken and vegetables in a creamy gravy served with biscuits probably originated to reinvent and stretch leftovers, a way to meet the needs of the day. But far from feeling second string, the combo is so tasty and satisfying it has become a comfort-food staple in its own right.
For my take on the classic meal, I tapped the same adaptive spirit to capture its crave-able essence in a way that incorporates two more qualities I need and want from my meals these days: healthfulness and ease of prep.
The biscuits, fluffy and tender inside and golden-crisp outside, are made mostly with healthy oil, with just a little butter added for flakiness. They are also whole-grain, made with one of the softer whole-grain flour varieties widely available now — whole-wheat pastry flour or white whole-wheat flour — that provide the benefits of the unrefined grain without sacrificing tenderness. (Alternatively, a mix of regular whole-wheat flour and all-purpose works well, too, as would a gluten-free cup-for-cup flour.)
Besides being better for you, these biscuits are also easier to prepare. Made in the “drop” style, they don’t have to be rolled out or cut — just dollop the batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake. This recipe makes twice the biscuits needed for the meal, so you’ll have extra for breakfast the next morning.
The chicken mixture comes together quickly in a skillet. A cast-iron skillet makes for an ideal cooking vessel — and looks beautifully rustic placed on the table for family-style serving. (Just remember to use a trivet and wrap the handle in a towel.)
Start by browning chunks of chicken breast, then cooking a pile of vegetables and herbs. First, onions, carrots and celery, then green beans, thyme and garlic, which then simmer together in a light, creamy sauce made with low-fat milk, flour and broth until everything is tender and the sauce is luxuriously thick.
True to its roots, this dish is adaptable to just about any combination of vegetables you have on hand, such as asparagus, peas, potato, leeks, broccoli, you name it. You can even use leftover cooked chicken, adding it into the mixture just to warm through toward the end of cooking.
The finished dish, bountiful with vegetables and fresh, fragrant herbs, spooned onto plates with the homey biscuits served on top or alongside, makes for a meal that’s so alluring and satisfying, it’s easy to forget its humble beginnings.
Creamy Chicken and Vegetables With Whole Wheat Drop Biscuits
4 servings; 1 1/4 cup chicken mixture and 1 biscuit
Choose a light tasting olive oil, not a robust one, to make this recipe.
Make Ahead: The biscuits may be made up to 1 day in advance and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
Storage Notes: Extra biscuits can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
FOR THE DROP BISCUITS
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, white whole-wheat flour or 1/2 cup each regular whole wheat and all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup well-shaken low-fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons olive oil or other neutral oil
FOR THE CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion (about 4 ounces), diced
1 medium carrot (about 3 ounces), diced
1 stalk celery, diced
8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
2 tablespoons white whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup low-fat milk
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Make the biscuits: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Add the butter and pulse several times until it is the size of small pebbles. In a medium bowl or measuring pitcher, whisk together the buttermilk and oil. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients, pulsing it a few times, until it is just moistened; do not over mix.
Drop the batter in 8 mounds (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown, then let the biscuits cool slightly. You will only need 4 of the biscuits for this recipe (see headnote).
Make the chicken and vegetables: While the biscuits are baking, season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. In a large, deep skillet over a medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and nearly cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl; leave the skillet on the stove.
Add the remaining oil to the skillet, then add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the green beans, thyme and garlic, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring for 2 minutes more. Whisk the flour into the milk until it is dissolved, then stir it into the skillet. Stir constantly until the milk comes to a gentle boil. Stir in the broth, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are firm-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add more broth as needed if the sauce seems to be getting too thick. Return the chicken, with any accumulated juices, to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are just tender, about 3 minutes. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
Divide the chicken among plates or shallow bowl and serve, warm, with a biscuit for each portion.
Nutrition | Calories: 396; Total Fat: 17 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 84 mg; Sodium: 479 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugar: 9 g; Protein: 32 g.