This weekend starts stewing hen season. But what exactly is a stewing hen?
Not all chickens are the same. On our farm we have two different types, one kind is raised for meat and the other is specific to laying eggs. Once a year we have a group of egg laying hens that have to be retired because they no longer lay any eggs. As much as we’d like to send them to Florida to play shuffleboard and eat dinner at four o’clock, on the farm we make it a habit to use absolutely everything.
This week marks our stewing hen season. They will be fresh for this one market weekend only and then we will bring them to the markets with us the rest of the winter frozen. These hens aren’t meant to be thrown on the grill or sauteed with garlic and tomato. They need to be cooked low and slow.
One of our favorite stewing hen recipes is chicken pot pie. It’s a multi step process, but boy oh boy it will be an absolute favorite for everyone in the house.
Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Take the hen out of the bag, give it a rinse and set it in an 8 quart stock pot. Cut an onion into quarters, a carrot in half (don’t bother peeling it), a few cloves of garlic, and rough chop three celery ribs and put them in the pot. If you have a bay leaf throw that in there too. Add cold water to the pot until it covers the chicken and then about three fingers above that. Add a tablespoon of salt. Put that on medium heat with the lid on and forget about it for at least an hour and a half.
Now you can make the topping and put in the fridge for later. Instead of a traditional pot pie topping, use a biscuit recipe. Just roll it thin before placing it over the top. Make sure you cut a small ‘X’ in the center before you bake it or it could rise up and pop! Here’s a good recipe that just uses Bisquick as it’s base and probably a lot of other stuff you already have.
When the stewing hen is starting to pull apart with a fork you can take it out of the pot and let it cool. Strain and reserved the liquid. That’s the chicken stock you’re going to make the pot pie with. Once the chicken is cool enough, remove the skin and pull the meat off. Chop it up a little and get it into bite sized pieces. Now you’re ready for the pot pie filling!
Dice onion, potato,carrot, celery and garlic and put it in a pan with some butter. Once the onions are translucent you can add the chicken stock you made. In a little sauce pan or a frying pan, make roux. You want a light roux. Here’s a step by step how to:
Once the stock is boiling and reduced a bit in your pan, add your roux to thicken, then add the chicken meat, and finally peas. Once this step is complete, make sure to taste it in case you have to add some seasoning. Fresh rosemary and thyme gives it a winter feel and don’t forget to salt and pepper to taste!
Place your pot pie filling directly in a pan that can go into the oven. Our friends grandmother used to put it in a hotel pan, top it with the biscuit dough and put it in the oven. We prefer a dutch oven. Roll out the biscuit topping and press it onto the sides of the dutch oven. Put it in the oven at 375. Since the pot pie filling is already hot all you have to do is watch for that biscuit to cook and you’re ready to eat.
We’ll have lots of other ideas for stewing hen use that we can’t wait to share.