I spend the vast majority of my time working out recipes – devising, experimenting, cooking, refining, writing. And I have a lot of failures, or at least misfires. I have as many kitchen disasters as anyone, if fact, probably more because I cook more than many. But every once in awhile, a kitchen hiccup becomes something lovely in it’s own right, and this is one of those recipes.
I roasted a couple of chickens one weekend with a plan in mind, but as is so often the case, the plan fell apart, so I found myself with a lot of leftover chicken meat. I decided to whip up one of my classic leftover chicken dishes – poppy seed chicken – because it is a simple recipe, I usually have all the ingredients on hand and can by now make it with out really thinking too much. I chopped the leftover chicken up, put the butter in the skillet to melt, measured out the flour and then poured the milk into the measuring jug. Only I didn’t have enough. I substituted some of the required amount with buttermilk. The sauce curdled ever so slightly, but smoothed out and thickened as required. That hurdle passed, I had everything ready to go with only the poppy seeds left to stir in. Only I didn’t have any poppy seeds. I did, however, have an abundance of celery seed so I decided it was too late to turn back, so in they went. The final result was a delight. I never really got the point of poppy seeds in the chicken anyway, they don’t add much but color to it, but celery seeds have a lovely brisk flavor, and combined with the little hit of buttermilk, this simple casserole become a tangy, creamy treat.
I think of this casserole as a weeknight wonder, because it is so easy to put together. Use any leftover chicken you have, or some pulled from a rotisserie bird. You could add a handful of frozen peas if you like, or some herbs to the sauce, but I like to keep it simple and serve it with a good salad. And of course, if you prefer, you can use poppy seeds instead.