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"When I was in elementary school, we'd get a hot-lunch calendar at the beginning of the month detailing what was to be served each day," Danielle says. "I was about 10 and in the fourth grade when I saw the 'Holiday Lunch Option.' Nothing else listed. Such mystery! There were four of us kids in my family, and we got to pick hot lunch once, maybe twice, a month for really special occasions. I saw Holiday Lunch Option, and I fancied myself a gambling woman: I was in! When I arrived at school, all I could think about was lunchtime. WHAT COULD IT BE? When the lunch bell rang, I flew to the front of the class and waited eagerly for dismissal. I could smell something delicious as we rounded the corner of the library in a perfect line of 24 kids, converging with other classes, all of us filtering into the lunch hall. I grabbed my tray and placed it on the counter. Plop—mashed potatoes; this was promising! Then came the gravy, with little bits of chicken meat. This was right up my alley. I was so impressed! I’d had gravy and potatoes many times, but never with the chicken mixed into the gravy! I laugh when I think back to that day, and remember my excitement. Little did I know, I would tuck the memory away for a recipe years later. I love to make this homestyle comfort food in the fall for my boys. When my mom was going through chemotherapy, I remember her asking me to make my chicken gravy and potatoes. That might have been one of the dearest meals I have ever cooked." —Rustic Joyful Food's Danielle Kartes
Danielle's Pro Tip: Save the bones and skin for perfect chicken stock.
Adapted from Rustic Joyful Food: Generations by Danielle Kartes. Copyright © 2020 by Danielle Kartes. Used with permission by Sourcebooks. All rights reserved.
For the chicken, preheat oven to 300˚F. In a Dutch oven or oven-safe lidded pot, add onion and water, then the chicken on top. Rub the entire bird with butter, then season with 2 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon pepper, taking care to get underneath the skin wherever possible. Bake the chicken for 2½ to 3 hours, covered; chicken should be falling off the bone. Remove chicken, and place on a platter for 30 minutes to cool, reserving all cooking liquids. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones, and set aside.
For the gravy, in a large saucepan, melt butter, then whisk in flour. Cook this roux until it bubbles, at least 2 minutes, to cook off the gritty flour taste. Slowly whisk in chicken stock or broth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, steeping fresh rosemary or thyme in the gravy, if desired. Do the same with cooking liquids from the chicken. Gravy should thicken but not be overly thick; you are looking for a creamy, pourable consistency. Add cream and cooked shredded chicken to finish.