I made this dish for my October book club meeting and it received rave reviews. You can make this in one large casserole dish or six smaller oven-safe dishes – such as a mini cocotte, ramekin, or French onion soup bowl. You could also swap the chicken for leftover turkey – if you’re still making your way through your Thanksgiving leftovers.
My book club has been around since before book clubs were cool amongst millennials. In fact, we celebrated our nine-year anniversary this month.
I’ve only been a member for eight years but my friend Erin is the only person who outranks me in seniority (not that we’re giving out badges), she’s been part of the Unputdownable Book Club since its inaugural meeting.
It’s pretty impressive when you think about the longevity of the book club. In the last nine years, we’ve managed to come together as a group of women almost once every month, we’ve read over 100 books and we’ve gained and lost dozens of members.
At one point, we were closing in on 30 members. As city-dwelling twenty- now thirty-somethings, you might be surprised to learn that few of us live in palatial suburban homes that can comfortably accommodate that number. We’ve been packed in like sardines in shoebox apartments without air conditioning in July and have had brunch meetings in a century farmhouse out in Russell.
In any event, 30 is a bit unruly when it comes to having a meaningful conversation. We had a “recommitment ceremony” back in January where we promised to do better at 1) showing up, and 2) reading the book. As a result, our membership was pared down and now we’re a group of 11 – which feels just right.
As you might imagine, a good portion of our monthly gatherings are reserved for discussing the various happenings in our lives, and drinking wine. Every meeting is a potluck and we’ve recently begun coordinating our menu a bit more intentionally, by sharing what we’re planning to bring in our dedicated Facebook group. Previously, we’d often end up with a lot of desserts, a lot of salads, or just a lot of wine, which isn’t exactly a balanced meal.
I mean, I’m perfectly capable of turning wine into a balanced meal but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.
When the conversation eventually turns to the book, we usually have a pretty rich dialogue. Our group enjoys an eclectic group of professions from pharmacist to interior designer to journalist. As such, there are variety of perspectives on offer which often means we come away with a broader appreciation for the text – having questioned something we might otherwise have missed.
We’ve shared a lot of laughs, a few tears, some heated debates and turned acquaintances into friends. The Unputdownable Book Club is an important touchstone in my life. It’s a special place where we gather our thoughts, share our passions, immerse ourselves in new worlds, travel through time and most importantly, come together.
Post a question in the comments section below if you want some tips on how to create a book club with staying power.
Four-Cheese Chicken, Kale & Sweet Potato Cobblers
- 1 small chicken about 3 lbs, cooked
- 5 cups finely chopped kale leaves and thin ribs
- 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and grated, about 3½ cups
- 2 tbsp butter
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp medium-sweet sherry
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- ½ tsp dry mustard mustard powder
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- ⅔ cup 35% whipping cream
- ½ cup soft goat cheese chèvre
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated old cheddar cheese
- Sea salt to taste
- Melted butter or olive oil for brushing
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper or more to taste
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp dried sage
- ½ tsp dried rosemary
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup lard
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
Pull chicken meat from the bones, coarsely chop or shred, add to a very large bowl and set aside. Don’t include the skin; it would become rubbery in the sauce.
Very lightly butter or use nonstick spray to coat 6 onion soup bowls or another type of ovenproof individual casserole dish; set aside on a large baking sheet.
Add the kale and grated sweet potato to the chicken. Set aside while you make the cheese sauce.
In a large, heavy-bottom pot over medium-low heat, melt butter, grind in the pepper and whisk in the flour.
Reduce heat to low and continue to whisk; cook until the flour turns a nutty brown, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the sherry and wine, and whisk until smooth; whisk in the mustard powder, breaking any lumps.
Gradually pour in chicken broth, milk and cream, whisking constantly to break up any lumps and avoid burning. Don’t panic if the flour mixture seizes up when you first add the liquid; it will soon become smooth and runny again. Just keep adding the liquid and whisking.
Add the goat cheese and whisk until melted and blended.
With a wooden spoon, add the mozzarella and cheddar, and stir until melted and combined.
Raise the heat back up to medium-low and keep stirring until the cheese sauce bubbles. Remove from heat.
While the sauce is hot, pour it over the kale, sweet potato and chicken mixture, and stir to combine; everything should be well coated. Taste and adjust for salt. Divide this mixture between the individual dishes.
Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
Top with the Herbed Parmesan Biscuit Topping and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling hot. As soon as out of the oven, brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil and serve.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and dried herbs.
Add the butter and lard (or your fat of choice) and using a pastry cutter or 2 dinner knives, cut until dough is crumbly pea-sized bits.
Add the milk and parmesan and stir with a wooden spoon or dinner fork.
Tip out loose, crumbly dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead dough for about 3 minutes.
Pat or roll out dough to about ¼-inch (5‑mm) thickness. Here is where you can get creative; either cut out shapes to lay on top of the chicken filling or pull off pieces of dough for a rustic look. The dough can be layered and overlapped a bit.
Recipe from: Langford, Signe. “Four-Cheese Chicken, Sweet Potato & Kale Cobblers.” Food & Drink. Holiday 2015.