Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie

February 21, 2011

We all have those meals that are burned in our memory for one reason or another.  These are the meals that when we recall them, define a time in our lives.  Though I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, chicken pot pie is one of those meals for me.  Occasionally my parents would leave me at home to go out for the night.  I was always excited, because I could have a frozen dinner (those were not common fare in our home).  One of my favorite dinners was always a chicken pot pie.  I loved the creamy chicken and the flaky crust.  Invariably, I burnt my anxious tongue on the steaming hot sauce.  Those hot little pies were the highlight of my night. Even so, I always knew that the dish was not quite right.  The chicken and vegetables were too small and uniformly cut.  The sauce was too salty.  The crust too bland.  At that time, it never occurred to me that this special meal could be made at home!

Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie is my effort to right the wrongs of pot pies of my past that missed the mark.  Every ingredient and every step come together to create what I imagine a pot pie should be like.  The chicken is poached in broth, then cut into large tender pieces, so there is no mistaking its presence.  The vegetables are abundant and fresh.  The potatoes are creamy. The sauce is based on a homemade chicken stock that is reduced and mixed with fresh thyme and cream.  The potential of this dish is dependent on the quality of the broth used.  I highly recommend using your own stock.  It is so easy to make and the flavor is incomparable.

Oh, and the topping.  Though I do love pie crust atop meat pies, biscuits are my favorite.  Floating the biscuits on the pot pie allows the tops to brown and puff and the bottom to saturate with the rich gravy.  It is the best of both worlds.  This is definitely a comfort food.

Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie

adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook

serves 8

the Chicken

1 whole chicken

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (preferably homemade)

Bay leaf

Place chicken on a cutting board, breast side down.  Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the chicken top to bottom on either side of the backbone and remove.  (Reserve back for making stock.)  Cut chicken top to bottom between the two breasts to create two chicken halves.  Skin the chicken halves and cut off any excess fat.  Discard skin and fat.

Bring broth to a boil.  Add skinned chicken halves.  Simmer for 25 minutes or so until the chicken is tender.  Remove chicken and reserve broth for the sauce. Set chicken aside until cool enough to handle.  Remove meat from bones and cut into large chunks and reserve.  Discard bones and bay leaf.

the Sauce

5 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup minced onion

1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped

1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice

5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 cup mushrooms, diced

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

4 Tablespoons flour

1 cup pearl onions (frozen ok)

1 cup peas (frozen ok)

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper

Heat butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add minced onion, carrots, and potatoes.  Toss to coat vegetables in butter and season with salt.  Cover and turn heat down to medium low.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes begin to soften- about 20 minutes.  Take off lid and add garlic, mushrooms, and red bell pepper. Increase heat to medium.  Cook an additional 5 minutes, until mixture is fragrant and bell pepper and mushrooms begin to soften.

Sprinkle flour over mixture and toss to coat vegetables.  Stir in 3 cups of  reserved chicken broth, reserved from cooking the chicken.  Add pearl onions, peas, thyme, and cream. Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce begins to thicken.  Season with salt and pepper

(This can be made one day ahead.  Cool, cover, and refrigerate.  Reheat prior to topping with the biscuits)

the Biscuits

adapted from Christopher Kimball’s The Cook’s Bible

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 Tablespoons chilled butter, diced

3 Tablespoons chilled bacon fat (or butter)

2/3 – 3/4 cup of buttermilk

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda) in a food processor.  Pulse to mix.

Add the butter and pulse 5-8 times until butter is fairly incorporated.  Add the bacon fat and pulse again 3 times.  Check the mixture.  There should still be small chunks of butter and bacon fat, but should overall resemble coarse meal.  Pulse again if needed.  Pour contents of food processor into a mixing bowl.  Using a spatula, gently fold the biscuit dough while you stream in the buttermilk slowly.  Start with only 2/3 cup buttermilk and add the last bit only if you need it to make the dough form a cohesive mass.  The object is to disrupt the dough as little as possible, while still ensuring that the buttermilk is evenly mixed in.  When the dough looks like it is just barely mixed, stop.  Over-mixing leads to a tough biscuit.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board.  Gently roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness.  Using a biscuit cutter  (or cookie cutter, or drinking glass rim) cut out biscuits.

Putting it together

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Put the chicken stew mixture in a large casserole dish or individual oven safe dishes.  Arrange the uncooked biscuit rounds on top of the warm stew.  Bake uncovered in the oven until the biscuits are golden brown and the stew is bubbly about 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving. 

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie

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Divine Indian Butter Chicken

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