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Though brunch provides the allure of a relaxed meal to share with friends and family, casually sipping on Bloody Marys, the harsh reality is that someone has to get all the food ready to eat early in the morning.  Beside being insanely delicious and versatile, stratas assemble the night before, so serving a crowd in the morning is a cinch!  In our family, we routinely have overnight gatherings and I often make a strata.  All the work is done the day before.    Sometimes I even put the oven on delay start, so it will preheat while I sleep.  When I wake up in the morning with a house full of guests, all I have to do is slide the dish into the oven and make some coffee.

You can make a strata with almost anything.  The eggs and bread are standard, but the vegetables, cheese, or meat that you add are completely up to you.  Bacon Breakfast Strata happens to be one of my favorite combinations.  Brown off the bacon, saute the onion and mushrooms, then mix everything up with a pile of bread and cheese and pour egg and milk over the top.  It is easy.  The bread absorbs the egg and milk overnight and puffs up in the oven.  The interior texture is light and almost creamy, while the top browns and creates a cheesy crunch.  It is delightful.

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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.

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