Sooooo… This recipe may look strangely familiar.
Back when I first started blogging and didn’t yet have a camera, I was using my iPhone to capture images of the meals and treats I was creating. At the time, I was doing my best to take “artistic” and “attractive” photos, but truth be told I’d never used a real camera and didn’t have a freaking clue what I was doing.
Looking back, those photos were pretty terrible.
I mean, everyone’s gotta start somewhere, and I think it’s actually really nice to have a reference to show how far I’ve come in such a short time. It wasn’t until late November that I got my Nikon DSLR, and even then I was completely clueless for the first few months. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I can confidently say that in less than a year I’ve already taught myself a lot about lighting and white balance and shutter speeds and aperture and fixed lenses. I won’t even get into food styling skills and my growing
hoard collection of props and surfaces and backdrops.
Anyway, I’m glad that I started blogging before I got my camera, because it gave me a chance to find my voice when it comes to my writing, and to figure out what direction I wanted to take things. I have no plans to remove any of those first few posts, but there are a few recipes from the beginning that I’d like to revisit. Some of them are too important to me to leave them in the past, represented only by embarrassing photos and awkward writing.
This is one of those recipes. If you’re interested, you can find the original post here.
When I was growing up we ate dinner at my grandmother’s house a lot, and much of my taste in food and cooking comes from her. Of all the amazing meals she has in her repertoire, this has always been my favorite. Her biscuit-topped chicken pot pie was so frequently requested by myself and my sister in our youth that it had to be reserved for birthdays and special occasions.
When I was old enough to start cooking my own meals, this was one of the first recipes I was determined to master. Later in life I started experimenting and toying with Grandma’s recipe, and the way I make it today is actually quite different from the way she does. Chicken bouillon cubes have been replaced with homemade chicken stock, canned vegetables scrapped and swapped for fresh, and real buttermilk biscuits take the place of Grandma’s biscuick topping. I believe her recipe originally came from a woman’s magazine with a focus on convenience food, but times and tastes change, and I prefer this fresher, less processed, more modern interpretation.
In any event, this pot pie is every bit as warm and homey as Grandma’s version. This is comfort food at its finest. Tender shredded chicken and fresh vegetables in a thick creamy gravy made from homemade stock with plenty of herbs, all topped with a pillowy island of tender buttermilk biscuit and baked until bubbly and golden. If it weren’t such an event to prepare, I would probably eat this several times a week. I guess it’ll still have to be reserved for special occasions, and that’s probably a good thing.
Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust
4-5 lbs of chicken pieces, skin-on, bone-in. *see note
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 bay leaves
Generous handful of poultry herbs like parsley, sage, & thyme (optional) **see note
2 onions, 1 small, 1 large
4 celery stalks
8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/4 cup finely chopped parsely
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons butter, cubed
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
Make the filling:
Generously season your chicken with salt and pepper. In a large (at least 6 qt) heavy stockpot or dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add your chicken pieces and brown for about 5 minutes on each side. This doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s just to add flavor, but you can do this in stages if everything won’t fit. Roughly chop 1 small onion (skin on), 2 carrots, & 2 celery stalks (leaves on). Add to pot along with bay leaves and poultry herbs, stems and all (if using). Top with 8 cups of water, and cover the pot. Turn the heat down to medium and bring to a boil. Once the pot reaches a boil, turn the heat down to a low simmer and let it bubble slow and low for an hour to an hour and a half.
Remove pot from heat and let cool for 20 minutes or until you’re comfortable handling it. Using a large colander fitted inside a larger bowl, strain out the stock. If necessary, you can use a strainer or sieve to skim the stock for anything that got through the colander. Measure out 6 cups of stock and keep any remaining for another use. Cover and set aside.
Let the chicken pieces cool for about 30 minutes or until you can handle them. Remove the bones and skin from the chicken and discard along with boiled veggies & herbs. Pull the chicken meat into bite sized shreds and be careful to find and remove any remaining small bones. Place the pulled chicken in a bowl, cover and set aside.
Wipe your pot clean. You don’t have to wash it, just make sure there’s nothing in there you don’t want in the finished meal. Dice the large onion, and cut your remaining carrots and celery into small pieces. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium high heat and add your chopped vegetables. Season with salt & pepper and cook until onions and celery are translucent and carrots are completely tender. Transfer to the bowl with the pulled chicken.
Back in your pot, melt the butter (you could also use some chicken fat skimmed from your stock) and whisk in flour. Cook until the flour just barely starts to brown. Slowly whisk in about half a cup of stock, making sure there are no lumps of roux. Repeat two or three times more before adding remaining stock. Whisk out any lumps and bring to a boil, whisking regularly. When the gravy is well thickened, remove from heat, taste and adjust your seasoning if necessary. Add the chicken, cooked vegetables, frozen peas, & chopped parsley. Set aside. If the pot you’re using is oven safe you can bake your pot pie in it, or you can transfer to an oven safe bowl for a nicer presentation.
Make the biscuit crust:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
If you want to serve extra biscuits on the side, double (or triple) this biscuit recipe.
In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt & cream of tartar. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse pea-sized crumbs. Form a well in the center of the bowl and in buttermilk. Use a fork to stir until just moistened. Do not over mix.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead lightly 5 or 6 times, or until it just holds together. Pat or lightly roll dough out to 1/2 of an inch. Form a circle about the size of a your pot or bowl. If you want to make extra dough, roll that out and cut biscuits using a water glass or biscuit cutter. Carefully transfer your biscuit round to the top of your filling and score it with an X in the center using a sharp knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Extra biscuits should be rolled to 3/4 of an inch and baked on a parchment-lined sheet pan for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a nice chunk of crust.
*You can use whatever parts you like best, but I think an entire chicken, cut up into pieces, is perfect. If you like all white meat, use all breasts. If you can’t find an entire chicken cut up and don’t want to get into butchering, I think a mix of breasts and thighs has the best flavor.
**I used a variety of herbs because I had them in my garden, but you could just use one or two types or skip them altogether.