Friday, September 20, 2013

(Make-Ahead) Chicken Pot Pie

Maybe it's because I'm a 31-year-old female, but my friends are having babies left and right. It's dreamy to snuggle all these little bundles of joy. And here's a secret about a new baby...if you want to meet him, offer to bring food. It works every time.

When the most recent addition joined our group, I decided to make chicken pot pie for the new parents. It's a pretty straight-forward recipe, but I had one conundrum. When you make chicken pot pie, putting the biscuit topping on hot filling helps ensure that the topping is cooked through. If I put the biscuits on cold filling, I was worried that the bottoms of the biscuits would be gummy and raw. And that's gross. So I partially baked the biscuits first.

Partially baking the biscuits worked great! I baked the them for 10 minutes, and allowed them to cool. Then I topped the cooked, cooled filling with the partially cooked biscuits and popped it into the fridge until it was time for dinner. Make Ahead Chicken Pot Pie was ready for action.

Next time a friend needs a meal, whip up Make Ahead Chicken Pot Pie. One recipe will fill an 8" x 8" dish for your pal and another for your family. Or it will make one really full 9" x 13" dish if you have a hungry crowd to feed.

(Make-Ahead) Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from several America's Test Kitchen cookbooks
Serves 8-10

Biscuit Topping:
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk*, preferably at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons butter
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped finely
2 cups chopped carrots (about 3 medium carrots, but I used baby carrots.)
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup half and half
2 bay leaves
6 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
4 tablespoons melted butter, optional

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk and butter. Gently stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until everything is just combined. (The dough will look a little shaggy.)

Divide dough into 12 balls. (It's ok if the dough doesn't stick together really well. Mine didn't and the biscuits turned out just fine.) If you're making the chicken pot pie for later, bake biscuits on prepared baking sheets for 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Biscuits will be pale, like in the picture below. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven (or other large pot) over medium heat. Add celery, onion, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook for a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste.

Add chicken broth and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate any flavorful brown bits into the sauce. Stir in half and half and bay leaves. Allow mixture to simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in chicken and continue to cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and stir in peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour mixture into a 9" x 13" baking dish OR two 8" x 8" baking dishes.

If you're making chicken pot pie right away: Top hot filling with raw biscuit dough. If desired, brush biscuit dough with melted butter. Bake until the biscuits are golden and the filling is hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Allow the pot pie to rest for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve with extra butter for the biscuits.

If you're making chicken pot pie later: Top filling with partially cooked biscuits and refrigerate until you're ready to make dinner. At that point let the pot pie come to room temperature while the oven preheats to 425 degrees. If desired, brush partially cooked biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown and the filling is hot and bubbly. (Check on the biscuits partway through. If they're getting a bit too brown, tent with foil for the remaining baking time. I neglected to do that and my biscuits were a bit too brown, but they were still delicious.) Allow the pot pie to rest for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve with extra butter for the biscuits.

*Don't have buttermilk? Mix 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar and allow it to sit for about five minutes, until the milk looks a bit curdled. Replace buttermilk with the curdled milk mixture.

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