chicken pot pie

Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is one of those dishes for which your lifetime mileage has probably varied. There are your run-of-the-mill, ready-made pre-frozen pot pies, with a minimal amount of substantial filling and a dry, flavorless crust. There are your butter-drenched restaurant versions (not that I’m one to hate on butter). And there are homemade ones, with (hopefully) fresh ingredients and a hearty filling.

This is one of those recipes that I’ve tweaked almost as many times as I’ve made it. It’s the classic version of a chicken pot pie, stuffed with basic veggies and chicken meat wrapped in a white sauce, with a couple additions to make it a little more delicious. I’ve swapped out basic bechamel (or the traditional canned cream of chicken soup) for a garlic bechamel spiked with a bit of paprika and pepper to keep it from being too bland. Instead of a standard pie crust, I’ve flipped crust on top in the form of mini buttermilk biscuits. While I’ve done big, hefty biscuits on the top in the past, cutting the biscuit dough into smaller pieces has a couple benefits. The biscuits (biscuit-ettes?) cook faster than their big biscuit brothers, which keeps the chicken in the filling from drying out. And the biscuit-to-filling ratio seems to work out a little better with a well-dispersed dough.

chicken pot pie 2

Chicken Pot Pie

For Filling:

  • 2 lbs bone-in chicken legs, cooked and meat removed (see cooking notes below)
  • 3-4 medium carrots, cut in half length-wise and thinly sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, or 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups green peas (I use frozen; there’s no point in diminishing the perfect simplicity of fresh green peas by cooking them heavily)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

For Garlic Bechamel:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or smashed
  • Paprika, to taste
  • Salt & pepper

For Biscuits:

I’ve used a variety of biscuit recipes over the years, and quite frankly it mostly comes down to finding a good ratio of basic ingredients and then executing them quickly. This is Smitten Kitchen‘s buttermilk biscuit recipe (halved).

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4.5 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp (~88 ml) buttermilk (see cooking notes)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. 
  2. For the pot pie filling, melt 1 Tbsp butter in a medium-sized dutch oven or saute pan. Add shallots, carrots and celery, and cook over medium-high heat until onions are translucent. Add chicken meat, peas, and chicken broth and cook until broth is simmering, stirring well. Let the mixture sit off heat while you are making the bechamel.
  3. To make the garlic bechamel, melt 2 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, whisk in flour, 1/2 Tbsp at a time. The flour will thicken into a stiff paste relatively quickly. For a nuttier flavor, keep cooking the roux over low heat, stirring frequently, until light brown.
  4. Drizzle the buttermilk into the roux a few tablespoons at a time, whisking constantly as you do. The mixture should thicken slightly between each addition. When most of the milk is incorporated, add the minced garlic. Add the remaining milk and whisk until the sauce is thick (it should coat the back of a spoon easily). Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste (and you should be tasting).
  5. Fold the bechamel into the chicken and vegetable mixture until it is evenly distributed throughout. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste (everything is cooked through, so don’t be shy about taking healthy — that is, hefty — samples).
  6. To make the biscuits, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Cut in cold butter until the largest butter bits are the size of peas. Hey, you don’t even have to eyeball it with this recipe, because you *have* peas right there to compare your butter chunks to!
  7. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and pour the buttermilk in. Use a rubber spatula to fold the buttermilk into the flour, until a dough ball forms.
  8. Lightly flour a cutting board, then transfer the dough ball to the cutting board and press into a disk, about 1″ thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough disk into a grid of biscuits about 2″ square.
  9. Arrange the biscuits over the top of the pot pie mixture, leaving some room for them to spread.
  10. Cook the chicken pot pie in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until biscuits are golden and cooked through. Let sit 10-20 minutes before serving.


My favorite way to cook the chicken for this recipe is to throw the  legs — skin on — into the slow cooker with some onions, garlic, salt and water and simmer on low for 8 hours. The meat will fall off the bone, and you’ll have made your broth as well. Obviously this requires an extra day of prep; otherwise you can use about 1 – 1.5 cups of cooked, diced boneless chicken from whatever part of the chicken you are partial to.

Buttermilk is something I absolutely never have on hand. I usually do a mix of about 1/3 cup sour cream and 2/3 cup milk per cup of buttermilk, but the usual suspects of buttermilk substitution (vinegar + milk, lemon juice +milk) will work here. Feel free to use buttermilk if you have it, but personally this begs the question, “who are you and what are you using so much buttermilk for?”


pane siciliano

Year of Bread: Pane Siciliano (Semolina Bread)

I’m a little obsessed with semolina right now. It’s been steadily making its way into my regular kitchen rotation over the past few months. David Leibovitz’s fresh pasta dough recipe with a healthy dose of semolina was a complete revelation in my pasta-making endeavors. Discovering semolina-based gnocchi alla Romana made a huge dent in my previous understanding of Italian food. And of course, semolina makes a great coating for baking surfaces when baking bread.

pane siciliano

I know I say it every few weeks about a new bread recipe, but Pane Siciliano might just be my new favorite. It’s simple and clean-tasting, but with a complex, interesting flavor. It had a decently long shelf life for a homemade, relatively lean bread. The last remnants on my 3-loaf batch ended up as a small batch of roasted garlic croutons, which I had vague plans to use as a soup topping. They ended up as an afternoon snack. 10/10 would snack again.

pane siciliano


Pane Siciliano

From Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, yields 3 medium-sized loaves


  • 16oz  pâte fermentée
  • 8oz bread flour
  • 8oz semolina flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 10-12 oz water, lukewarm
  • More semolina flour for dusting
  • Optional: Sesame seeds for topping (I love sesame seeds, but in my experience more end up on the cutting board/plate than in my mouth, so I usually omit these.)
  1. Day 1: Prep the pâte fermentéeSee my post on French bread for instructions!
  2. Day 2: Bring pâte fermentée to room temperature for about an hour before making dough. Cut it into 8-10 pieces and leave covered while warming up.
  3. Mix the dough: Combine the flours, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl, then work in the pâte fermentée pieces. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and 10 oz water, then drizzle over the flour-pâte mixture until ingredients come together into a loose ball. Add remaining water if dough is too dry.
  4. Knead the dough: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and pliable. It should pass the windowpane test.
  5. Let rise dough at room temperature for 2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.
  6. Shape loaves: Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, careful to degas as little as possible. Shape as for baguettes into 24-inch lengths, then coil ends in to form an S shape. Place shaped loaves on a pan dusted with semolina flour, then mist with oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  7. Let loaves rise again for 90 minutes while you preheat the oven to 500°F. Remember to place a steam pan in the bottom of the oven. If you’d like to bake them the next day and extend the dough’s maturation (recommended by Reinhart), you can place them in the fridge before rising. Then next day, let them rise for at least 2 hours before baking.
  8. Bake the loaves: Immediately before baking, mist loaves with water and sprinkle on sesame seeds. Place pan in oven with 1/2 cup of hot water in the steam pan. Mist the oven walls with water in 30 second intervals 3 times. Lower heat to 450°F for 15 minutes, then rotate pan and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Finished loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on bottom.
  9. Let loaves rest for at least an hour before slicing and eating.


pain de campagne

Pain de Campagne (In Epi Format!)

Anybody who’s ever gone into the Ferry Building in San Francisco will recognize the shape of this bread as one of the more popular ones at Acme Baking Co. It’s meant to look like a sheaf of wheat (clever clever), but I like it because it breaks apart into easy portions. Pain de campagne (or “country bread”) is a solid bread, straightforwardly simple and perfect for dipping in olive oil, slathering in butter, or sopping up sauces.

pain de campagne dough

Reinhart’s recipe is ever so slightly enriched with a little olive oil, so it doesn’t dry out as quickly as French bread. It has a touch of rye flour to make the flavor profile a little more interesting and complex. You can shape it practically any way you want, from simple loaves to rings to this fun epi. Pain de Campagne is a fun variation for when you want to make a loaf of bread that’s more interesting than plain-Jeanne French bread, but still want something versatile and accessible to everyone at the table. Except for your gluten-intolerant friends. Sorry, guys.

pain de campagne epi

Pain de Campagne

  • 3 cups pâte fermentée*
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1/3 cup rye flour**
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • Semolina flour for dusting

*Make pâte fermentée at least the night (or up to three days) before you plan to bake the bread. For the recipe, check out my post on French Bread.

**Allergic to rye? You can substitute whole-wheat flour instead.

  1. Prepare the starter: Dechill the pâte fermentée before making the dough. Cut it into 8-10 pieces and cover, then sit for at least an hour.
  2. Make the dough: Stir together the dry ingredients, then knead in the pâte fermentée. Add water and stir until everything comes together into a coarse ball. Add a bit of water or flour if the dough feels too dry or wet — it should be soft and pliable, but not sticky
  3. Kneading: Turn the dough onto a floured counter and knead for 8-10 minutes. It should pass the windowpane test and register 77-81F when it’s done. Return to a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled.
  5. Shaping the loaves: Gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface, trying to deflate it as much as possible. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces (use a sharp knife or pastry cutter to cut it cleanly and avoid degassing). Shape the dough into boules, baguettes or epis.
    1. To shape epis: shape into a baguette and place the dough on a sheet pan, covered in parchment that has been dusted in semolina flour. Then use a sharp pair of scissors to make angled cuts into the bread, alternating sides, without cutting all the way through. Fan the sections out into the “sheaf of wheat” shape. Mine were not as gorgeous as some bakeries, but it out worked okay.
  6. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour. It will rise to 1.5x its original size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500F.
  7. Transfer the loaves to the oven, leaving them on the sheet pan if shaped into epis. Then pour the hot half cup of water into the steam pan and shut the oven. After 30 seconds, open the door and mist the walls of the oven with water (or sprinkle some in with your hand). Repeat twice more, then turn the oven down to 450°F.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn pan and continue to bake for 10-20 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  9. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing (or in this case, tearing apart) and eating.


pain a l'ancienne

Year of Bread: Pain a l’Ancienne

It’s commonly said that cooking is an art and baking is a science. And that’s pretty true; baked goods are a lot less forgiving when it comes to temperature, ingredient ratios and even minor tweaks to key ingredients. I’ve had many baking flops in which “I’ll just use this instead” ends in cookies that melt together, bread loaves that don’t rise, and cakes that taste awful. This bread takes the science side of bread to it’s logical extreme, with great results.

Bread Science!

The basic concepts of how bread works are pretty simple. Leavened bread relies on two things: gluten and yeast. Wheat flour has a lot of gluten in it, which is “developed” when you knead it; the long strands of gluten get jumbled up into stretchy webs of a sort, which is what gives the bread its crusty outside, chewy insides, and the elasticity it needs to rise. Yeast, the other primary ingredient in leavened bread, feeds on the sugars in bread and produces CO2 (yeast farts!). These CO2 bubbles get trapped in the glutinous dough, which stretches and forms air pockets (kind of like a balloon. If you let it rise for long enough this process will keep going until the bubbles get big enough that they burst through the gluten web and the dough deflates. When you bake bread, you essentially freeze the rising action by solidifying the structure of the bread and killing the yeast.

Pain a l’Ancienne relies on an exaggerated version of this process — along with slow fermentation practices, to produce more flavorful, crusty bread. The dough is relatively wet, which provides a great environment for long, stretchy gluten molecules to form.  It starts with ice water, which keeps the yeast from “waking up” while you hydrate the flour, and continues with a night in the fridge to keep temperatures low. Very slowly, the yeast start doing their thing, at which point the starches in the flour have broken down into easy to eat (for yeast) sugars. In a nutshell: in theory, you can get the maximum amount of flavor with this method.fermenting dough

My Loaves

Basically, this bread has all the floppiness of ciabatta, but with the attempted shaping of a baguette. It wasn’t easy to work with at all, and I ended up with three very deflated-looking dough blobs. Not exactly appetizing. To put it nicely, they baked up looking extremely rustic. However…

They tasted great! The crumb was moist and creamy, and they had a nice crusty exterior. The flavor was well-developed and wheaty, much like a traditional baguette. And much like a baguette, they don’t last long. They’re awesome on the first two days, but after that they’re best for feeding ducks at the pond.

I’m not sure if I’ll make this Pain a l’Ancienne again. It was really fussy to work with, and while the results were delicious, I wouldn’t say that the pain-in-the-butt process of making them was worth it compared to other recipes that I like just as much. It was a fun exploration in the science behind bread, and I’d recommend every ambitious bread baker try it…once!sad bread dough

…No Recipe?

Because I didn’t love this recipe– and because I didn’t make any changes to the original — I’m not posting the recipe for Pain a l’Anciennce. Buuuut I’ll be back next week with more recipes and some fun experiments in the kitchen. 🙂




Blue Apron Review

Last week I got to try Blue Apron with a friend’s referral code. I’ve had a few friends use Blue Apron in the past, and I’ve been curious about it for a while. Overall, it was a great experience, but I chose not to continue it.  I do have some mixed thoughts on the product, and I thought I’d share them in case anyone else is considering Blue Apron for themselves.

What I Liked About Blue Apron

1. Meal-Based Recipes

One thing I really, really liked about Blue Apron is the meal-based format of their recipes. When you’re cooking on a time crunch or don’t have a lot of experience, it’s nice to know how to pace multiple dishes to be done at the same time. From doing prep all at once to timing each step correctly to make sure everything comes together simultaneously, Blue Apron’s recipes do a pretty good job of creating meals, not just dishes. I would still recommend that you read through the entire recipe before you start — there are a few “prep” things that are placed halfway through the cooking process that I’d prefer to do at the before I start heating anything up.

2. Tasty Recipes and High-Quality Ingredients

The ingredients were fresh and high-quality. I was worried that the produce would be subpar, since I wasn’t sure what the delivery process looked like, but everything was of a quality I would have bought if I had gone to the store and picked it out myself.

Every single recipe was delicious, and I’m sure I’ll make them again. Blue Apron has done a great job developing recipes that are well-balanced and flavorful. They were healthy; not necessarily the kind of food I’d eat if I were trying to lose weight, but not too heavy. There was a good mix of whole, fresh ingredients that weren’t overly salty, fatty or cholesterol-laden.

3. Convenience

They bring the box right to your door! It’s packed with large ice packs and well-organized. As I unpacked, I realized that the pork chop packaging had been torn during shipping, but because of the way everything was packed it didn’t leak on anything except the ice pack. I usually spend a good amount of time deciding what to cook and shopping for ingredients each week, but with Blue Apron I didn’t have to. It was a nice break from the norm, and I can see how having everything delivered ready-to-cook would be a huge boon to busy individuals or families.

What I Didn’t Like about Blue Apron

1. Not enough cooking jargon

On one hand,  jargon can be alienating and confusing. On the other hand — the hand you’re learning to cook with — it’s an important way to describe techniques, and most recipes use some level of lingo. Blue Apron recipes tend to eliminate these cooking words in favor of simpler ones. One of the recipes called for quick-pickled onions, but the word “pickled” strangely didn’t appear anywhere on the recipe. The technique was there, (soaking sliced onions in red wine vinegar), but without the jargon or outside knowledge, you wouldn’t necessarily know that. Understanding the language and the techniques behind them are an important part of learning to cook.

2. Portion Size

While the dishes weren’t meager, I did find myself wishing I had a little extra each night. I usually cook relatively large portions for myself and my boyfriend so that we either have leftovers for lunch or a second helping. I supplemented all but one of the meals with a secondary side dish, to make sure we didn’t get hungry later, and it seemed liked just enough food. That said, if you don’t have quite a big eater at the table, you’ll probably find Blue Apron’s portions to be just right.

3. Packaging Waste

One of the biggest problems I saw with Blue Apron was the amount of packaging it involved. Any ingredient that wasn’t whole and somewhat shelf-stable was packaged in small plastic cups or bags. I appreciate the fact that finding cheap, tough, lightweight alternative packaging solutions can be tough. However, I try to minimize kitchen waste wherever possible. This means purchasing larger quantities and opting for products with less packaging wherever I can. I’m sure Blue Apron is working to improve their packaging, but their current model doesn’t align with my waste goals.

One thing that I won’t put in either the pro or con column is cost. At nearly $60 per week, Blue Apron more expensive than going to the store and buying everything yourself, but cheaper than ordering in or going out to eat. Given the fact that it’s also delivered to your door, the cost markup doesn’t seem terrible.  You’ll have to figure out for yourself if the pros outweigh the cons (and the price) for Blue Apron.

In the end, I think that Blue Apron is a great solution for cooks who have a small to moderate amount of cooking experience already. If you’ve never picked up a knife before, you might get a little lost in Blue Apron’s recipes, but if you have a basic understanding of getting around the kitchen you’ll probably enjoy their meals. The meal choices were solid and interesting, and if you’re stuck in a creativity rut cooking the same things over and over, Blue Apron might get you out of your comfort zone and introduce you to some new ingredients and ideas. If anyone else out there has tried and liked (or disliked) Blue Apron, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Please note: I was not paid to review Blue Apron, although I did receive a free box via a friend’s referral code. My thoughts on my experience with their service and product are entirely my own.