Chicken Pot Pie with Tea Biscuit Crust

It must have been around the end of June that Dad sent me an email asking me for a great Chicken Pot Pie recipe. It didn’t matter to him that the sweltering months of the summer were just around the corner, he needed a solution to his pot pie conundrum.

Chicken pot pie, it turns out, ranks high on my Dad’s list of favourite foods. It probably goes something like this: white Minute Made Rice with ketchup, a prime rib roast, LaFleurres fries, fine cheeses, and chicken pot pie. But not just any chicken pot pie. You see, the consistency of the filling (as my Dad informed me) is the crux at which most pies go from epic deliciousness to epic failure. Ok, I’m paraphrasing but the message remains the same, the consistency of the pie needs to be perfect.

Dad’s complaint was that the frozen pies he has been buying are too pasty, too thick. He asked me to get him a recipe that would solve this conundrum, and this is my attempt. An adaptation from one of my favourite cooking books: The Laura Secord Canadian Cook Book. The book is the same that my Dada used to cook out of for my Mom when she was growing up and is a lovely collection of recipes that prove there is such thing as a Canadian cuisine.

Difficulty: Medium

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

Cooking Time: 60 Minutes

Yield: 8 Generous Servings

Grocery List:

Filling:

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Spanish Onion
  • 3 Carrots
  • 3 Celery Stalks
  • 6 Small Potatoes
  • Bay Leaf
  • Chili Flakes
  • Oregano
  • 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour

Tea Biscuit Topping:

  • 2 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 1 cup Milk + 1 tbsp to brush on top

Tools:

  • Big pot that is oven safe
  • Cheese grater

Start by cutting your chicken breasts into 1″ cubes. You could use a mixture of breast and thigh meat, I gave the 4 chicken breasts as an indication of the total amount of protein you want to put in the filling. Set chicken aside, sterilize the cutting surface and cut your vegetables up into 1 cm cubes. Next, turn your pot onto medium, melt a good hunk of butter and then add the chicken. At this point, season the meat with pinches of salt and pepper. This dish is one that greatly benefits from moderate seasoning throughout the entire cooking process.

Chicken Pot Pie

Our country stove, and that is the pot I have decided to use for this.

Chicken Pot Pie

Love these dials.

Chicken Pot Pie

Melt the butter.

Chicken Pot Pie

Cook the chicken.

Once the meat is white in appearance and is mostly cooked through (if it isn’t cooked all the way through it is fine, there is a lot more cooking time left in this preparation) add the potatoes, onions, carrots and celery to the pot. Stir every few minutes until the vegetables are soft. Again, season gently with salt and pepper.

Chicken Pot Pie

Ah the mirepoix, the backbone of any French dish.

Chicken Pot Pie

Add the veggies.

Next we are going to add the flour to the mixture. Stir until the flour is coating the vegetables and chicken and make sure there aren’t any clumps of flour. Let this cook for a minute or two. The flour will eventually release a nutty smell, at this point, slowly count to thirty and then it is time to add your seasonings and then your liquid. I like to just throw in a couple bay leaves, a bit of chili flakes and some oregano. I also leave my bay leaves in and pick them out as I am eating. If you don’t like the idea of that, then right before you add your crust, just fish them out, but make sure you count how many you initially put in (that way you know how many you have to find). As for the liquid, you want to add stock preferably, but if you don’t have any then broth or water will suffice (yes there is a difference between broth and stock). Add enough to the pot that you can just start to see the liquid. Stir thoroughly until the flour is worked into the liquid.

Chicken Pot Pie

First add the flour, then add the spices.

Chicken Pot Pie

Add the liquid, but not this much, I added too much.

Stirring every so often, allow the filling to come to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes. You want the chicken to be very tender to the fork. At this point you need to make a few judgement calls, and this is why we have humans and not machines in the kitchen. First of all, is the mixture too thick? If so, add some water. Is the mixture too thin? If so, soften some butter in a bowl and then add an equal amount of flour to it and stir/mash until well combined into a paste. This is called a beurre manie and we use it to thicken sauces, soups, and fillings like this one. Once you have your beurre manie (pronounced man-yay), add it to your filling in 1 cmish chunks and stir until it is completely dissolved. Continue this process until your filling is the right consistency.

Next, how does it taste? It probably needs salt and pepper. You should add salt to the point where you can just barely taste it, and the pepper should be present but not overwhelming. If it needs more of one of the herbs then now is the time to add it. Does it taste flat? Add some lemon zest. Experiment! Cloves would probably taste bomb in there. This is the fun part of cooking, don’t be afraid to try something.

After this evaluation your filling will be ready. Dad, now is the time to pour the filling into the pie shells. For those of you who want to try a unique chicken pot pie experience then have it the way our settlers did, with a tea biscuit crust baked right on top of that filling.

Preheat your oven to 425 and make sure that the racks are in the correct position to be able to fit the pot you currently have the filling in. The key to good biscuits (and pie dough for that matter) is cold fat. So measure out your butter, and keep it in the fridge while you measure out the rest of your ingredients. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Next, grab that trusty cheese grater out of your cupboard and prepare it for something it has never done before.

Chicken Pot Pie

Here are my dry ingredients

Hold the grater over the bowl with the dry ingredients and then take the butter and evenly grate it on top. Next, you want to attempt to evenly spread the butter throughout the mixture without melting it. Put your hands into the bowl and pick up a handful of flour and butter. Rub your hands together to coat the butter in the flour. Avoid having big clumps of butter anywhere in the mixture and work the dough as little as possible. Once there are small peas of flour coated butter evenly throughout the mixture, add in your milk. Use your hands and work the milk into the dry ingredients until it is just willing to hold together.

Chicken Pot Pie

Thank you Chef Tobias Pohl-Weary of the Red Canoe Bistro for showing me this butter grating trick.

Chicken Pot Pie

Here my fiancee reproached me for using my iPhone and very helpfully operated a real camera for me πŸ™‚ Here I am rubbing my hands back and forth to coat the butter with flour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work it (with a roller, or just use your hands but be quick about it) until it is about a half inch thick and in a circular shape with a dimension that is equal to the opening at the top of your filling pot. Carefully pick the dough up, and set on to the top of your filling. The closer it is to the edges of the pot, the better. Next spread a bit of milk with a brush on top of the biscuit and place into the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until it is golden. Remove, cut, enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie

When turned out onto my board, it looked like this.

Chicken Pot Pie

Work the dough together on the board…

...and start to form it into a circle.

…and start to form it into a circle.

Chicken Pot Pie

Lift the biscuit gently off the table…

Chicken Pot Pie

…and place on top of the filling.

Chicken Pot Pie

Wash the surface with a milk wash.

Chicken Pot Pie

Put the whole pot in the oven to finish getting delicious.

Chicken Pot Pie

Mmmmmmmmmhm.

Chicken Pot Pie

Simple, yet delicious.

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