02 February 2011

Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Biscuit

We have been working on the 3 types of mixing methods for quick breads in my Baking and Pastry class for the past 4 weeks. We spent two weeks on biscuits alone. There were a few people who really struggled with biscuits. It's pretty easy to build up gluten if you overmix/overwork your dough. But my grandma (who lived with us) was Southern and she made buttermilk biscuits virtually every day of my life. I could make biscuits in my sleep. Not that I didn't learn anything or was bored in class, though! The chef showed us a technique for gathering the dough after all the ingredients are introduced that I have found to work very, very well. Plus, I have so enjoyed learning about the science behind why gluten forms and why the different ingredients work they way they do. Have I mentioned yet I LOVE culinary school?!! :)
  This recipe for Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Biscuit is an amalgamation of a couple of my recipes that I have not posted yet. What is so great about it (besides the AMAZING biscuits) is that you could easily leave out the chicken and double up on the vegetables. (But that won't make it a vegetarian dish because I use chicken broth in the gravy.) Or you could use entirely different veg. Parsnips instead of potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes IN the pie, and you could even add the peas that are supposed to go in this recipe but I totally forgot to include. :)

You will need for the sweet potato biscuits:

2 cups AP flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 T butter or shortening (I used Smart Balance sticks--not from the tub)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cooked, cooled, and mashed sweet potatoes
1 T honey
1 egg (to be used later as a wash)

Mise en place:

You will need for the pot pie:

1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped potatoes
1 cup frozen peas
4 T olive oil
2 cups cooked, shredded (or cubed) chicken
3+ cups chicken broth (more on this later)
1 cup milk
3 tsp garlic
6T butter and 6T flour (for the roux)

The first thing you should do when making this recipe is preheat your oven to 375°. Then chop your veggies (except for the peas--you won't add those until you are putting together the pie and adding the gravy). You can use a deep dish pie plate, but I just used an 8-inch square baking dish. Toss the veggies in the dish with the 4T of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast them in the oven for 30-45 minutes, taking them out and stirring them every 10 minutes. They will be tender and browned when done. 
   While they are happily roasting away, start your biscuits. Sift together the dry ingredients (or if you are using pre-sifted flour, just whisk them together).

In a small, separate bowl, mix together the sweet potato, buttermilk, and honey. This will keep the sweet potato from clumping and make it easier to add to the flour mixture later. Set it aside.

With the biscuit method, you add all the dry ingredients, cut in the fat, and then add the liquid ingredients. That's it! So now you have to "cut in" the butter. Make sure the butter is cold, not warm, not at all softened. Cube the butter and toss it into the flour mix. Now, if you were to just start cutting it in with a pastry cutter, etc. there would be no point to the cubing. You wind up with a lump of butter. SO, toss the butter cubes in the flour to coat each one and make sure it keeps its hands to itself and away from its buddies.

Now for the new techniques I learned in class. My grandma always used a fork or pastry cutter (in the later years) to cut in the butter, but my pastry chef showed us a method that works amazingly well. Unfortunately, it's easier to show and explain in person, but I'll give it a shot here. :)  Pick up a bit of flour and a cube of butter in one hand and smoosh the flour across the butter cube. Don't push the flour into the cube, but flatten the cube a bit while rubbing the flour across it. Make sense?

Do this with every cube, working quickly so that you don't heat the butter too much. Keep doing this with the cubes until they are all broken up. (You can grab more than one as you go along, of course.) Once the butter/flour has formed large crumbs, starting rubbing it together between your hands. Pretend you are a bad guy in a cartoon and are rubbing your hands together in glee because a you just got one over on Batman...or someone. :) 

Okay, now that your mind if full of thoughts about Christian Bale as Batman...whoo boy...you will have a mix that looks like this:

Now make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add the sweet potato/buttermilk/honey mixture. About the buttermilk...it makes a HUGE difference. My Bubba doesn't even like biscuits without buttermilk now.

Here's another chef technique: use a fork to toss together the two mixtures. Sweep the leg fork along the sides of the bowl, tossing the dry into the wet and gradually folding/mixing lightly.

When it has barely come together, use your hands to knead it until just combined. Overmixing = gluten! Don't do it! Fold the biscuit dough over itself a few times and then STOP. Cover it with plastic wrap and chuck it into the fridge until you need it. (OR. Stick it in the fridge for 20 minutes, then take it out, roll it out lightly on a lightly floured surface and cut into biscuits. Brush with egg was and bake for 10 minutes.)

While the dough is chilling, start making the roux for the gravy. Melt the 6T of butter in a pan and then add the garlic. Saute for 2 minutes and then add the flour. If you are using a light butter or Smart Balance (non spread/tub) stick, you may need to add more flour because of the higher water content. I added about 2 more tablespoons of flour. You want it to be thick like peanut butter (says my Thursday non-baking chef). Salt and pepper it! Cook for 2 minutes until it picks up a bit of color. Now slowly add the milk and chicken broth.
  Okay, here's a neat trick to make chicken broth a bit more flavorful if you are using store bought (which you probably are). Buy the 32 ounce carton and boil it vigorously until you are left with three cups. You are reducing it and it makes for a richer product.
   Whisk your soon-to-be gravy constantly making sure you eliminate all the lumps. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer (barely a boil). Salt and pepper it again! Now cook it for 20 minutes. I know, long time. But it's totally worth it! This step eliminates all the flour flavor and keeps your gravy silky smooth. It will NOT gelantinize with this process. You may need to add more broth if your gravy starts to get too thick. You want it to be like a thin cake batter. Whisk every couple of minutes. Salt and pepper!  (The chef said, "you know how gravy turns to jello almost before it can even reach the table? That's wrong! But we love our mom's anyway, right?" We all laughed.)
Taste, taste, taste, taste, taste your gravy while it cooks. Add salt and pepper, garlic salt, whatever you like to season it but SEASON AND TASTE often.

Your roasted veggies will be done by now. Take them out of the oven and spread the chicken on top of them. This is when you will add the frozen peas if you don't forget them. Which I did. 

When your gravy is done, pour it on top of your vegetables and chicken.

Oh, yum. This gravy is soooo amazing. Now it's time to add the biscuits. You can lightly roll out the dough and then place it all at once on top of the pot pie OR add the dough by drops and smooth it out over the pot pie. Doesn't matter. I dropped it on and spread it out. Then paint it with the egg wash.

 Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

 Sooooo good. So flavorful! The amazing gravy, the roasted vegetables, the sweet potatoes and buttermilk in the biscuits!!

 You definitely don't need a side with this meal! You have chicken, vegetables, and most importantly (at least to me and the Goose) the bread. YUM doesn't do it justice.

Make this pot pie soon! Or just make the biscuits because they are divine. The sweet potato mash adds a whole layer of flavor to already delicious buttermilk biscuits.

29 January 2011


As you have probably guessed by now, I've been busy! Every culinary class requires me to type up my notes, type up the recipes, and take pictures of the food all to be included in the end of semester project--a binder chock full of everything we have learned/baked/cooked. In my baking and pastry class we have been learning the 3 types of mixing methods: the biscuit method, the muffin method, and the creaming method. I am quite familiar with all three! And, it turns out, my family is pretty spoiled. When I brought home the first day's biscuits Bubba said, "they're good...but I can tell they weren't make with buttermilk." :) The school kitchen rarely has buttermilk, unlike here at my house where it is always stocked. The next week I brought home chocolate chip muffins and Goose said, "I like your recipe better." Oh, poor, spoiled family!
  I am absolutely LOVING culinary school! Love. Love, love, love!! I get such a kick out of putting on my chef jacket, baggy chef pants, non-slip shoes, not-so-white-anymore apron, and chef hat. And my knife kit! It came in a roll just like on Top Chef. :)  Now it is crammed full of a ton of instruments from home and I just love opening it. (When I showed it to Tink the first day she said, "Please pack your knives and go.") I have four hats. My favorite stood up tall, but I am 5'9 and adding another 4 inches to my height caused me to bump my hat against the hanging electrical outlets (for the mixers). So now I wear a plain white hat that fits over all my hair, a houndstooth hat that is similar to the white one, or a skullcap (like they wear on Grey's Anatomy) covered in cute squids, fish, and lobsters.
  I am learning how to feel and see if something, like a muffin, is done. "Chefs do not time anything, " says my pastry chef. I am learning the parts of the wheat plant (ENDOsperm, not just sperm like I put on a quiz ;), the types of flours and their protein count, they types of whisks, the name of every pot, pan, and everything else in the kitchen. I am learning how to use convection ovens, how to saute, how to roast, how to break down a chicken both before and after it is cooked, how to hold my knife (not as comfortable as it seems), how the gases form while baking, etc. Did you know that if your gravy turns to jello when it cools that you did it wrong. Gravy should not do that! I wish that I had taken French instead of Spanish in school because everything is in French. Luckily, Goose is taking French and she is helping me with my pronunciation.
  Here are some of the things I have made: (excuse the quality on some of the pics--I have had to use my phone a few times because I keep forgetting to bring my camera)

  Chefs have the best personalities. They are crazy smart, funny, quirky, sweet, hardcore, and kind. So far I have liked everyone I have met. My very first day of pastry class I did not have the proper apron and a guy I had never met before said, "here, have one of mine." How nice is that? And everyone is like that. We are all there to learn and have so much fun together. I truly feel I am in the right place doing the right thing.

On an even more personal note...last December my little brother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Such a shock. I have never felt pain like that before. It's been a little over a month and still I have moments when I feel like I can't breathe. We were close, and the thought that I will never be able to call him again or text him or hear his contagious laughter makes me want to scream. We had this ongoing tradition of trying to get each other to watch bad movies. I would call him and tell him that Bubba and I had just watched an amazing movie (or he would call me) and then we would laugh hysterically if it worked. It got so we would not trust each others movie recommendations and it always made us laugh so hard. Every time we got together we would watch a B horror movie and start off laughing at it, and end up talking our way through it about any and everything in our life. Now every emotion I have triggers my sadness. The first day of my culinary class (this semester) I was practically giddy driving home. It was so much fun and I loved it so much that I was extremely happy. I got home and cried for a half an hour.
  One thing this tragedy did show me was how many people I have in my life who care for me. Even people I have not seen in almost 18 years reached out to me. But it also showed me the people who are not as close to me as I thought they were. And that was hard. It broke my heart in one case. But what can you do? I am just thankful for the people who do love me and I love them right back!
  At the end of February, three of my favorite people in the whole world are coming to visit. YAY! I need to see them all so much. Girls, save your appetites until then because I plan on cooking and baking us all into comas! :)
  One more thing before I wrap it up.  We have a new addition to the family! My xmas present from Bubba:

He is a black lab and his name is Spock (because his mama is a Trekker). Probably the sweetest puppy on the planet. But he is growing so fast! I carry him around a lot because I know that in a couple of weeks I won't be able to. Bear is gradually getting used to Spock, but he doesn't love him yet.
  Thanks for sticking with me through my looooong downtime. I will get some new recipes posted soon!