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!

22 September 2010

Chocolate Chess PIe

This recipe for chocolate chess pie is one of the first pies I learned to make.  I used to make it every time we had spaghetti when Bubba and I were first married and living in Germany.  I made it many, many times and then...I stopped making it for years. I forgot about it.  A couple of weeks ago, I was going through my old recipe books that are, sadly, used more for decoration on my counter rather than a source for recipe ideas.  Now, I just go to the internet and look up a recipe or stumble through food sites gathering ideas.  So, my poor collection of Southern cookbooks sit gathering dust. (Or trying, at least. I dust them often because they are in the kitchen.)  I was so excited to refind this recipe! I have little notes written down in the cookbook, "does NOT make deep dish," and "DOUBLE." I doubled the recipe, per instruction, and made a deep dish chocolate chess pie. 

You will need:

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 deep dish unbaked pie crust*

*I only use homemade pie crusts now. I used to buy those refrigerated ones, but then starting making my own (as I always did years ago before the refrigerated ones were available) and wow.  Just wow. The difference!! I use this recipe.  It is absolute perfection. It also gives me an excuse to get the vodka out of the freezer.)

Preheat your oven to 325°

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate.  (Make sure the butter is warmed first or is room temperature when you add it or the chocolate will seize.) 

While it cools, beat the eggs.

Then add the sugar.

Slowly pour in the cooled chocolate and butter mix and then add vanilla.

Pour it all into your unbaked pie crust and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center is set.  You don't need to place this pie on a cookie sheet because it will not spill over.  (Also, placing it directly onto the oven rack will allow the bottom crust to cook thoroughly.)

It makes a nice, crackly crust on top and leaves the middle gooey and rich.  And soooooooo delicious.

You could add fresh whipped cream (not Chemical Whip) or ice cream, but why paint the peacock?  This pie is fabulous all by its lonesome.


Time Management

  Well, it turns out going back to school after 14 years of being a stay-at-home mom is tougher than I expected.  I am having some time management issues, and am slowly working through them.  My whole schedule had to be thrown out the window and reworked, but after 14 years, I am finding it a little hard to adapt to the new one.  There have been tears.  And missed appointments. And even one, "why didn't the Goose come home on the bus?!"  Oh, right, she told me about that French Club meeting last week and I need to go pick her up--right now.  I am finding meal preparation a bit harder, too.  Thursday is particularly difficult because I am not home for dinner and have to plan something and write it down for the girls to cook.  They have been a huge success at it and are even enjoying it.  It's a little nerve-wracking for me since they have to start dinner before Bubba gets home and no one is here to help them if they need it, but we've talked about safety and, so far, I haven't had them make anything in the oven that Bubba isn't home to pull out.
  There have been many, many beneath-the-desk, hide-from-the-teacher texts back and forth with the girls. I need to know when they get off the bus and when they walk in the door.  And I need to know that the doors are locked. And that the dog has been let outside. And that dinner prep is underway. And when Bubba gets home so I can stop worrying.  Sweetest man on Earth, truly.  The first two weeks he came home from work early, so that he would be here when the girls got home and I would not freak out.  Like I did the first week when I was crying so hard I didn't know if I could drive to my class.  Not home when the babies get home?  Lots and lots and lots of guilt.  (Did I mention that three mornings a week I have to leave before Tink does? GUILT!)
  On top of all of us trying to get used to my new schedule, we have had a very trying month.  Too many things to detail completely, but Bear got sick and we were sure we were going to have to put him down (he's fine now), we had a health worry with Tink (she's fine now, too), several minor issues that feel HUGE when you are already feeling overwhelmed, and worst of all, our beloved Smores died.  She had been sick for a while, and finally passed away yesterday.  We think she was egg bound.  We did everything we possibly could for her and even gave her a round of antibiotics (I know, not organic, but her life was on the line).  We kept her alive for as long as possible, without suffering, but she finally gave out.  We will miss her so much.
  As far as culinary school goes, my classes are so much fun.  SO MUCH FUN! I absolutely adore the chefs I am working with and the classes fly by because they are so great.  Getting through everything else is easier when I think about the end goal.  I am going to be a chef!  And...I am finding myself getting very interested in food science.  Very interested!  I could even see myself being a food scientist. 
  So, while September has been an extremely trying month for our family, we are looking forward to the coming holiday seasons.  Halloween is my absolute, bar-none, favorite time of the year.  Until it's over, and then Thanksgiving is my favorite...and then xmas.  The baking!!!!  I will try to post at least once a week, but bear with me.  Time Management is not my friend...yet. 

31 August 2010

WINNER of My First Giveaway!!

We have a winner!  I used random.org to generate the winning number, 10. 

"Susan said... How about trying some stuffed zucchini blossoms- i always see those on the 'fancy' food shows, they look interesting- it would be fun to try them out."

Congratulations, Susan!  I have always wanted to try stuffed zucchini blossoms!  You will be hearing from CSN stores soon about your gift card! (They will email you.)

I want to try EVERYTHING you all suggested!!  Ratatouille, risotto, crab cakes, creme brulee, crab wellington, homemade pasta, pastry with fruit, Chipotle pork burgers, Cornish game hens,  grilled chicken kebabs, Cajun Remoulade, coq au vin, osso bucco, or mini turkey burgers...my mouth is watering.  I asked the Goose what she would like me to make and she said, "any of those fancy mac and cheese suggestions."  :)  Of course.  She is taking French this year, so I love the idea of making Macaronis et Fromage. 

Thank you all so much for making my first giveaway such a big success! And thank you to CSN stores for their generous offer of a $50 gift card!!

30 August 2010

Back To School

The monkeys went back to school last week and I went back today.  It has been a busy time for us!  I thought I would post a few of my recipes that we use during the school week and a few ideas for store-bought items to pack in lunches.

First, breakfast.  My girls will eat pancakes 4-5 days a week if I let them, but I could not in good conscience feed them pre-packed or white flour mix pancakes.  So, I made up a whole wheat mix that I keep in a ziploc bag in my freezer.  One cup of mix, one egg, and 3/4 cup of milk and you have 6-8 good-sized pancakes. I use white whole wheat flour, which is a bit smoother than whole wheat, but still has all the nutritional benefits of the wheat. (You can also use this mix for waffles. Use all the same amounts, but add 2T of oil.)

Sometimes I am tired of making pancakes or want to change it up a bit for them.  I toast a whole wheat English muffin and add cheese and an egg to it.  Sometimes the girls like their eggs fried (in cooking spray) and sometimes they like them scrambled.  Either way you have a super nutritious Egg McMuffin knock-off. They usually can't finish the whole thing.  It is very filling!!

And don't forget my Anything Muffins! It is the perfect muffin base.  You can add anything, hence the name. :)  Seriously, though--anything you want. From blueberries to chocolate chips, bananas to bacon and cheddar! They also freeze really well, so you could make them over the weekend and pop them in the freezer.  They will be thawed by the time you get to work or leave out a couple overnight (wrapped up tight) and pop the thawed muffins in the microwave for 8 seconds the next morning.  (When I make them during the school week I use at least half white whole wheat.)  Tink's favorite muffin, though, is my Raisin Bran Muffin.

Last year, I could not get enough packed in their lunches--they kept asking for more! This year, they want a sandwich, yogurt or sugar-free pudding, and some Fig Newtons. I think it's the heat that has sapped their appetites.  Also, it's just week 2. By next week they will want totally new things.  Here are some examples of things I pack for them:

pudding and a small cheese round  or stick


The girls LOVE red, seedless grapes.  We buy them even when they are out of season.

Cheerios or Cheez-its snack mixes

dark chocolate Chex Mix

my homemade granola bars

(those are sooooo good.  Make them today!!)

my homemade apple sauce (or, in a pinch, all natural applesauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar)

Chickens in the Road posted a homemade Fig Newtons recipe that I am dying to try!! Especially since my girls are on a Fig Newtons kick.

When my monkeys get home from school I usually pull a cookie out of the freezer or they just have a glass of juice.  They aren't usually very hungry and we eat at 4:30, so they don't have to wait long for dinner.  Any of these lunch ideas would be perfect for after-school snacks, though.

Have a successful, wonderful school year everyone!

(The winner of my first giveaway will be posted tomorrow!)