Chicken pot pie was never a favorite meal of mine until my mother started making Ina Garten’s fabulous chicken stew with biscuits, in which a rich mixture of creamy chicken and vegetables is topped with fluffy biscuits rather than the more traditional puff pastry. This recipe pays homage to that, and is a great alternative for vegetarians or jaded omnivores. You can sub any type of alcohol for Marsala—white wine, Madeira, a dry apple cider or Port would all work. But consider this an opportunity to either fish out a dusty bottle from your cabinet or go buy a fresh one, and then make zabaglione for dessert.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
½ pound cipollini or pearl onions, peeled, trimmed and left whole
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, packed
½ pound each of shiitake and oyster
mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned and roughly chopped
4 large cloves garlic, pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
⅔ cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon butter
1⁄3 cup grated Parmesan
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons Marsala
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup frozen peas
¼ cup rye flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cold unsalted
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold buttermilk
First, make the mushroom stew. In a large sauté pan with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the celery, carrots, onions and thyme, and sweat, covered, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook down for 5–7 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to soften.
Add the vegetable stock, butter, Parmesan, cream, Marsala and Worcestershire sauce, and cook another 5 minutes, over medium-low, until well combined. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking or stirring until well combined. There should be no lumps.
Add the peas and let the mixture thicken for 5–7 minutes. Transfer to a roughly 7½- by 10¼-inch casserole dish. Set aside and prepare the biscuits. Preheat oven to 375°.
Into the bowl of a food processer, add the rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda and baking powder. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and salt, and pulse until combined into rough crumbs. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and make a well. Pour in the buttermilk and combine, gently, with a rubber or silicon spatula or your hands.
Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured counter and knead very gently, until a cohesive dough has formed. It should be relatively moist but not too sticky. Pat or roll out the dough to roughly ½-inch thickness and, using a 2-inch biscuit cutter (or 2-inch juice glass), cut out 6 biscuits, being very careful not to twist while cutting. Form the scrap dough into another mass, pat down to ½-inch thickness and cut out 1 remaining biscuit—this is the tester.
Place the casserole on a large baking sheet and top evenly with the 6 biscuits. Crack the egg into a ramekin, whisk, and brush the top of each biscuit with a little egg. Place the 7th biscuit on the periphery of the baking dish and brush with egg. Bake for 25 minutes, until biscuits are golden-brown and cooked through (test their doneness using the 7th biscuit as a guide).
Note: Add 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or rosemary to the biscuit dough with the dry ingredients for an added herbal punch.
LUKE PYENSON is a food and travel writer, recipe developer, food stylist and photographer based in New York City. You can see examples of his work at www.lukepyenson.com.