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Deconstructed chicken pot pie

Herbed biscuits stand in for pie crust in this deconstructed chicken pot pie. Herbes de Provence and garlic give the American classic a French accent.

By Blue Kitchen / April 5, 2013

There's nothing more comforting than chicken pot pie. Try this new take on an old favorite.

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I recently had lunch at Dine, the restaurant of the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro hotel. I wasn’t there because of my food writing credentials. Marion’s sister Lena works in the travel industry. The hotel had invited her to lunch; I was her plus one.

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Blue Kitchen

Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.

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Historically, hotel restaurants have offered safe, if less than inspired meals to weary business travelers and wary tourists afraid to play restaurant roulette in a strange city. That’s beginning to change, though. Increasingly, hotels are bringing in new chefs and inviting them to play with their food.

You won’t find culinary high wire acts in most hotel restaurants; they still have to appeal to a broad range of customers and palates. But you will find more focus on freshness, more attention to sourcing and inventive flavor combinations and presentation. What hotels are finding is that this approach can make them appealing to local diners, too.

At Dine, executive chef Erik Dybvik has created breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menus of “high-style comfort food,” as the hotel website describes it. Menu elements such as onion marmalade, duck fat roasted potatoes, farro, rapini, smoked trout mousse, caramelized fennel and white bean ragout bear out that description.

The grilled ahi burger I had, served with red onion, oven roasted tomato, arugula and roasted garlic mayo, was delicious and generous. But it was Lena’s lunch that caught my attention, chef Erik’s take on chicken pot pie, served not in a crust, but on a scallion biscuit. For some time, I had been thinking about making something close to traditional chicken pot pie, but replacing the crust with a layer of drop biscuits. Chef Erik’s approach – preparing the biscuits and filling separately, then plating them together – was a revelation, not only easier to prepare, but easier (and more attractive) to serve and eat. I left our lunch with a full belly and a recipe idea to make my own.

Meat pies date back to the Roman Empire, but the pot pie is distinctly American – hearty, comforting farm food. Biscuits share that same rural American heritage. Combining the two seemed a natural. It also offered the opportunity to play with them a bit.

When I was a kid, almost any meal that included gravy ended with me putting a slice of white bread on my plate and smothering it in gravy. Whatever else had been served, this was the star of the show to me. Then when I started to cook, I learned that if you added herbs and wine, gravy suddenly became sauce. An aha! moment.

That’s what I did with my deconstructed pot pie. I added garlic, herbes de Provence and wine to the filling, giving everything a vaguely French quality. And I added fresh thyme to the biscuits, which delicately flavored them throughout. Many herb biscuit recipes include chives (chef Erik used scallions in his), but I wanted the extra biscuits to be at home with butter or jam.

The drop biscuits are in keeping with the rustic roots of pot pies and are far easier to make than rolled biscuits. You can prepare the filling a day or more ahead and gently reheat it while you make the biscuits. Or you can get the filling started on the stovetop and then make the biscuits as it simmers.

Deconstructed chicken pot pie
Serves 4, with extra biscuits

For the filling:

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into polite bite-sized pieces

salt and freshly ground black pepper

olive oil

unsalted butter

4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (or cremini)

1 medium yellow onion, copped (or 2 shallots)

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (or homemade stock)

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