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WOW have I had a culinary experience tonight. First, let me back up and say that a month or so ago, I was contacted by the authors of a new cookbook, Almost Meatless, to see if I’d like to cook, photo and blog about a recipe from the book for an “Almost Meatless Blogger Potluck.” This sounded like great fun to me, and I really liked the premise of the book (using meat as more of a condiment than a heavy main ingredient) They assigned me (after I’d chosen a few from their table of contents) to “Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie.” This sounded yummy. I LOVE chicken pot pie, and have forever. But it’s generally not been either WW- or-diabetes friendly (mostly due to the pie crust) so I’d been resigned to not eating much of it in my future. I jumped at the chance to get a healthier version.

Well. Let me say. This cooking experience was memorable!

FIRST let me say that for a working mom, this recipe is neither cheap, nor easy nor quick. It is NOT something to whip up on a week night when one does not have all manner of ingredients in one’s pantry.

I left work at 5:15 pm. Went to store. Ended up having to buy almost $70 of ingredients because I didn’t HAVE a lot of this stuff. Whole wheat pastry flour. Wheat bran. Bottle of white wine. Leeks. Parsnips.  Etc. Here are my groceries.

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Got home at 6:15pm. Commenced cooking. Luckily, I had already bought several munchies which was a GOOD THING. The kids were not home. This was also a VERY GOOD THING. I had some friends coming over and they ended up being my very patient food-testing guinea pigs. Ditto, good thing.

I decided to follow the recipe as faithfully as possible, which I often don’t. But I wanted to be faithful to the original so I could give an honest assessment of both the process and the product.

It took me exactly TWO HOURS to make, start to finish. I had my mother chopping along as assistant. Without her, it could’ve been two and a half. Let me just say that was almost a deal breaker right there.

This could make a lovely, for-company, WEEKEND meal but no no no no no way could one sanely manage this on a school/work night. It was actually quite entertaining and laughable, and had there been offspring in the house, someone would have ordered pizza hours ago.

Anyway. I found the process not difficult, but VERY long. Very very long. It was an exercise in slow food. I kept thinking, this better be worth it.

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At 8:15, the timer went off (so did the smoke alarm, because it had bubbled over the top into the oven floor, causing a lot of smoke). I took pictures. I thought it was strikingly beautiful. We ladled it into bowls. There were 5 grownups in attendance. The comments were:

  • Needs more salt.
  • Delicious.
  • I would order this in a fancy gourmet comfort-food restaurant.
  • Complex.
  • It was okay, but it took so long.
  • The top was like a bran muffin.
  • The flavors and texture remind me of Thanksgiving and stuffing!
  • I couldn’t tell that the parsnips were not potatoes. This is probably a healthy substitution.
  • The broth is fantastic.
  • I would totally eat this. I AM eating this! Yum!

SO. I think the reviews (including my own) were generally VERY enthusiastic, but overall, this was all overshadowed by the insane amount of time and work that went into producing this dish.

When I make Chicken Pot Pie for my family, it’s five minutes of prep and five ingredients: a rotisserie chicken, Pillsbury pie crust, a bag of frozen vegies and two cans of Healthy Choice cream of chicken soup. Voila. My family loves it. (I actually got this recipe from the WW site, I think) I KNOW my kids would not be wild about the Grownup Version. But I would definitely make it for company. I would definitely make a leisurely afternoon of preparing it.

But this cookbook was not advertised to be quick, easy OR cheap. Just healthier, and delicious, which it delivered on in both areas.

Have a few hours to kill and a desire for some yummy healthy food? Recipe below the break!!

Chicken and Biscuit Pot Pie

Stew
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, with thighs and drumsticks separated (about 2 pounds total)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds leeks (about 3 very large), white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise into
1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup whole milk
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
4 cloves garlic, halved, peeled, and smashed
1 cup 1/2-inch carrot chunks (about 2 small carrots)
1 cup diced parsnips (about 2 medium parsnips)
1 cup diced fennel (about 1/2 small bulb)
4 ounces green beans, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (1 cup)
3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves (optional)
Topping
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely sliced fresh chives or minced scallions
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
Stew: to make the stew, rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides of the pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Flip the pieces over and brown the other side, for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the leeks and sauté in the chicken fat for about 7 minutes, until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the wine, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the stock, milk, thyme, bay leaves, rosemary, and garlic. Return the chicken to the pot, adding any reserved juices. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked and just starting to fall off the bone. (honestly, I would just use rotisserie chicken for this and save 40 minutes)

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and remove the skin. Discard the bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme sprigs. Add the carrots, parsnips, fennel, and green beans to the pot. Add the tarragon if you wish. Return the stew to a simmer and season with salt and pepper to taste. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat from the bones and add the meat back to the stew. Discard the bones.

Topping: to make the biscuit topping, preheat the oven to 425°F. Whisk together the flour, bran, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, and chives in a bowl. Gently work the cold butter into the dry ingredients, rubbing it together as if you were snapping your fingers. Take care not to overwork the mixture or melt the butter with the warmth of your hands. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the yogurt and stir just enough to bring the mixture together, forming a damp dough.

Ladle the chicken mixture equally into six heatproof bowls. I didn’t have such things, so I poured it into a pie plate. Drop the biscuit dough by the tablespoonful across the surface of the stew in each bowl. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20
minutes, or until the dough is just golden on top. (Alternatively, leave the chicken mixture in the Dutch oven. Drop the biscuit dough across the surface of the stew, transfer to the oven, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the dough is just golden on top. Serve directly from the pot.)

Recipe reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors

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