Snowy, gray February days cry out for comfort food.  In this simplified version of a classic pot pie, tender, fluffy biscuits become dumplings as they settle into a rich stew of chicken and vegetables.  Cook the filling ahead of time, if you like, and let it reheat on the stove top as you make the biscuits.  We ate this tonight with braised greens, but a simple salad would be just as nice.

Chicken and biscuit pie

Yield:  Serves 6

For chicken filling:

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or use 4 c. shredded, cooked chicken)

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

3 1/2 c. chicken stock

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 Spanish onion, finely chopped

1 tsp. finely chopped, fresh thyme leaves

3 tbsp. butter (or dairy-free alternative)

1/3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 c. frozen peas

For biscuit topping:

1 1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

4 tbsp. cold butter (or dairy-free alternative)

1 c. cow’s or unsweetened soy milk (or 3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. unsweetened rice milk)

Make chicken filling:

If using chicken thighs, arrange them in a single layer in a large skillet.  Season with salt and pepper, then pour in stock (stock should just cover chicken).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken from stock, let sit until cool enough to handle, then dice or shred into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside.

Warm a large saucepan over medium heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add carrots, celery, and onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in thyme and a pinch of salt and cook one minute more.  Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.

Return saucepan to heat and add butter.  When butter is melted, sprinkle in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.  Slowly add chicken stock, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.  Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for a few minutes until thickened.  Stir in peas and a few grindings of black pepper.  Taste and add additional salt if necessary.  Pour filling into a shallow, two-quart casserole or gratin dish and set aside.

Make biscuit topping:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl.  Stir well with a whisk.  Using a pastry blender (or whatever method you like best), cut butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in milk until just combined.

Drop biscuit dough by the heaping spoonful onto the filling.  Try to evenly distribute the dough over the casserole, but don’t worry about covering it completely.  Bake for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbling and biscuits are lightly browned.

Make it gluten-free: Replace the 1/3 c. all-purpose flour in the filling with 1/4 c. potato flour (NOT potato starch), and watch the butter/flour mixture carefully as it cooks — potato flour browns very quickly.   You can top the casserole with gluten-free biscuit dough and bake it as a pie, but I prefer baking gluten-free biscuits separately and then serving them with the filling.  Either way, here’s the recipe:

Gluten-free, dairy-free drop biscuits

Yield:  Makes about 15 biscuits

1 c. superfine brown rice flour

1/3 c. sweet rice flour

1/3 c. tapioca starch

1/3 c. potato starch

4 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1/4 tsp. baking soda

4 tbsp. cold, non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening

1 c. unsweetened rice milk

1 tbsp. honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together flours, starches, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum, and baking soda.  Stir well with a whisk.  Using a pastry blender (or whatever method you like best), cut shortening into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Combine rice milk and honey, stirring well with a rubber spatula until honey dissolves.  Pour into flour mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon until evenly combined and thickened.  Drop dough by the large spoonful onto lined baking sheet, spacing biscuits about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Serve warm.

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