MEET THE SOUS CHEF
CECILIA LIGHT, SOUS CHEF, BALSAN
When Cecilia Light, sous chef at Chicago’s Balsan restaurant, was 20 years old, she took a job working at a grill in her hometown of Bogalusa, Louisiana. “I was just a fry cook, a short-order cook,” she recalls. “But when I was cooking, it felt like being at recess.” She also deemed it superior to her previous job, working at the makeup counter at Walmart.
She decided to attend culinary school in Chicago, interned with Paul Prudhomme in Louisiana, then returned to the Windy City to work at North Pond restaurant, picking up skills along the way. She shares some of these fundamentals in her recipe for chicken pot pie. Thickened with roux and topped with a cheddar biscuit crust, the recipe is one to master for winter.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
The Great Outdoors
"When I'm not working," jokes Light, "I'm sleeping." She and her partner, who is an amateur photographer, also like spending time at the Chicago Botanic Garden and hanging out with Tater, their teacup Yorkie.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
If you find yourself with a surplus of turkey, you can substitute it for the chicken in this recipe; you can also use a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Or cook a vegetarian version of the pie, loading the filling with any combination of onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, broccoli, corn or peas.
Light typically tops her chicken pot pie with a cheddar biscuit crust, but any type of savory pastry crust--homemade or store-bought--including puff pastry, can be used in place of the biscuits (Light also crumbles some biscuits in the bottom of the baking dish, but you can skip that if you’re using an alternative topping). If you want to divide the cooking process up over a few days, you can make the filling one day, then top it with the biscuit crust and bake it the next.
All-purpose flour, 1 cup
Baking powder, 1½ teaspoons
Fresh thyme, 1 sprig (leaves finely chopped, about ½ teaspoon)
Kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon
Unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons at room temperature
Grated cheddar cheese, ¼ cup
Cold whole milk, ¼ to ⅓ cup
Kosher salt, 1½ teaspoons (plus more for blanching vegetables and seasoning)
Medium carrot, 1 (chopped into ½-inch pieces)
Large celery stalk, 1 (chopped into ½-inch pieces)
Large yellow onion, ¼ (chopped into ½-inch pieces)
Small Yukon Gold potato, 1 (chopped into ½-inch cubes)
Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon
Boneless and skinless chicken breast halves, 2 (chopped into ¾-inch cubes)
Fresh thyme, 1 small sprig
Unsalted butter, 1½ tablespoons
All-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons
Cold chicken broth, 1½ cups
Medium baking dish (or 4 individual single-serving size baking dishes)
1. Make the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, whisk together
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Chopped thyme
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Use your fingers to rub in the
- Room temperature butter
Once the butter is nearly incorporated, add the
- Grated cheddar cheese
Use your fingers to toss the mixture together. Then add
- ¼ cup whole milk
Using the wooden spoon, stir the mixture until it starts to come together in moistened yet shaggy clumps, adding the remaining milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed (you don't want the dough to look wet, but you don't want there to be powdery dry bits at the bottom of the bowl either).
Pull away about 8 golf ball-sized pieces of dough and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits are just beginning to turn golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven.
2. Make the filling: Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add
- Kosher salt
- Chopped carrot
Cook until the carrots are tender, about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a medium bowl. To the saucepan of boiling water, add the
- Chopped celery
Cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the celery to the bowl with the carrots. Repeat with the
- Chopped onion
Cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the celery and carrots. Add the
- Chopped potato
Cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain through a colander and add the potatoes to the bowl with the other blanched vegetables. Rinse the saucepan and set it back on the stove to use later.
3. Heat a medium skillet set over medium-high heat for 1½ minutes. Add the
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Chopped chicken breast
- Fresh thyme sprig
Cook, using the wooden spoon to stir occasionally, until the chicken pieces are browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the vegetables (discard the thyme sprig).
4. Set the rinsed saucepan over medium heat. Add
- 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
Once the butter is melted, use the wooden spoon to stir in
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is the consistency of dry sand, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in
- ½ cup cold chicken broth
Once the mixture is smooth, add more chicken broth, ½ cup at a time, until all of the chicken broth is used and the sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust flavor, if needed, with more
- Kosher salt
Stir in the cooked vegetables and chicken.
5. Break apart 4 biscuits into small pieces and place them in the bottom of a medium baking dish. Cover with the chicken and vegetable potpie filling and then place the remaining 4 biscuits on top. Place in the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are warmed through, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.