Individual Chicken Pot Pies with Biscuit Topping

Written By Michael Vyskocil, Photos by: Tara Hope Cofiell

While much of Carroll County is shivering its way out of winter’s frigid offerings during February and March, there is a lot to love about cooking at this time of year.

Cold weather comfort foods, in the form of muffins, pot pies, chili and bread pudding, offer perfect excuses to come in from the cold and curl up by the fire with these chill-chasing dishes. So let the winds of winter blow. You have these comfort food classics to thaw your bones and satisfy your appetite.

Cranberry-Pear Muffins

1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large ripe banana, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sugar
6 ounces nonfat plain yogurt
1 Anjou or Bosc pear, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, washed well and drained

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat 12 to 14 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or line muffin tins with foil or paper muffin liners. Set aside.

2. Combine old-fashioned rolled oats, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Place eggs, banana and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat eggs together with banana and sugar until mixture is well blended. Stir in dry ingredients, yogurt, pear and cranberries by hand, mixing just until dry ingredients are combined.

3. Place 2 heaping tablespoons batter in each muffin tin. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in muffin tin 15 minutes before serving. Makes 12 to 14 muffins.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies with Biscuit Topping
If you don’t have ceramic ramekins, you can use glass custard cups to bake these personal pot pies.

For the Filling:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 celery stalk, strings removed, diced
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen, defrosted
2 cups cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup baby peas, fresh or frozen, defrosted
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Biscuits:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup milk

For the Filling:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, until onion becomes soft and translucent. Whisk in chicken stock or broth; cook 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, sage, celery and corn, stirring to combine; cook about 5 minutes. Add chicken and peas; cook 5 minutes more. Sprinkle in flour and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add milk and thyme leaves and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Divide filling among six 7-ounce ramekins or ovenproof bowls; set aside.

For the Biscuits:
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Add milk; stir just until a dough forms. Drop dough onto chicken pot pie filling, using about 1/3 cup dough for each ramekin or bowl.

3. Transfer ramekins to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until biscuits are golden brown and the filling is heated through. Serve hot. Serves 6.

Harvest Chili
This chili dish is excellent for banishing the cold of a snowy winter’s evening. Serves 4

2 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
3 15-ounce cans pinto, cannellini,
and/or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
3 cups water
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole kernel corn
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini or winter squash
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) grated
cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Chopped scallions, sour cream, or chopped olives, for garnish (optional)

1. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add beans, onion, garlic, chili powder, paprika, oregano, pepper and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash beans slightly.

2. Stir in water, cornmeal, corn and zucchini or squash, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid thickens and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. If the chili is dry, add a bit of water to make it soupy again. Spoon into serving bowls. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of cheese and accompany each serving with Sweet-Pepper Corn Bread (recipe follows), chopped scallions, sour cream, or chopped olives, if desired.

Sweet-Pepper Corn Bread

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more butter for baking dish
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet green bell peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet red bell peppers

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking dish.

2. Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir together milk, melted butter, eggs and chopped peppers in a medium mixing bowl. Stir milk mixture into cornmeal mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove corn bread from the pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 1 eight-inch square.

Cranberry-Walnut Chocolate Bread Pudding
This bread pudding transforms stale bread into a rich, comforting dessert. The chocolate accentuates the flavor of the cranberry-walnut bread that is used as the base for the bread pudding.

Unsalted butter, for baking dish
1 1/2 pound loaf of stale homemade
or packaged cranberry-walnut bread
3/4 cup raisins (a mix of golden and brown)
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 large vanilla bean
1 3/4 cups whole milk
4 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces high-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 whole large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Butter a 9-by-14-inch oval baking dish with at least 1 1/2-inch sides. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut bread into slices, and cut the slices into quarters. Separate the quarters into two equal-sized groups; remove crusts from one group of quarters. Set aside.

3. Plump raisins in a small mixing bowl with the rum and 2 tablespoons of hot water.

4. In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, vanilla bean and milk; bring cream mixture to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover saucepan and let cream mixture stand for 30 minutes.

5. Uncover saucepan and remove vanilla bean from cream mixture; set vanilla bean aside. Place saucepan over medium heat and return cream mixture to a boil. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth.

6. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Split reserved vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With the point of a paring knife, scrape seeds from interior of each half of vanilla bean. Whisk vanilla bean seeds into egg mixture. Discard vanilla bean pod.

7. Slowly pour hot chocolate-cream mixture into beaten eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking.

8. Arrange bread pieces without the crusts in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle plumped raisins between the layers of bread. With a small measuring cup, slowly pour half the chocolate custard over the bread, making sure all bread pieces are soaked. Arrange bread pieces with the crusts on top in a decorative pattern, pressing firmly so that the bottom layer of bread absorbs the custard.

9. Pour remaining custard over the bread, making sure all bread pieces are soaked with the custard.
Transfer bread pudding to oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until custard sets and the bread pudding becomes a rich, golden color. Allow bread pudding to cool for 30 minutes. Cut into pieces, transfer to individual serving plates and sprinkle each serving with confectioners’ sugar. Serves 6 to 8.