Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

It's cooling off outside, which means it's safe to return to some recipes that have been on the shelf since February or March.  The season for grilled bratwurst and pasta salad is winding down, but the time for soups and stews is coming back.  And what is pot pie but a delicious stew inside pie crust?  Yes, I said pie crust.  If it's in a ramekin with nothing on the bottom: not a pot pie.  If it's covered in biscuits?  Not a pot pie.  Not in my book.

Pot pies can have two problems: they can be bland, and they can be dry.  This pie avoids both issues with aggressive spicing and plenty of liquid.  Is it pretty?  No, it's not the prettiest.  Is it fancy?  No, it's not the fanciest.  But will that stop you from devouring more than your fair share of tender chicken and vegetables in delicious, savory gravy under just the right amount of crisp, flaky crust?  No, no it won't.

Since it's a pot pie, you'll need some pie crust.  Making your own would be wise, but frozen will do.  It's a chicken pot pie, so you'll probably want some chicken, too.  The rest of the filling is mixed frozen vegetables and sweet onion sauteed in butter in a sauce of chicken broth and cream.  It's all spiced by generous portions of thyme, basil, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper.

First, chop that onion.

This recipe is ideal for leftover chicken, but if you're like me and don't generally have leftover roasted chicken floating around, you can cook some fresh.  It just needs some salt and pepper - the rest of the seasoning will happen later in the process.

While the chicken cooks, melt some butter in a dutch oven and get the vegetables in there.  Cook over medium until the vegetables soften and the onions become translucent, 5-6 minutes.

As soon as the chicken is cooked, chop it down into nice, bite-sized pieces.

Throw the chicken in with the vegetables, then add the chicken broth and all of the spices.  Start conservatively with the spices - there'll be another chance to doctor up the filling before the final product.  A little white wine wouldn't go amiss here, either, if you have some on-hand.

Let the pot simmer a few minutes to marry the flavors, then add some flour and stir to thicken things up.  Just about a quarter-cup should do it.  Again, start conservatively and add more as needed.

Once the filling is thickened by the flour, add the cream and stir.  Cook another minute or two, then you're ready to fill some pie shells.  Now is the time to check your seasoning.  Taste the filling, and if it's at all bland, add more spicing.  Chances are you'll need more salt unless your chicken broth was far too salty.

So fill some pie shells!  If you follow the amounts of ingredients I've listed, you'll have enough for two deep-dish pies.  That's a lot of pie.  But then, you'll need it.

Store-bought pie crust is not pretty.  In fact, the holes I cut to vent make the topped crust look a bit like an angry face.  Can you see it?

In any case, top your filled crust, seal the edges, and poke some holes to vent steam.  Don't be discouraged if it looks like the above.

You don't need to be discouraged by ugly raw pie crust because it comes out golden brown and pretty!  All it needs is a half hour of 400 degree temperatures.  You'll know it's done by smell - you'll smell it across the room.  As soon as you open the oven, you'll be gripped by a terrible need to devour all of the pie immediately.

Don't do it!  Let it cool 10-15 minutes before cutting into slices, otherwise you'll have a terrible mess on your hands.  Not that pot pie is generally the neatest thing in the world, but you can count on slices to at least think about holding together if you give things a little time.

When the time comes, slice and serve.  This is a self-contained meal, so no particular need for sides.  Just eat plenty of delicious pie.  All you need is pie.

Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie
Prep Time: 5 Minutes | Cook Time: 45 minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 2 pies; 10-12

  • 2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 2 frozen deep-dish Pie Crusts (top and bottom)
  • 2 lbs Frozen Vegetable Mix (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
  • One large sweet Onion
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1/4 cup Flour
  • 1 can Chicken Broth
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tsp Basil
  • 2 tsp Fresh Thyme
  • 2 tsp ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tsp Salt

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Chop onion.

Cook chicken in a skillet or grill pan seasoned with salt and pepper.  Chop cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces.

In a large dutch oven, melt butter.  Add onion and frozen vegetables and cook until softened, approx. 5-6 minutes.

Add chicken, chicken broth, garlic powder, smoked paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper to dutch oven.  Stir to mix.  Simmer 3-5 minutes.

Add flour and stir well to thicken.  Once thickened, add cream and simmer an additional 1-2 minutes.

Fill deep dish pie shells with chicken mixture.  Add top shell and seal edges.  Cut holes to vent steam.

Bake pies 30 minutes at 400 degrees until top crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.

Cool 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

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