Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

On Sunday seven of us cooks gathered at my home to make stocks including some delicious, low fat chicken stock that will add nutrients, protein and texture to many varied dishes in the coming months. One of our favorites is chicken pot pie. Meat pies made from scratch with proper stock that has lots of gelatin are divine comfort food. We even serve this simple dish at dinner parties elegantly presented in gold soup terrines that came from Sur La Table. My chicken pot pie is a dish that leverages the cycle for chicken usage at our house to the hilt. The thighs and legs are in the filling while the carcass from a previous chicken is in the stock that makes the sauce velvety and complex in taste and mouth feel.

The filling of a chicken pot pie has chunks of meat that contrast the silky supreme sauce. A supreme sauce is a veloute sauce (one of the five mother sauces we call "gravy" which is meat stock thickened with roux) with milk added and then thickened into a white sauce. Once a cook masters the five mother sauces and the common variations, recipes become easier to prepare when the cook recognizes the sauce portion of a recipe and lets the muscle memory of making the sauce take over.

Overall the recipe is easy to prepare. When key ingredients are made ahead like the filling and pie crust dough, the pies can be assembled and in the oven in just a few minutes followed by 25 minutes baking time which makes the dish ideal for quick weeknight meals with minimal clean-up.
Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 4 as a complete meal (may be scaled by half for 2 servings)

Special equipment: 4 1 1/2 cup soup terrines or ramekins


Pie crust ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (best to chill cubes in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before using)
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water

Filling ingredients
1 2 1/2 lb chicken de-boned, roasted, and cut into chunks (if scaling for 2 servings, use legs, thighs and wings)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
3 carrots, brunoise
3 celery stalks brunoise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups milk
Dash ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup green peas, frozen or fresh
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Egg wash

1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water


Prepare the pie crust dough. Sift together flour and salt and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the sharp blade. Add the chilled butter cubes and pulse 5 times to combine. And the shortening and pulse a few more times, until the dough resembles a coarse cornmeal. Slowly stream in ice water, a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the dough sticks together when you press some between your fingers. Empty the dough from the processor onto a clean surface. Use your hands to mold into a ball, then flatten the ball into a disk. Sprinkle with a little flour, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.

Prepare the filling. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the nutmeg. Whisk in chicken stock. Whisk in milk. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often until thickened. Add chicken meat, thyme, sherry, peas, parsley, salt and pepper and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Divide the warm filling among terrines or ramekins. (Cook’s note: Filling may be cooled and refrigerated for up to two days. Re-warm cold filling before proceeding)

Prepare the crust. Roll out dough on a lightly flour surface to a little less than a quarter-inch thick about the same size as for a 9" pie crust. Cut into 4 rounds, slightly larger than the circumference of the terrines. Lay a dough round on each pot pie. Fold the excess dough under itself and use the tines of a fork to press the dough against the edge of the terrines. Cut a 1-inch vent into each individual pie. Use a pastry brush to apply an egg wash to each pie. Place the pies on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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