Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

What country girl doesn't love a good pot pie? It's gotta have a flaky butter crust (double, of course) and a glossy top (from egg wash). This is one of my favorite indulgences. It is not low fat or low calorie, but if you only eat a small piece . . .

The Crust ~
2 1/2 c AP flour
2 sticks of unsalted organic butter, cut into cubes and chilled
1 t sea salt
7 T ice-cold water

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut in cold butter by hand with a pastry cutter or pulse in a food processor (recommended) just until the flour is completely incorported into the fat and you have pea-sized morsels. Add the first 3 T of ice-cold water while mixing with a fork, or pulsing in the processor, then slowly add 1 T at a time and mix/pulse just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix. Divide into two equal portions and gently form into discs by hand, cover in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (or longer) to let the gluten relax.

The filling ~
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed or torn in chunks
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup  carrots, cubed
1/2 cup potatoes, cubed
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T butter
3 T AP flour
2 cups chicken stock (or half milk)
2 T italian herbs, chopped (1 if using dried herbs)
1 t sea salt
cracked black pepper

I usually make this from leftovers, when I've had roasted chicken and potatoes with steamed peas and carrots. I find these cooking methods have the best flavors. Use whatever type of chicken you like, though. I prefer both white and dark meat, but you can use leftover rotisserie chicken, poached skinless chicken breast, etc. I don't recommend canned. Add olive oil to a cast iron skillet and turn on medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the carrots and potatoes (if using leftovers, add last with peas and corn), onion, celery, salt and pepper and saute until just tender. Add the garlic during the last few minutes so it doesn't burn. Everything will continue to cook in the oven, so al dente is best. Add the butter and stir to melt. Sift the flour over the mixture, while stirring constantly to coat everything and cook for a minute or two. Slowly pour in chicken stock while stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming and bring to a low boil. It will start to thicken as it begins to bubble. Turn off the heat. Add the herbs, peas and corn, and stir to mix. If it is too thick, you can thin it with stock, water or a little milk, if you want it creamy. If too thin, cook just a bit longer to reduce it. Set aside to cool a bit.

Bring the dough out and roll both into flat 12" discs (big enough for a 9" pie dish), about 1/8 inch thick. Put one into the bottom of dish and gently press the sides to prevent air bubbles. Pour in the filling and cover with the top crust. Press the two crusts together and crimp along the edge by hand or use a fork to make it pretty. You can leave the extra dough and smoosh it together or cut it off. Brush the top crust with egg wash (one egg beaten with a T of water) and cut slits in the crust to allow steam to escape. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly (and usually oozing out - hence the parchment). Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before digging in--if you can hold back. Makes 6-8 servings depending on your appetite. IF you have leftovers, it keeps well in the fridge for a few days and holds up to reheating in the oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Microwaving is OK, but it gets kinda weird. I also wrap individual pieces in wax paper and foil and freeze with good results. If frozen, reheat in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 (take it out of the wrapping first ;).

Special Tidbits
This is definitely better with garden-fresh veggies by all means. It just depends on when you make it. Usually being a winter dish, i tend to use frozen peas and corn. Also, if you're in a hurry, you can use a bag of your favorite mixed frozen vegetables, thawed.

The most important advice for having a tender flaky crust is to keep everything very cold, ensure that each starch granule is coated with butter, and do not overwork the dough. When the the crust is heating in the oven, it is the steam that is realeased from the butter that creates the air pocket resulting in those big flakes. If you leave any flour uncoated, the starch will clump when it comes into contact with the water and you will end up dense and tough. I know this from experience. It may take you awhile to get the hang of it. I shunned pie-making for years because I had a hard time getting a good crust, despite the fact that I come from a long line of pie-makers.

Chicken Stock

Lastly, when I roast my chicken, I usually cut up a whole chicken, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Herbamare, and bake skin side up for about 40 minutes at 350. I make stock out of the giblets, back, neck, wing tips - anything leftover. If this really grosses you out, just buy it already cut up and sacrifice a piece or two or just use a whole chicken and make a giant batch for preserving. Simmer for a few hours with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, etc. then strain. I usually make a big batch and freeze in 2 cup portions or can it using a pressure cooker/canner. This is a good time to clean out the fridge and use up any puny looking stuff.

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