23 January 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

This isn't the sort of thing I'd normally bother with. Pot pies often strike me as too much effort for what amounts to a meal of chicken and some sides, all mushed together. Further, chicken pot pie's remind me of school lunches, something like a cross between a chicken stew and casserole, with crust. 

That said, I came around recently to the idea of a pot pie when I realized I had a handful of random leftover vegetables -- two leeks, half a dozen mushroom, and a celery root; not enough to do anything with them on their own, but perfectly suitable for something like a stew, and a package of frozen puff pastry on hand. I thought I would give a try to the pot pie, lux-ing it up somewhat by roasting chicken breasts for the occasion (though you could easily enough omit this step and use a ready-cooked rotisserie). I was pretty happy I did. Turns out I love pot pie -- a meal in a dish! The "gravy"  in this version is minimal, the filling is thick and creamy, free of peas and carrots of the school lunch versions of my childhood. 

I based the recipe largely on two pot-pies: Jamie Oliver's version which is simple and straight forward and utilizes the integration of creme fraiche and Ina Garten's, which gave me the idea of roasting chicken breasts specially for the occasion. 
This is a great one dish meal for a group, but also worked well the next day, after an oven re-heating, to keep the pie part crisp, and the sauce thickened further making the whole thing even more winter season satisfying. 
Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6
Adapted from various

2 chicken breasts, on the bone, skin on
5 to 6 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
1-2 medium sized leeks, split lengthwise, washed thoroughly and sliced widthwise into thin half-moon shapes
8-10 button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed and caps sliced lengthwise
1 small celeriac, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch dice (can substitute a parsnip or rutabaga or potato if you choose, in which case blanch in boiling water for 5 minutes and proceed as directed)
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, room temperature

Roast the chicken: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and fresh thyme. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Set aside until they have cooled enough to remove the meat from the bones, discarding the skin, and either shred meat or cut into large chunks. 

Prepare the filling: Melt butter in a large saute pan and add olive oil, over medium heat  add leeks and cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and cover pan, turn down heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes more, stirring periodically. Add celeriac and mushrooms, a bit more salt and pepper, and cover again cooking on low till mushrooms reduce, 3-5 minutes. Remove lid from pan and add flour, stirring to coat vegetables. Add chicken stock and chicken meat and turn up heat to let bubble gently for 5-7 minutes till sauce thickens. Turn off heat, stir in creme fraiche. 

Prepare the pie: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a lightly buttered 8 x 11 inch casserole dish, pour filling. Roll out one sheet of prepared puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to approximately 9 x 12 inches, enough to cover the dish with a bit of overhang. Tuck edges of pastry over onto itself, creating a slightly thicker border around the edges of the pie. If you like, decorate the top of the crust by scoring lightly with a cross-hatch pattern. Beat the egg with a teaspoon of water or milk and brush lightly over the top of the pastry. Cook for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is golden and puffed.   

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