Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chicken pot pie

The other day, I made our favorite ridiculously crazy delicious Zuni cafe roast chicken. We only ate about half, so I stripped the rest and pondered its future. A quick scan of foodgawker for inspiration reminded me of the existence of chicken pot pie. I looove chicken pot pie (who doesn't?), but it's usually so weighed down with butter and cream my wee ladybrain has a hard time justifying the calorie bomb. So, I read a few dozen recipes to get a gist of the canonical ingredients and method, then pared it all down and came up with this.

I wanted to keep it simple: leftover chicken, carrots and peas for vegetation, and thyme for herbage. I went out on a limb by halving the butter in my regular pie crust recipe and honestly, it's perfect this way. It's absolutely still tender and buttery, but the interior is so rich and creamy, you would never guess there's only about a tablespoon of butter in each personal pie and absolutely no cream at all. I jacked up the veggie quantities as well. I don't make "diet" food; I just don't see a reason to eat more not-so-healthy stuff than actually makes food taste good. Fat-free and austere is not delicious at all, but I don't find a quarter cup of butter per serving particularly appealing either. There is a sweet spot, and this pot pie hits it.

As with most of of my recipes, consider it just a template. If I had some mushrooms or a few green beans wilting despondently in the crisper I could certainly have added them. Or maybe a handful of diced yams or butternut squash? But as written, this is almost an all pantry and freezer meal.

Do note that the crust below makes enough for 4 individual (about 5") pies. I made two last week and stored the other half of the dough in plastic wrap in the freezer, which I thawed to make these two. However, this recipe makes only enough filling for two pies, since we always eat half a chicken and have the other half sitting around at a time. Just get a whole chicken if you're feeding four people. And, obviously, use the whole crust recipe. I feel like I'm over-explaining. I'll back away now.

1 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp cold butter, diced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sugar
~ 4-6 tbsp ice water

1/2 a small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 big sprigs fresh thyme (don't even bother stripping the leaves)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
~1/4 cup dry white wine
~1 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 a chicken (just grab a rotisserie bird if you don't have leftovers) or about 2 cups, stripped
1 cup frozen peas

1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the flour, butter, salt, and sugar in a food processor. While running, add the ice water one tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together and forms a shaggy ball. Dump it out onto your board and gather into a proper ball, taking care not to knead it, because that will make it tough. Split the dough in half and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Chuck one into the freezer for two more pot pies on a rainy day, and the other into the fridge while you get everything else together.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  Over medium heat, saute your onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme with a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper until they've softened and the onion is translucent, about 7 or 8 minutes. Add the flour and cook dry for another couple of minutes, then add the wine, whisking to start dissolving the flour. Next add the chicken stock, continuing to whisk, and bring to a simmer. If it over-thickens and becomes paste, add a little more stock to loosen. Stir in the chicken and allow everything to meld together another 5 minutes. Add the peas. Taste and adjust seasoning. Load half of the filling into each 16 ounce ramekin and let it cool for just a few minutes before popping the crust on top (or it'll melt the butter). Pop the ramekins onto a baking sheet to make loading them in and out of the oven easier.

Pull your dough out of the fridge and halve into two equal round balls. Roll them out to, well I don't really know how thick, just make them big enough to cover the ramekins with a little flopped over the rim. If you have extra dough, get creative with some decorations. Once your filling has cooled slightly, flop the crusts on top and squinch the dough adorably around the rim to seal. I'm sure there's a technical term for this, but I don't really care. Adorn the pie with your special decorations, then paint the whole surface with egg wash. Poke a few holes in the top with a paring knife and pop the pies into the oven for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious. Don't burn your mouth, that shit is molten. Attempt patience. 

Serves 2, takes about an hour.

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