PHOTO TUTORIAL | PRINTABLE RECIPE | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Fear Conquered: Bottomless Pot Pies
"How lame!" I rail, clucking my tongue at the television. Ina Garten is ladling chicken pot pie filling into little pots and draping pastry dough over top to cover.
Boyfriend Javelin glances up from his MBA studies to squint at the screen. "What?" he asks.
I shake my head with dramatic sadness and let out a discerning sigh. "She's calling these 'pot pies'," I explain, complete with sarcastic air-quotes. "But all she's using is a little piece of pastry dough over a pot. Where's the bottom crust? How is this a pie?"
Boyfriend Javelin watches her ladle and cover yet another maligned pot-pie and shrugs. "Well what do you expect?" he asks, rolling his eyes at me. "Nobody in the Hamptons is going to make a bottom crust. That would involve work."
I cluck my tongue again and snort derisively as she takes the time to finish the pies with egg wash and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. "So she'll do all that," I say scornfully, "but she won't take the time to make a bottom crust?"
Boyfriend Javelin favors me with a sly smile. "Of course she'll brush and sprinkle them. Because that's what pretentious people want. They want to feel like they're cooking."
Everybody is a critic. Especially the marginally experienced. The ones who have just enough knowledge to be dangerous. Like me. At least the me from 2006. Although I still catch myself clucking my tongue and poking fun without any basis for doing so.
Turns out, there's a good reason Ina skipped the bottom crust. And it wasn't because she was lazy or pretentious. I know this for certainty. Because, being the arrogant, budding, pretentious cook I was, I attempted to line ramekins with a bottom crust before adding the pot pie filling. Take a guess at what happened. Sodden, under-baked nastiness. Kind of like steamed dough - only not. Despite enthusiastic attempts, even Boyfriend Javelin couldn't find words to salvage my bottom-crust abominations.
I suppose one could blind bake the bottom crusts. Or use mini aluminum foil pie pans to better conduct heat. Or a combination of both techniques. But even if one achieves a perfectly crisp bottom crust, there's still a very good reason to skip it entirely: You won't miss it.
Make a delicious filling and cover it with a crispy top crust - and no one will care about what's missing. Except maybe the dangerously inexperienced critics who always know better. And these hecklers are welcome to spend an extra hour cutting out pastry, fitting it to the tiny baking dishes and blind-baking the mini crusts. I'd rather spend the time doing pretentious things. Like brushing my pot pie pastry with egg wash and sprinkling with salt and pepper.
If you absolutely must have a bottom crust, I will refrain from clucking my tongue. Instead, I recommend investing in mini false-bottom tart pans. That way you can easily extract your precious bottom crust - and you won't waste good money on aluminum throwaways. However, I refuse to be responsible for sodden crusts, gray hairs, fits of frustration or countless lost hours.
Believe me and trust Ina: just skip the bottom crust and ignore the critics.
STORY | PRINTABLE RECIPE | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
|Add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven. Heat the oil over medium heat.|
|Dice 2 medium yellow onions.|
|Add the onions to the hot oil and saute.|
|Dice 4 medium carrots.|
|Add the carrots to the onions and stir to combine. Saute for 5 minutes.|
|Dice 1 medium turnip.|
|Dice 1 large parsnip.|
|Dice 2 medium potatoes.|
|Add the potatoes, turnip and parsnip to the onion and carrots. Stir to combine and saute for another 5 minutes.|
|Dice 2 medium celery stalks.|
|Add the diced celery to the other vegetables. Stir to combine and saute for 5 minutes.|
|Strip 2 Tablespoons of thyme leaves from their stems.|
|Chop 1 large bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley.|
|Add the parsley and thyme to the vegetables and stir to combine.|
|Add 1 cup white wine to the vegetables and loosen up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the vegetables simmer for 5 minutes in the wine.|
|Add 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum and 1/2 cup of all purpose unbleached flour to the vegetables.|
|Stir the flour and xanthan gum into the vegetable mix; ensure all pieces are evenly coated.|
|While the vegetables are sauteing, heat 6 cups of homemade chicken stock.|
|Add the chicken stock to the vegetables. Add 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 4-5 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine, then simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce thickens.|
|Add 1 1/2 pounds shredded roasted chicken meat.|
|I highly recommend adding pearl onions - I buy mine frozen.|
|Add 16 ounces of pearl onions to the pot pie filling.|
|Add 12 ounces of frozen peas to the filling.|
|Stir to mix everything together and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.|
|For the pastry tops, you will need 2 batches of homemade pastry dough (enough for 4 pie crusts). I recommend working with enough dough for 1 pie crust at a time (1/2 of a batch).|
|Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface.|
|Choose a template (such as a lid) that has an approximately 1/2-inch overhang over your ramekins.|
|Cut out circles for each pot pie, gathering up the scraps of dough and re-rolling as needed.|
|Line the ramekins on baking sheets to make them easier to transfer to the oven.|
|Fill each ramekin with pot pie filling.|
|Drape a circle of pastry dough over each pot pie and gently press the overhanging dough against the sides of the ramekins.|
|Beat together 1 large egg and 1 Tablespoon of milk to make the egg wash.|
|Brush each pot pie pastry top with the egg wash.|
|I recommend sprinkling each pot pie with a finishing salt. I have used both fleur de sel and black lava salt in the past.|
|Optionally sprinkle the pot pies with finishing salt and cracked black pepper.|
|Bake each tray of pot pies for 30-45 minutes (depending on size) until the pastry dough is golden and crisp.|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Homemade Chicken Pot Pies
Prep Time: 1.5 hrs
Cook Time: 40 min
Ingredients (makes 12x 2-cup pies)
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 4 medium carrots, diced
- 1 medium turnip, diced
- 1 large parsnip, diced
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- 2 medium celery stalks, diced
- 1 large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 6 cups homemade chicken stock, warmed
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 4-5 teaspoons kosher salt (depends on chicken stock)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds roasted chicken meat, shredded
- 12 ounces frozen peas
- 16 ounces frozen pearl onions
- 2 batches homemade pastry dough (enough for 4 pie crusts)
- 1 large egg, for egg wash
- 1 Tablespoon milk, for egg wash
- Artisan black sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)
- Cracked black pepper, for sprinkling (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat; add the diced onions and carrots and sauté for 5 minutes; stir in the diced turnip and potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes; stir in the celery, thyme and parsley and sauté for another 5 minutes
- Add the white wine to the sautéed vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes
- Sift in the flour and xanthan gum and stir to evenly coat all the vegetables; pour in the hot chicken stock and add the bay leaves, garam masala, cracked black pepper and salt; stir to combine, then simmer for 15 minutes until the stock thickens, stirring frequently
- Add the shredded chicken, frozen peas and pearl onions; check the seasonings and adjust if needed, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes
- While the filling simmers, roll out the pastry dough to 1/4-inch thickness and cut out circles large enough to drape over ramekins with at least 1/2-inch overhang; beat the egg and milk together with a fork to make an egg wash
- Preheat the oven to 400℉; line 6 ramekins on a large baking sheet and ladle the filling into the ramekins; cover each pot pie with a pastry dough circle and gently press the overhanging pastry dough against the sides of the ramekins; brush each pot pie with egg wash and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Bake each tray of pot pies for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of the ramekins), rotating the baking sheet halfway through the bake time; serve immediately
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Hungry for Tips?
- Puff Pastry: A lot of restaurants, celebrity chefs and cookbooks have jumped on puff pastry as the perfect top crust for pot pies. And when it comes to presentation, nothing beats puff pastry's gorgeous, towering layers of crispy beauty. Yet I love puff pastry, it somehow fails to satisfy as a top crust for pot pie. Either the puff pastry shatters into a thousand irretrievable shards at the first touch of a fork, or the layers have absorbed too much moisture and become rubbery, mashing together into an unappealing mass. I prefer homemade pastry dough instead. It doesn't magically puff, but it's easy to make, delightfully crispy and never rubbery.
- Make Ahead: Pot pies are a lot of work so do yourself a favor and don't try to tackle it all on one day. I always make my pastry dough a day or two in advance, keeping it tightly wrapped in the refrigerator until I'm ready. And sometimes I even make the pot pie filling in advance, leaving assembly and baking for another day.
- Freeze: You can make and freeze the pot pies prior to baking, however the filling tends to break down a bit and can become watery as the vegetable structures release more water while thawing. If you plan to freeze, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum and let your filling get extra thick.
- Turkey: I LOVE turkey pot pies - but I typically only make them around Thanksgiving or Christmas after roasting a big bird. But if you have leftover roasted turkey on hand (and I'm not talking about sliced deli meat), I highly recommend swapping out the chicken for turkey.
- White or Dark Meat: I recommend using shredded dark chicken meat. It has more flavor and it stays succulent longer. Since I like to roast whole birds rather than buying them in pieces, I always seems to have leftover dark meat. However, don't have dark meat, roasted chicken breast will suffice.
- Garam Masala: With a judicious bit of this spice, the flavors are deeper, the chicken meatier and life is warmer. It's amazing how one little thing can transform an entire recipe - but trust me, that's what this garam masala does here. Just don't go crazy or the spice will overpower everything.
- Variety: If you don't have the same mix of vegetables listed in the recipe, use what you do have. I'm not a fan of bell peppers, corn, beets or eggplant in pot pies - but you may feel differently. I highly recommend including pearl onions (in fact, the pies won't be the same without them). Butternut squash could easily replace the potatoes, and to add more green to your diet, consider some kale or spinach.
- Vegetarian: For vegetarian diets, leave out the chicken, add additional vegetables or a vegetarian meat substitute and use homemade vegetable stock. Thanks to the garam masala, white wine and bay leaves, these pot pies remain comforting with or without chicken.
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