Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Homemade Chicken Pot Pies

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie



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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."

Pot Pies Sprinkled with Pepper and Finishing Salt

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.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie with Filling

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.

Brushing Pastry Dough with Egg Wash

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.



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Photo Tutorial

Olive OIl in Enamled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven. Heat the oil over medium heat.

2 Onions, Ready to be Diced
Dice 2 medium yellow onions.

Diced Onion Added to Dutch Oven
Add the onions to the hot oil and saute.

Diced Carrots
Dice 4 medium carrots.

Carrots Added to Dutch Oven
Add the carrots to the onions and stir to combine. Saute for 5 minutes.

Diced Turnips
Dice 1 medium turnip.

Diced Parsnip
Dice 1 large parsnip.

Diced Potatoes
Dice 2 medium potatoes.

Parsnips and Turnip Added to Dutch Oven
Add the potatoes, turnip and parsnip to the onion and carrots. Stir to combine and saute for another 5 minutes.

2 Stalks of Celery
Dice 2 medium celery stalks.

Diced Celery and Potatoes Added to Dutch Oven
Add the diced celery to the other vegetables. Stir to combine and saute for 5 minutes.

Fresh Thyme Leaves
Strip 2 Tablespoons of thyme leaves from their stems.

Fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
Chop 1 large bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Thyme and Parsley Added to Sauted Vegetables
Add the parsley and thyme to the vegetables and stir to combine.

Adding White Wine to Sauted Vegetables
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.

Xanthan Gum
To help thicken the final pot pie sauce, you can use either xanthan gum or corn starch. I find xanthan gum results in a more stable sauce and I only need to use 2 teaspoons. If you choose to use corn starch instead, you will need to use 3 Tablespoons.

Adding Flour and Xanthan Gum to Filling
Add 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum and 1/2 cup of all purpose unbleached flour to the vegetables.

Sauted Vegetables Coated with Flour and Xanthan Gum
Stir the flour and xanthan gum into the vegetable mix; ensure all pieces are evenly coated.

Homemade Chicken Stock
While the vegetables are sauteing, heat 6 cups of homemade chicken stock.

Salt, Pepper, Bay Leaves and Garam Masala Added to Pot Pie Filling
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.

Shredded Chicken Added to Pot Pie Filling
Add 1 1/2 pounds shredded roasted chicken meat.

Frozen White Pearl Onions
I highly recommend adding pearl onions - I buy mine frozen.

Frozen Pearl Onions Added to Pot Pie Filling
Add 16 ounces of pearl onions to the pot pie filling.

Frozen Peas Added to Pot Pie Filling
Add 12 ounces of frozen peas to the filling.

Chicken Pot Pie Filling
Stir to mix everything together and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Splitting Homemade Pastry Dough
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).

Pastry Dough Rolled Out for Pot Pies
Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface.

Tracing Template for Pastry
Choose a template (such as a lid) that has an approximately 1/2-inch overhang over your ramekins.

Cutting Out Pot Pie Pastry Tops
Cut out circles for each pot pie, gathering up the scraps of dough and re-rolling as needed.

Pot Pie Ramekin Dishes on Baking Sheet
Line the ramekins on baking sheets to make them easier to transfer to the oven.

Pot Pie Filling added to Ramekins
Fill each ramekin with pot pie filling.

Pot Pies Fitted with Pastry Dough
Drape a circle of pastry dough over each pot pie and gently press the overhanging dough against the sides of the ramekins.

Egg Wash
Beat together 1 large egg and 1 Tablespoon of milk to make the egg wash.

Brushing Pastry Dough with Egg Wash
Brush each pot pie pastry top with the egg wash.

Black and White Finishing Salts
I recommend sprinkling each pot pie with a finishing salt. I have used both fleur de sel and black lava salt in the past.

Pot Pies Sprinkled with Pepper and Finishing Salt
Optionally sprinkle the pot pies with finishing salt and cracked black pepper.

Baked Chicken Pot Pies
Bake each tray of pot pies for 30-45 minutes (depending on size) until the pastry dough is golden and crisp.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
Serve immediately.

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie with Filling



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Homemade Chicken Pot Pies

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 1.5 hrs
     Cook Time: 40 min

Ingredients (makes 12x 2-cup pies)
    Pot Pie Filling
    • 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
    Pot Pie Pastry Tops
    • 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)
    Instructions
    1. 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
    2. Add the white wine to the sautéed vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes
    3. 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
    4. Add the shredded chicken, frozen peas and pearl onions; check the seasonings and adjust if needed, then simmer uncovered for 15 minutes
    5. 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
    6. 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
    7. 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.

      Pastry Dough Rolled Out for Pot Pies
       
    • 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.

      Adding Flour and Xanthan Gum to Filling
       
    • 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.

      Shredded Chicken Added to Pot Pie Filling
       
    • 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.

      Diced Potatoes
       
    • 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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    11 comments:

    1. Since I'm one of those people who can count on one hand how many times she has made pie crust, I would never question the theory behind any bottom less pie especially one that is filled with such awesome goodness!


      Your step by step is greatly appreciated Mark. I can't think of a better way to fill the house with warmth and comfort than a delicious Homemade Chicken Pot Pie.


      Thank you so much for sharing...

      ReplyDelete
    2. Kayle (The Cooking Actress)September 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      These look SUUUUPER YUMMY! I totally miss the extra crust-but I suppose I understand why it's not there ;) lol

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    3. I'm so glad you enjoyed, Louise - I'm generally all about the extra pastry, but in this case, less can be more I think :)

      ReplyDelete
    4. lol Well you're definitely welcome to add the extra crust :) And if you do find an easy version where the bottom crust gets good and crispy, definitely share cause I'm all ears!

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    5. Bintu @ Recipes From A PantrySeptember 26, 2013 at 7:27 AM

      You have a wise partner. He cracks me up. I need to try these after I get some ramekins.

      ReplyDelete
    6. lol I know I wasn't wise - I was fairly arrogant :( But I'm glad you enjoyed the exchange and I don't know what I'd do without my ramekins - I seem to use them for everything from breakfast to dessert...

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    7. I agree with everything you say about pastry, not only is it a mug' s game having a tricky bottom crust (who needs those superfluous carbs) homemade definitely trumps puff pastry here. The latter is more suited to desserts imho. Great looking 'made with love' recipe

      ReplyDelete
    8. I'm so glad I'm not the only homemade pastry dough fan, Kellie :) For a while, I seemed to be making pastry dough once a week - fortunately for my health, that bit of addiction is now mostly past ;) I'm so pleased you enjoyed the recipe and thanks as ever for your kind words...

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    9. Love the look of the crust on this! Does that mean I'm pretentious? :D I haven't made pot pies in ages. I have made them with a bottom crust that wasn't too soggy, but these days I'd probably not even try - it really doesn't add that much, plus it's kind of a waste of calories. Really good recipe, fun post. Thanks.

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    10. John, you can't leave me hanging like that - what was the secret to the bottom crust?! I hope you'll share because while I agree that a bottom crust doesn't add much besides more calories, I'm still frustrated by my own failure to achieve a bottom crust :/ I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe and post - you're always so kind...

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    11. Think about it this way...the crust can fill you up too much and the filling is the yummy part anyway. I am all for skipping the bottom crust!

      ReplyDelete