I have never made a homemade chicken potpie. Until now.
Woah. I feel like I just got let in on some secret toward finding eternal happiness. This is encouraging, particularly at this time of year when it is completely dark by 5 p.m.
Chicken potpie is one frozen food that I will admit to eating. Maybe it has some childhood nostalgia for me. My parents had busy careers and even though we enjoyed lots of home cooked meals, an upside down chicken potpie straight from the mini aluminum pie tray with a slosh of applesauce on the side was one of my favorite dinners. It was one of the first things I got to make as kid all by myself, which means, I got to poke fork holes into the top of the frozen pastry and slide it into the oven. By the time I finished watching an episode of “Laverne & Shirley,” my dinner was ready.
I just loved that creamy gravy oozing out the edges of the cardboardlike pastry and spilling onto the cooking sheet beneath it. Inside were these cool cubed carrots, all the flavor completely processed out of them (and nothing like those weird carrots Mom used to make flavored with orange juice). Perfect.
My culinary standards have improved since then, but I still occasionally eat frozen pot pies because they are just so easy. Particularly if I’m coming home late and the cupboard is empty.
Then this cookbook turned up on my desk at work: “Simple Comforts” by Sur La Table.
This cute-looking cookbook has 50 recipes for all of those comfort foods everyone loves (apple pie, grilled cheese, chili, popovers, chocolate chip cookies). If you know a beginning cook, this might be a good starter for him or her.
The chicken potpie recipe caught my eye right away. I have to say, even though the end result was delicious, the instructions were a little confusing and it took me two nights of trying to figure out what was going on before I mastered it. (I’ve rewritten the original recipe below.) To make it extra easy, you can buy a whole roasted chicken from the supermarket for the filling. If you are ambitious, you can roast the chicken yourself. Leftover bones and meat can be used to make chicken stock.
Don’t be intimidated by the length of the instructions, it will be totally worth it. Trust me.
With homemade applesauce on the side, dinner in front of the TV was a happy time that week! But by the fifth evening I had tired of it. So make sure you find someone to share the warmth if you decide to make this giant chicken potpie.
Homemade chicken potpie
For the crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, sliced
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup peeled and diced carrot
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 lb. cooked chicken meat, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk or cream
9-inch pie pan
To make the dough:
Place the butter pieces in a bowl and freeze for at least 20 minutes. Chill the water in a measuring cup until needed.
Pour the flour into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the bowl with a knife or pastry cutter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. (You can also use a hand mixer or a food processor to do this.) Sprinkle the water into the dough a little at a time and mix it using a rounded-edge knife. The dough should incorporate all the flour, but it shouldn’t be wet and sticky.
Turn to dough onto a floured work surface and knead gently three to six times. Flatten the dough into a 6- or 7-inch circle, wrap in plastic or parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will allow the dough to hydrate and the butter to firm up.
Return the chilled dough to the floured work surface and roll it out, until you have a 14- to 15-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and chill until ready to use.
For the filling:
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add onion, celery and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in flour. Return to heat and continue to whisk for 2 or 3 minutes (do not let the flour brown).
Remove pan from heat and add about 1 cup of the stock and whisk until mixture is smooth and pastelike. Whisk in the remaining stock. Add carrots, and return to heat, simmering for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Heat olive oil in a separate pan and sautée mushrooms over high heat until golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add mushrooms, chicken, peas, chives, parsley, and thyme to the filling. Add salt and pepper, to taste. If the mixture seems too soupy, simmer until it thickens. It should be more stewlike than souplike.
Set the saucepan into the bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until it cools (this is so the filling doesn’t soften the dough too much when it is placed on top). Pour cooled filling into the 9-inch pie pan.
Drape the dough over the top of the filling, rolling the edges to form a thick rope along the edge of the pan. Crimp or form a decorative border as desired. Any leftover pie dough can be used to make a decorative design (like my flower!).
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the milk and use a pastry brush to light glaze the surface of the pie.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown and crisp.
Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot, in wide shallow bowls.