Sometimes, just sometimes (and definitely not all the time) I feel the need to cook.
Not Bake. Cook. Sustenance. Comfort. Food.
It’s the soothing prep of chopping and putting everything out in bowls – the “mise en place” (as all the professional chefs call it, and what anyone who’s ever read a book by Anthony Bourdain will know as the “meez”). It’s the need to slice, chop and mince everything and prepare all the ingredients and to have the satisfaction that I made the food. Not someone else. Me. Just me. Nothing processed. No preservatives. Just food. Real food.
The problem was I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make. AJ is taking a photography lighting class this semester and so he gets home around 9:30pm and usually we just order take out/delivery because I don’t feel like cooking alone.
Because when you think about it, it’s much more fun to cook with someone else than it is to cook by yourself. Most of the time.
But I decided on Thursday that I wanted to make dinner on my own. So I decided to go tackle the grocery story afterwork – something I HATE to do. Everyone goes to the grocery story after work and in the end you just have to fight for what you want (if they haven’t already sold out of it). And on the way there, I realize I knew what I was going to make.
Chicken Pot Pie. I usually make it once or twice a year. It’s one of those comfort foods that requires a lot of prep work, making the crust, chopping and mincing the vegetables, cooking the chicken and making the roux all before you can stick in the oven to bake to golden perfection.
Plus I had thought I was going to make it on Sunday for Pie Day, but that didn’t happen. Also, one of the best things about chicken pot pie is you can use up whatever vegetables you have floating around the house, and I had some carrots and celery in the bottom of the fridge that I made AJ buy for stock that I never got around to making.
Side Note 1. That’s right. I make my own stock. I’m badass that way. But also I’m lazy, so that means I haven’t really gotten around to making it. But I have the ingredients for it just in case I want to. Or, what that really means is that I have the ingredients for some other dish that I have to figure out before the stock ingredients go bad (because I don’t have room to freeze them as the freezer is filled up with turkey carcasses that I am saving to make said stock).
Side Note 2. You’ll notice that there are celery pieces on the left side of the dish only in the photo below. That’s because, inexplicably, AJ hates celery. So I put it on one side of the dish only. Because I’m that accommodating a boyfriend.
So the carrots and celery (as well as some aging asparagus) can go in to the pot pie. Yay! Because I may be lazy, but I’m also cheap, and loathe to throw away food. Something about starving people in Africa and the current bad economy I guess…
Note: Whilst baking, I was listening to Noah & the Whale’s The First Days of Spring (which is a great album, but kinda depressing as it’s pretty much a narrative about a breakup), and Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast (which is great, but a little too carefully thought out. I prefer Armchair Apocrypha personally, but I keep on listening to Noble Beast hoping it will somehow break through more).
Cleaning Out the Fridge Chicken Pot Pie
(loosely adapted from The New Best Recipes, from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated)
For the Savory Pie Dough Crust:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 slices of cheddar cheese
4 Tlbs cold vegetable shortening
8 Tbls (1stick) cold butter
1 Tbls Herbes de Provence
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
3 Tbls water
1 Tbls vodka
1. Whisk the salt, Herbes de Provence, cracked pepper and flour together in a medium bowl.
2. Cut the vegetable shortening and cold butter into 1/4 inch pieces. Tear the slices of cheddar cheese into 1/4 inch pieces as well. Add both to bowl with flour mixture.
3. Using a pastry blender or fork blend the butter/shortening/cheese into the flour until it starts to look cornmeal like with the fat and cheese in no bigger pieces than small peas.
4. Sprinkle the water and the vodka over the pie crust and mix in until the dough sticks together.
5. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a 4″ disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling.
For the Filling:
1 3/4 lbs boneless chicken thighs and breasts
2 cups low sodium chicken stock/broth
1 1/2 Tbls canola oil (or similar flavorless vegetable oil)
1 head of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots peeled and cut into 1/4″ half disks
2 small celery ribs cut into 1/4″ half disks
8oz white button or brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/2″ thick
8oz asparagus cut into 1″ pieces
6oz green beans, trimmed of ends, cut into 1″ pieces
3/4 cup frozen peas
5 Tbls butter
2/3 cup of flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 Tbls fresh thyme (or 1tsp dried thyme crumbled)
3 Tbls white wine or dry sherry
1/4 cup fresh chopped italian parsley
1 1/2 tsp crumbled Herbes de Provence
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
1. Adjust the rack in your oven to the lower medium settings and preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Put the chicken stock/broth and the chicken meat in a dutch oven or stock pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. You may want to turn the chicken over once during the 10 minutes for more even cooking. Once this is done, move the chicken to a large bowl (one big enough to hold the chicken, the cooked vegetables and the sauce) and move the stock to a glass measuring cup.
3. Heat the oil in the empty dutch oven on medium-high and add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until it is fragrant. Add onions and sweat them for 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, asparagus, green beans and mushr
ooms to dutch oven and cook until just tender (7 to 10 minutes). Add the frozen peas in the last two minutes of cooking, to defrost them. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. While the vegetables are cooking, chop the chicken into 3/4″ cubes. Pour any juice that have accumulated at the bottom of the bowl into the glass measuring cup with the stock. Return the chopped chicken to the bowl and add the cooked vegetables.
5. In the again empty dutch oven heat the butter and when it stops foaming add the flour. Cook for 1 minute to create a roux and whisk in the reserve chicken broth, the milk, the thyme and the crumbled Herbes de Provence. Cook until thick (about 1 minute) and then salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the white wine or sherry.
6. 1. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetable mixture and stir in the italian parsley. Add more salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence or thyme if you feel it needs more of something.
To assemble Pot Pie
1. Pour chicken and vegetable mixture into a 13×19 baking pan or eight 12oz oven proof dishes.
2. Take the pie dough out of the refrigerator and roll the dough out on a floured surface to approximately 15″ x 11″ rectangle – about 1/8″ thick. If you are using individual dishes, cut out dough rounds about 1″ larger than dish size.
3. Place the dough over the pot pie filling and tuck the overhanging dough into the side of the dishes.
4. Cut 1″ vent holes decoratively around the dish and bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes for large dish and 20-25 minutes for individual dishes.
(Option 1. I sometimes make this with a biscuit topping instead of the flaky pie dough crust. It’s good either way. Just pick your favorite savory biscuit recipe and make it and drop the batter on top of the filling in mounds and bake for the same time.)
(Option 2. Clearly you can use whatever vegetables you have around. I’ve used red peppers, corn, zuccini, celery root, even parsnips to add to the pot pie when I’ve had them. Keep in mind the more vegetables you use, the more liquid you might have, so you might want to adjust the roux amount you make. So if you use less vegetables make less roux, like 4 tbls of butter and 1/2 cup of flour, or if you use more vegetables, make a little more roux.)
(Option 3. If you want to give a slight southern twist, make it with a cornmeal biscuit topping and fry up some bacon and add that to the filling. Use the rendered bacon fat instead of the butter to make the roux.)