Chicken Pot Pie

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Growing up in a 100% Greek household, most of my comfort foods are Mediterranean in nature (lentil soup, chicken avgo-lemono soup and Greek meatball soup to name a few), but chicken pot pie is the American food that captured the top spot on my list of ultimate comfort foods.

When I was having a melodramatic day in college (because let’s face it, most 19 year olds don’t have real problems), I would drag myself to Boston Market and let the warm, thick filling push out the drama of the day. In retrospect, I made a lot of trips to Boston Market. As my husband likes to say, Greeks invented drama. And then I prove him right by shooting lightning bolts from my eyes at the mere suggestion that I’m being dramatic. Parker loves it when I do that.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand. In the *cough* decade since I left my undergrad years behind, I slowly phased out chain restaurant food. And then I became a vegetarian. And then we moved to the middle of nowhere, North Carolina. So, I went about my business until last weekend when I decided that this week, my friends, was the week of chicken (and veggie) pot pie glory. This week, I would rediscover the warmth, the tastiness, the caloric explosion of chicken pot pie goodness. The end.

Oh, I’m just jesting. I’m actually going to give you two different ways to make this. I’ll start with the completely from scratch version and then I’ll tell you how to make some short cut substitutes. Okay, here are the ingredients for the entirely from scratch version (which is so worth the time it takes):

1 whole chicken, cut up (called a fryer)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced onions
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
3 cups chicken broth (will be made from scratch)
1.5 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
celery salt (if you have it)
Puff pastry

For cooking the chicken:

1 whole onion, peeled and sliced in half
2 carrots, cut in half
3 stalks of celery, cut in half
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

Before we begin, go ahead and defrost your puff pastry. Now, we’re going to cook the chicken and make the chicken broth. Rinse your chicken and put it into a large stock pot. Add about 12 cups of water (making sure the chicken is completely submerged and covered by an inch or two of water. Add in the ingredients in the “for cooking chicken” list above.

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By adding the onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves, we’re flavoring both the chicken and the broth. Cook the chicken for 1-1.5 hours.

Once that time has elapsed, (using tongs) take the chicken out of the pot and put it on a large plate (or in my case a large tuppeware) to let it cool a bit.

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Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-size pieces.

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Then, using a strainer, strain the broth into very large bowl. We’re going to use 3 cups of this for our sauce.

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In a saucepan, add the sliced carrots, peas and diced celery. Cover with water and boil for 15 minutes or until tender. **If you’re taking a short cut and NOT cooking a whole chicken, add in 2 cups of raw chicken that you’ve diced into bite sized pieces with the veggies** After the 15 minutes are up, strain and set aside.

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In a second sauce pan, melt your butter and sauté your onions until translucent. Add in a good amount of salt, pepper and the flour. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Then, slowly add in the chicken broth (either homemade or store bought) and milk. Turn the heat up until just below the boiling point and then reduce the heat and (stirring frequently) cook until the sauce is the consistency of a thick gravy (about 10 minutes). Taste the sauce and make sure that it’s well seasoned. If you need to, add more salt.

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Now it’s time to assemble the pot pies! You can go two ways with this. You can either use a 9″ pie pan or 3-5 individual medium, sized oven-proof ramekins (which is what I did). First, add in the chicken and veggies into the bottom of the ramekins or pie pan.

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Lightly salt and pepper them. Then, add the gravy on top.

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Finally, add the puff pastry on top and cut a couple of slits in the top to let steam escape.

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Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until the top of the puff pastry is golden brown. Then, let it rest for 10 minutes or so because the filling is piping hot.

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Oh my goodness. There are no words for how happy this made me. This was taste bud perfection. It seriously warmed me from the inside out (to the point that I had to step into the cold air outside to cool off a bit). The Irishman devoured his in a mere 5 minutes and even Parker ate his whole ramekin (minus the veggies). As my father would say…This. Was. Excellent.

Oh and as extra bonus and inducement to make the chicken and broth from scratch, I’m making chicken noodle soup from scratch tomorrow with the rest of the broth and the remaining chicken. It’s 2 recipes for the price of 1. I love when that happens.

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