Monday, October 19, 2009

Pot Luck

Chicken Pot Pie could be the most soul-satisfying comfort food ever created. It's certainly right up there with Macaroni and Cheese, no doubt. I loved Swanson's rendition as a child (it was a treat my sisters and I relished when Mom and Dad went out for the evening), and I still like to make a down-home, double-crusted version when I have the luxury of time. When I don't, I make an abbreviated pie using frozen puff pastry. The filling's the same (and still takes some time to prepare, that's for sure), but the dramatic puff topping elevates the pie to a more upscale entree. The filling can also be made up to a day ahead, and actually benefits from some time in the refrigerator. And the frozen puff is always ready to go, tucked in the back of the freezer. So satisfy your soul as well as your palate with a pot luck dinner.

Chicken Pot Pie

Makes 5 servings

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 large potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
5 ounces mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
Milk or chicken broth, as needed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A few splashes Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
¾ cup frozen baby peas
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk, whisked with 1 teaspoon water

1. Place the chicken breasts in a Dutch oven or deep skillet and pour chicken broth on top. Add enough water so that the chicken is just covered. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat so that it is just below a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from broth and set aside to cool.
2. Add potato cubes to broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes and place them in a bowl, reserving broth in another container.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the Dutch oven. Add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the diced carrots and cook for 2 more minutes. Add some of the reserved broth (about ½ cup) and continue to cook until carrots are tender, adding more broth if necessary. Add carrots and onions to bowl with potatoes.
4. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter in Dutch oven and sauté mushroom slices. Add to bowl with other veggies.
5. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
6. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in Dutch oven. Whisk in flour and cook, while whisking for 1 minute. Measure out reserved broth and add enough milk or chicken broth to make 3 cups. Gradually whisk this into flour mixture. Add thyme sprigs and bring to a boil and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Add lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper until it tastes balanced (and good).
7. Add frozen peas and cook for a minute until they are heated. Add shredded chicken and veggies. Remove thyme sprigs (if you can find them). Spoon mixture into 5 oven-proof 8-ounce ramekins or casseroles.
8. Place sheet of thawed puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out just a little to flatten folds. Cut sheet into 4 squares. Brush edge of casserole with egg yolk and top with puff square. Press edges against casserole and brush top with egg wash. Repeat with remaining puff and casseroles. Place pot pies on baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately.