Textured and Bright Chicken Pot Pie

For some unknown reason, I had it in my head that I really wanted to make pot pie this week. I'm really not sure where this desire came from. It certainly seems like more of a winter dish, and we have been having some really beautiful days lately. I ended up making 4 pot pies - two that I took to some new moms, and two that I kept for us. We ate one this week, and one I froze so Jeff won't starve when I'm in North Carolina next week.

They turned out really well, so I thought I'd share the recipe here. Since we got cable and have been watching cooking shows more, I find myself being a little more adventurous with the cooking. They always talk about how some dishes need "texture" and "brightness" - texture I certainly understand, though I don't exactly know how food can be "bright." But I do notice that everyone always add some lemon juice for "brightness," hence its addition here.

Chicken Pot Pie
For the Filling:
1 whole chicken
2 onions
6-8 carrots
1 large bag frozen peas
8 oz. mushrooms
2-3 stalks of celery
squash, zucchini, or whatever other veggies are hanging out in the fridge
2 cloves garlic
1.5 sticks butter
3-4 T. flour
1.5 c. milk
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
a handful of fresh sage
2 T. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken in a stock and cover with water. Add a carrot, 1 onion, halved, 1 sprig rosemary, 3-4 leaves of sage, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for several hours, until chicken is cooked. I made a huge pot of chicken stock, then I put it into the fridge when it was done, so I could cool it and scrape off the accumulated fat.

Skin, bone, and shred chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Now, chop up the second onion, the rest of the carrots, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, and other veggies into small pieces. Saute in a little olive oil, until they are all cooked. I added celery at the end, both because I had to pick it up after I started, and because I wanted it to stay a little crunchy. (More texture.) In a large pot, melt the butter and let it brown just a bit. Chop the sage and rosemary and add it to butter, and simmer for a few minutes. This really brings out the flavor of the herbs. Next, add the flour and stir well, making a roux. Let this brown just a bit, then slowly add in milk. Stir until smooth. Now, taking the chicken stock you made earlier, add 2-3 c.

Add all the cooked veggies back into this mixture, along with the chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Also add lemon juice for "brightness." Depending on how thick you like your pot pie filling, you can add more chicken stock or milk to make it a little more liquid-y, or add a little more flour to make it thicker. This made enough filling for 4 medium-sized pot pies. (Two I put into large pie dishes, and two I put into bigger casserole-type dishes.)

I'm not sure where I read this, but in looking at some recipes, someone mentioned adding cornmeal to the crust to give it more crunch - i.e. "texture." This sounded like a great idea, and certainly tasted nice. Here is the crust I made, modified from the recipe in my Southern Living cookbook.

2 sticks butter.
2.5 c. flour, plus a little for dusting
1/2 c. cornmeal
6 T. ice water.
1 tsp salt

Put butter (while still cold) into food processor, and add flour and cornmeal. Slowly add water until dough is firm but sticky. You may need a little more or less water depending on the humidity. Roll out on floured surface. The two that I gave away I just did a top crust for, and used some store-bought pie dough I had in the freezer. For the other two, I made up this recipe, but I had one store-bought crust. I rolled this recipe into three pieces - it was more than enough.

Pie crust has always seemed a little intimidating, but using the food processor makes it super easy. It really isn't any harder than opening a box and unrolling the store-made dough.

To assemble pot pies, press dough into bottom of dish, fill with filling, then cover with second dish. You can brush on some egg wash to give it a little more sheen. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until crust looks golden brown. The remaining chicken stock you can put in the freezer and use for a different dish.


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