Before you read the following recipe, I want to tell you this: forget everything you know about chicken pot pie, or all pies of the potted variety, for that matter. This is not like any frozen, salty, sad-bastard chicken pot pie you've ever eaten, or like that bland, faintly gray, federal-institution chicken pot slop. This is not your mother's chicken pot pie. (Well, maybe it is. I don't really know your mother, but I'm sure she's lovely.)
This chicken pot pie is the epitome of comfort food, filled with a tender vegetables and breast meat in a creamy sauce, a sauce redolent with thyme and garlic and sherry, baked under a golden, buttery pie crust. Though homey and simple and perfect for taking to the sick or new parents, this chicken pot pie is good enough for company, visiting heads of state, and/or Barack Obama. This is the Platonic ideal of chicken pot pie. This is Chicken Pot Pie, big C, double big P.
Are you in? Good. Let's make some potted magic.
(Like the tortilla soup, I'm going to present this with minimal measurements because, honestly, there is so much room for error and personal taste here. Obsessive measurements suck all the joy out of cooking, don't you think? If you must have fiddly, anal retentive measuring, clearly you should be baking. A cake. For me.)
First up, we have some carrots. How many? About this many:
Scrub them, halve them lengthwise, and then chop them into little half-moons. Next, finely chop one large sweet onion (or two small yellow onions) thusly:
It is possible that your spouse will catch you taking photographs of the chopped onion ("Soooooo...your people aren't familiar with onions?") but do not worry: (s)he is a Doubting Thomas and you are suffering for your art.
Then cut up some celery, just a few ribs.
After melting about 1/2 stick of butter in a large dutch oven or stock pot, add all your vegetables.
Pretty. Saute until all the vegetables are soft and tender, about six minutes. Now mince about three cloves of garlic...
...and a heaping tablespoon of fresh thyme and add both to the pot. Cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Now it's time to create an exciting, roux-type scenario. Add 1/2 cup of flour, stir, and you get this:
...delicious, paste-coated veggies. Continue stirring and cooking this for about one minute, or until the flour is lightly toasted. Now, we shall deglaze! The excitement!
Grab some cooking sherry. Honestly, you can go with the inexpensive stuff without a problem. (Unless Barack Obama is coming. In that case, go for some of that top-shelf, elitist liberal sherry.) I use this brand:
With all apologies to the good people at Fairbanks, this is some cheap-ass sherry. Pour 3/4 cup of sherry into your pot, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom.
Now, slowly stir in one 1/4 cup half & half...
...and 2 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth...
...and two bays leaves and fresh ground pepper and salt to taste. It will look something like this:
Simmer the filling for about 10 minutes, until noticeably thickened.
Now, fetch about 3 pounds of that fully-cooked, boneless, skinless, organic, free-range, chicken breast meat you prepared yesterday in between re-grouting the tub and coating assorted gourds with crystalline Bavarian fairy wings. Yes, that chicken. Add it to the filling and cook until the chicken is warm.
Pull out your bay leaves and try to resist licking them.
Add about 1 cup of frozen green peas the the hot mixture. IMPORTANT: do not use mushy, canned green peas. Canned peas will not make sweet, sweet, pot pie love with your mouth and should be avoided at all costs. NO CANNED PEAS, Obama or not.
At this point, I also like to add a few tablespoons of chopped parsley for color. If you are one of those people who find parsley offensive, feel free to omit, but know that I am a little suspicious of you.
Spread the hot filling into a large-ish (about 9x13) baking dish.
I think this is the "potted" part, right?
You can top the hot filling with either one pie crust (I use refrigerated store-bought crust; don't tell my mom) or a sheet of phyllo dough. That's phyllo in the finished photo, but I absolutely prefer the pie crust to the phyllo, even if it is kind of sexy and fahncy in it's own right. Another note: make sure the filling is piping hot when you top it, otherwise you'll end up with a gummy crust.
Pop your potted pie into a 425 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. The crust will be brown, the filling will be bubbly, your people will be comforted. And be sure to let it stand for about 5 minutes before serving the future President, won't you?
Oh, yeaaah. And there you have it...
...pot pie we can ALL believe in.