Friday, May 23, 2008

Dinner Tonight: The Last Word In Chicken Pot Pies. Period.

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...

from across the room

...pot pie we can ALL believe in.


Lisa Milton said...

I didn't believe in pot pies until my friend Jen made one a while back.

I couldn't stop thinking about its thyme-y goodness.

So. I made one very similar to this and by God, I've changed my tune.

Lead the charge, Melanie. Collect the converts.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I may have to try this--up until now I have not been a fan of the Chicken Pot Pie. However, I've seen such a photogenic pot pie either!

Melanie said...

Lisa: I know, right? I made my first chicken pot pie last year, entirely on a whim, and I was blown away. I couldn't believe how tasty it was.

Jenn: And while we're at it, can we talk about that photogenic candidate? And the fact that he was making smoldering eye contact with my telephoto lens?

Anonymous said...

Oh, my mercy me. If there is a sexy, hot, flaky chicken pot pie, you've made it there, Missy. This is one of my favorite meals. With a large glass of cold milk? Heaven.

Nancy said...

You made it seem easy enough that even I could make it...i.e. you REALLY dumbed it down! Thanks!

I second the cold milk...I'm salivating!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I just had dinner -- enough carna asada for 10 men. Yet now, I'm hungry again.

Is that wrong?

(Tell your husband I'd like an 8x10 picture of your onions to hang on my wall. It makes me want to cook.)

Jennifer H said...

I want to make this now. Yum.

stu said...

I actually like the crappy ones (don't hate) so this looks extra supper yummy.


Nora Bee said...

This looks lurvely. I would leave out the parsley, am ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. Can we still be friends? And seriously you can have Barack if I can have Michelle because she is my working mother heroine of the universe and when she is Mrs POTUS she is going to make it all better for me.

MamaBird said...

I'm with Stu, I like the crappy ones, even, so this is doubly wonderful for me. You worked the word PASTE in I notice. But do you have onion goggles for when you chop? That is really the question (yes, I do have a pair, courtesy of my intrepid stepmother who doesn't like to see me weep, kind woman). By the way, I put you on my wagon train (organicmania's) even BEFORE i knew you'd make me comfort food. xo Also? I would put in the whole *bunch* of parsley, I like it so, but not that curly weasel parsley, it's got to be flat leaf.

family-of-five said...

looks scrumptious.

J. said...

Chicken Pot Pie, I hardly knew ya. You may have just persuaded me to make my first ever chicken pot pie -- and I don't even like chicken pot pie. But if it's good enough for Obama, it's good enough for me. ; ) So, when are you going to be on "The Next Food Network Star"?

Dr. Cason said...

I've never made a pot pie. Come to think of it. I don't think I've eaten one.

Ok maybe one.

Your photos make it look soooo good!

Anonymous said...

You had me at sherry cream sauce. But seriously, what are these onions you speak of?

The Girl Next Door said...

I found you on Bad Mom and let me say you have an amazing blog, THANK YOU for posting step by step photos of your cooking for the sometimes-cooking-challenged [i have always always hated CPP but you have challenged me to try again!], and you must have one kick-butt camera b/c your photos are amazing. Another blog on my favorites - when am I supposed to work??!!

stephanie (bad mom) said...

Like my husband (it's good to share bad taste I suppose) and Mama Bird, I actually really enjoy the doughy frozen kind.

But this? Looks like its rich cousin from the Hamptons. MmmMmmm!

Jozet at Halushki said...

omg...that looks so good.

I grew up on Chicken Pot Pie.

Maybe if my mom had photographed it before so beautifully before she served it to me, I would have enjoyed it more. have a way with...onions.

Professor J said...

Yumm. I feel comforted just looking at this pie. I'm going to make one soon.

iCarrie said...

I guess I had better get to preparing the chicken for this masterpiece.
It looks amazing.
I am totally making this tomorrow.

lori said...

OH MY LORD I'm hungry now! This looks so so so good. It's a cold-ish rainy day and I'm stuck at work and all I can think about now, thanks to your brilliantly photographed (onions!) post is rushing home to make chicken pot pie.

Amy the Mom said...

It's 11:17 PM and my mouth is watering. So going into my recipe book. Forgive me if I hate on the peas though.

Magpie said...

But what happens if you don't decorate gourds with crystalline Bavarian fairy wings after you cook the chicken? Will it still be good?

Mary Alice said...

Ohhhh baby....I'm on my way to your house for dinner. I'll bring the wine.

dkuroiwa said...

The pictures are beautiful...totally 'GoodHousekeeping'-worthy!!! Looks delicious too!!

and that photo of Obama...honey, he was SO looking right at you!!! Was wondering about the shady character behind him in the stocking hot...remember that in case you need to submit this as evidence!!! he was looking a little suspicious, don't you think?!?!

iCarrie said...

I made this last night, and it was wonderful! Thanks for the photo-recipe.

Paige said...

ZOMG...I think I just died and went to recipe heaven. And it just so happens I'm supposed to be making a grocery list.

See, my eldest daughter's "little fella" (as my Mom calls him) is coming over tomorrow, and I was looking for something a little more impressive than the local pizza joint for dinner...think I found it right here!

Wish me luck!

Paige, in Virginia

Veronica Mitchell said...

I made this last night and it was deeee-licious. I am eating the leftovers this very minute.

I did not have celery, so I substituted lovage, and I am lazy, so I just used refrigerated crescent roll dough instead of pie crust. Turned out fine.