cucina bene; mangia bene (endgame: chicken pot pie)
One of my favorite comfort foods is chicken pot pie. When I was a kid, it was always such a treat to heat up a Swanson’s pot pie in the oven and then get to eat it out of the foil container on a TV table. I was convinced that eating the concoction on a TV table made it taste better. When I was in college, I graduated to Marie Callender frozen pot pies and ate them in front of the TV on top of a milk crate (which doubled as a coffee table). If there is chicken pot pie on the menu in any restaurant I patron, I invariably order it. I have tried my hand at making pot pies over the years, but never really found the recipe to perfect until recently.
Chicken pot pie has an interesting history. Meat pies are actually quite old and many countries have a type: empanadas in Spain, Spanikopita in Greece, meat pies in Australia, the UK (often called pasties), and Ireland, even Italy has a type of meat pie called pizzachino. Pot pies are uniquely American; in the early American kitchens, pots were filled with stew and hung over a fire to cook. Dough was placed over the top as a type of lid to help keep the stew in the pot and any embers or ash out. In the 1950’s Swanson came out with a frozen pot pie and took it to a different level.
My recent pot pie making experience started with a frozen chicken bought from the Corvallis Winter market from Norton Creek Farm. I cooked the chicken earlier this week in a Dutch oven using a dry heat technique that cooks the chicken in its own juices. I wanted to use this technique because I wanted the meat to be more steamed than roasted for my pot pie. I made a sauce from the aromatics that I had put in the pot with the chicken: onion, garlic, turnip, and some celeriac. I removed the fat, and added some chicken stock and then blended the mixture with a stick blender to produce a very thick and flavorful sauce. We enjoyed the chicken that evening with a roasted beet salad and homemade bread. The rest of the chicken and the sauce were put away for pot pie.
For my pot pie, I had leftover pie dough in the freezer that I defrosted, I had my leftover chicken and sauce; all I needed were some veggies to finish the dish. I sautéed some shiitake mushrooms (in chicken fat), along with 2 small bunches of bietola (Italian Swiss Chard) from Heavenly Harvest in Corvallis. Once the mushrooms and bietola were cooked, they were removed from the pot and in went a shallot, leek, and a few cloves of garlic. Once that was cooked, it was added to the bowl of mushrooms and bietola. I then added the sauce to the pot, some chicken stock, cream, a small Oregon truffle (grated), and diced red potatoes. I let them simmer for about 15 minutes, then added the chicken (diced), the vegetables, chopped fresh parsley, sherry, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard. I simmered the stew for about 15 minutes more then ladled it into oven proof bowls, rolled out the pie dough, cut it to fit the bowls, cut slits in the dough, and baked them in the oven for about 45 minutes at 400 F. The pot pies were delicious! The bietola greens were amazingly tender and tasty and the potatoes really held their shape. I apologize for not having a picture to show, but I didn’t think to write this blog post until now.
Since any type of meat pie is a laborious task, it is always easier to make one when you have leftovers. I used leftover chicken, sauce, and pie dough. I could have used leftover roasted or sautéed vegetables if I had any; this is what real pantry cooking is about and is where so many of our favorite dishes have originated from: the leftovers.
I don’t have a recipe to share that belongs to me, so I’ve included a link to the recipe I was inspired by from Fine Cooking Magazine: