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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie. I'm Fighting Spring Fever with Comfort Food!

Mid-March.  For me, this is the worst weather of the year in New England. 

Freezing temperatures in January?  Psssh. In the winter I expect the cold, the snow, the ice.

After the 60-degree heatwave of a couple of weeks ago, it's hard get back to the 40-degree weather we have now.
Even a spring-y bunch of flowers doesn't help.  It only makes me wish this vase could be full of flowers from my garden like it is in the summer.

So to banish my spring fever, I'm going to focus on cooking a meal that is going to disappear from my summer menu.  Something that is perfect "comfort food" for the winter, when I don't mind spending the time in my kitchen, slicing, chopping, boiling and baking.

A menu item requested this week by one of my daughters.

She asked for it just in time.  The outdoor grill is no longer buried under three feet of snow, and it's only a matter of time before I'll be cooking outdoors.

Chicken Pot Pie
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken, cooked and shredded into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 large carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped onions (1 medium onion)
  • 2 cups potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes (2 medium potatoes)
  • 1 cup sliced celery ( 3 ribs of celery)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (1 crown of broccoli)
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 frozen puff pastry sheet, at room temperature
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
Make sure that your puff pastry has already been thawed.  It needs about 45 minutes at room temperature to thaw.  It can also be removed from the freezer and placed in the refrigerator overnight to thaw (helpful if you are a forgetful type, like me).

Cook the chicken.  Place the boneless breasts or tenderloins in a saucepan of cold water.  Bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  It will take about 8-10 minutes to simmer the breasts until they're cooked, 5 or 6 minutes to simmer the tenderloins. 

Remember to turn the heat down, if you boil the chicken the whole time, you will be left with hard, rubbery chicken.  I know.  It's happened.

Check for doneness;  remove chicken to a plate to cool.

Or, buy a rotisserie chicken from your deli instead.  You won't have quite as much meat, but if you'd rather save yourself from cooking your own chicken, it will do.

Next, chop your veggies--potatoes, carrots, celery, broccoli and onions.  Chop them into bite-sized pieces; they will cook fast, and unlike some recipes which have you chop them after they've cooked, you won't burn your fingers chopping hot vegetables.

Boil the chicken broth in a large (6 or 8 quart) pot. 

Add the chopped veggies, except for the broccoli (it will turn to mush if you add it too soon).  Reduce the heat to a simmery boil and cook for 10 minutes, then add the broccoli and simmer for an additional 3 minutes.

While the veggies cook, shred your chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Your crust will be made using a sheet of puff pastry.  It should be at room temperature.

Unfold the puff pastry.  Trace an outline of your baking dish on the pastry.

Cut the pastry to size.  Heart-shaped dish is optional.

By now, your veggies are just about done cooking.  Add the broccoli to the pot, and cook for two more minutes.

Place a colander or strainer directly over a large measuring cup.  Pour the veggies into the colander and the broth will drain into the cup.  You will need to save 2 cups of the chicken broth.

Melt the butter in the pot that you just cooked the veggies in.

Whisk in the flour.

Once the flour and butter have combined, add 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time.  Then stir in the cream.  Stir the gravy until it thickens.  It might be too thick, and if this is the case, use the remaining chicken broth to thin it to the consistency that you like.

When you are happy with the consistency of the gravy, sprinkle in the poultry seasoning and stir.

Then add the frozen peas.  Stir it up and the peas will thaw quickly.

Add the chicken and the strained veggies and stir it all up.

Transfer the mixture into a 3-quart casserole or baking dish.

Cover with the puff pastry.
Brush the puff pastry with the slightly beaten egg.
Bake at 400 degrees, for approximately 25 minutes, until the crust is nice and crunchy and browned.

Add some salt and pepper, and enjoy!

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