I have always loved the idea of chicken pot pie, but I have often been disappointed in the blandness of the many I have eaten as well as others I have made myself following various recipes. I did not want to make it spicy—just flavorful, and so I have been working on my own recipe, trying different things. Last night I was finally satisfied, so I can share this recipe with you. I will explain in great detail and also offer up some shortcuts. Even with the shortcuts, it will be good—but not quite as good as the ones I made.
1 chicken (or 1 pound chicken breasts)
4 large carrots, peeled and quartered
2 stalks celery, washed and trimmed
1 onion, peeled
1 parsnip, peeled
4 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
8 pearl onions
4 tablespoons butter
8 fresh button mushrooms
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup of milk, whole or skim
Coarse salt and coarse pepper
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 package frozen peas
2 Pillsbury unbaked piecrusts
Early in the day, place the chicken, carrots, celery, onion and parsnip in a large pot and pour in the chicken broth or stock. Add enough water (or more stock) to cover the chicken with liquid. (It should be submerged by perhaps an inch.) Cook on medium-high, skimming off any foam that might arise. In 45 minutes to an hour, the chicken should be cooked. Remove from the pot and allow to cool. Remove and reserve the carrots. Discard all the other vegetables, and filter the liquid (now a good, rich chicken stock) and reserve for use later.
While chicken is cooking, place the pearl onions in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and strain. Allow to cool; the skins can now be easily removed. Cut the onions in half (or quarters, if they are large) and sauté in 1 tablespoon of butter for a few minutes, turning them so each side gets browned a bit. When the butter is almost gone, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of the chicken stock (straight from the cooking pot is fine) and allow to simmer on a low flame until the onions are cooked. They will begin to fall apart—that is fine. Do not allow the onions to caramelize, and add more liquid if they are still a bit hard.
Slice off the stems and peel off the outer layer of the mushroom caps. Do not rinse; just wipe them with a paper towel. Cut them into small chunks and sauté them in 1 tablespoon of butter. Add a tablespoon or two of stock as they cook. Set aside.
Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized casserole. As the butter melts, add the flour. (It is important that you have the same amount of butter and flour.) Stir, and as a roux forms, add the milk, ¼ cup at a time, whisking it in so the mixture forms a creamlike substance. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. When you have finished the milk, slowly incorporate 1 cups of the hot chicken stock, ¼ cup at a time. Set aside. The mixture should be the thickness of light cream. Taste it— if needed, add more salt and pepper.
In a few tablespoons of water or stock, boil the frozen peas until they are warm. When the chicken is ready, take the white meat off the breast and the dark meat from the thighs. Skin it, and cut it into small cubes. (It is okay if it shreds). Add the chicken to the white sauce in the pot. Slice and dice the carrots that were cooked in the stock and add them to the white sauce. Add the sautéed onions and the mushroom to the white sauce, along with their juices. Add the cooked peas to the pot.
If using individual ramekins, fill them with the chicken mixture. Roll out the dough and cut circles large enough to cover the top of the ramekins. Place the dough circles over the ramekins and cut four slits into the piecrusts so that steam can escape while they cook. This step may wait (but do not refrigerate) until 30 minutes before you want to serve. Preheat oven to 425º F. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown. Allow to stand for five minutes before serving.
If baking in a 9″ pie shell, leave the chicken mixture in the pot until you are ready to bake. Preheat oven to 425º F. Line the pie dish with one of the crusts. Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.