Tuesday, May 7, 2013

(On the fly) Chicken Pot Pie

So, this morning I was informed (reminded really) that I was signed up to bring the main dish for the PTO lunch today. I started wracking my brain for everything I had in the fridge/freezer and what I could make in the next 3 hours. The entire time I was on my run this morning I was thinking of what I could make.
  (My thoughts were something like: I have chicken in the fridge. . . .o.k. do something with chicken. . . . What could I make for a crowd that would also be tasty, that includes chicken? . . . I don't want to do pasta; we always have pasta . . . . I have puff pastry in the freezer. . . . Chicken pot pie? . . . Yeah, I'll do chicken pot pie . . .) And then the rest of my run was planning out the logistics of it all.
   Since I never make this meal with a recipe (I just cook, taste, and adjust as I go) I wasn't sure if I was going to blog it, but I thought if I just measure everything out as I go and write it down it should be good. It's always a good idea to have a recipe for something I bring to the PTO meetings, because I usually get asked for the recipe. :) It makes me feel good to know that people enjoy my food. :)
   The hubby thought that we would have the left-overs for dinner, but it's all gone. People had seconds and that warms my heart even more. I'll just have to whip something else up for dinner . . .

So, here is how I made my "On The Fly" Chicken Pot Pie today; but it's not a hard and fast recipe that I adhere to. I use all the same ingredients, but the amounts may change from time to time - depending on what I have on hand.

I'm going to give you the recipe for the 10x15 casserole dish that I brought to the meeting, but it can easily be halved to make a normal "family" sized meal.

First things first, take the puff pastry out of the freezer. If you thought ahead of time, you can thaw it out in the fridge. If you are making this last minute like me, you'll want to follow the directions on the box for a "quick thaw" on the counter. Now you can forget about this and come back to it later.

In the pan, it all starts with 1 stick of butter. (Remember, that's only 1/2 stick for one family-sized meal, which is really only about 1 Tbsp per person.)

Then I diced up an onion. (I used one medium brown onion, but use what you have.) Just like my recipes vary from time to time, so do my knife cuts. Sometimes I dice and onion as is demonstrated here, and other times (like today) I employ the "Rachel Ray Hack." It's probably the simplest and fasted way to dice an onion.
Just cut both ends off, and cut the onion in half. Then peel the skin off and lay each half, cut side down, on the cutting board. Next, make slices (starting at one of the cut ends).

Then turn the sliced onion and slice again in the opposite direction.
Ta-Da! Dices.

Add the onion to the pot with the butter.

Add in one dry bay leaf, along with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Continue to cook over medium low to low heat, and add in 4 cups of frozen mixed veggies. (You can also add in 1/2 cup of chopped celery and 1 tsp minced garlic. I forgot, and added mine in later, as you will see.)

When the veggies are warmed through, add about 1 1/2 tsp of dry thyme (rub it between your hands first, to wake up the flavor).

Then comes the secret ingredient. It's that thing that will make people say, "Mm, what is that?" It's Tarragon. It has a slightly licorice flavor and it goes wonderfully with chicken. I always include it in my chicken pot pies. About 1 tsp of this goes in. Again, rub it between your hands before adding it to the pot.

 Next, add in 1/2 cup of flour. This will thicken your sauce/soup later.

Stir until no more flour is visible and cook for about a minute, to get rid of that raw flour taste.

Then add in 4 cups of chicken stock. (Today I used the organic kind from Costco, but you could use any you have on hand. Homemade Chicken Stock is always best.)

Also the juice of one lemon goes in (about 2 Tbsp).

Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid begins to bubble and thicken.

This is when I remembered that I didn't add my celery. So I chose a few small stalks from the heart of the celery bunch; washed and chopped them up fine . . .

Leaves and all please. (The leaves have wonderful flavor.)

I added the celery to the pot with 1 tsp of minced garlic (that's about 1 large clove minced).

Next comes the cooked chicken. I didn't want to add this earlier, because then the chicken would be over cooked and dry. If I was using raw chicken, I would have added it to the pan when I started everything - with the butter and onions.
  I used 2 large chicken breasts that I removed from a chicken I previously roasted. The bones and skin were removed after cooking. (I only pictured one chicken breast, so you could see how I cubed it up.) You could substitute with boneless, skinless chicken thighs as well. You would need 4 of those to equal the same amount of chicken as 2 large breasts.

Cut up the chicken into chunks. (I just slice it length-wise two or three times and then turn the breast clock-wise 90 degrees and slice it into bite sized pieces.) The technique isn't that important. Just make sure the pieces will fit on a spoon.

Add the chicken to the pot and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is at a rolling boil (can't be stirred down). Then ask yourself: Is this thick enough for me? If you like it this consistency, then you can leave out the last 1 cup of stock. If it is too thick for you, then stir in the last of the stock. If by chance you want it thicker -as I did- then combine 1 to 2 Tbsp of cornstarch with the reserved 1 cup of stock to make a slurry. -The more cornstarch you add, the thicker it will be.- Make sure the cornstarch is completely dissolved in the stock before you add it to the pot. Otherwise you will have lumps.

Add in about 2 tsp of parsley (I always have dry on hand).

And 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of cream (depending on taste). I just pour and then taste to see if it is where I want it to be.

Turn off the heat, and take out the bay leaf. Taste it for any final seasoning adjustments. Need more salt? Pepper? You want more of one herb or another? Add it now, because you can't add it later.

Pour it into you serving dish (10x15 casserole for me) and turn your oven to 400F.

When the oven is almost hot, carefully unfold the puff pastry and pinch together the folds. (Do this on a floured work surface, or it will stick!)

Then dust a little flour on top and roll it out just a little, to seal the folds together.

When the oven is hot and ready, gently place the puff pastry on top of the pot pie mixture - making sure to fold the corners over the edge of the casserole dish (These edges will stay especially crispy and light, whereas the pastry that is touching the chicken mixture will be a little soggy on the bottom.)
I used 1 3/4 sheets of the puff pastry to cover my casserole dish.

The last 1/3 you may do with as you wish. I just put it on a cookie sheet as baked it up as is (400F for 15 minutes). You could eat this light and airy pastry along with your pot pie, or you could go another direction and satisfy your sweet tooth. :)
I baked it, cut it in half and filled the newly formed cavity with vanilla Greek yogurt and some of my Homemade/Homegrown Peach Preserves. Delish! You could also make a small Strawberry Thyme Cheese Strudel, or anything else your heart desires and your imagination cooks up. (Nutella might be nice!)

The chicken pot pie goes immediately into the 400F oven to bake for about 25 minutes (until the pastry is puffy and golden brown). If the edges are getting too brown before the pastry in the center is ready, just cover the edges with a little aluminum foil.  When it comes out of the oven it is ready for consumption - but you should probably let it cool for a bit, so you don't burn your taste buds off!

You can serve it out of a bowl . . .

or on a plate.

The camera seemed to like the plate better. 

It really is delicious. Try it out and let me know what you think!
 As with all my recipes, please feel free to change it up to suit your needs and likes. Most ingredients are easily interchangeable.

Here's the recipe:
*Remember, this is enough to feed a crowd - 10x15 casserole. If you are only cooking for your family, you can easily half the recipe and it would do nicely. :)
It takes about 45 minutes and feeds about 10-15 (depending on how hungry everyone is)

**Update: 5/16/13 I just made this recipe for my family tonight. I halved everything exactly (except for the bay leaf, I just used a whole small leaf) and it worked out beautifully! I used 2 1/2 cups chicken stock originally and then did thicken it with the optional 1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with my reserved 1/2 cup chicken stock. I used 1/4 cup of cream. I baked it in a round 2 quart casserole dish with 1 sheet of puffed pastry on top. There was enough to feed us (2 adults and 4 little ones) with enough for my wonderful husband's lunch tomorrow. Just FYI. I hope you all enjoy it!! :)

(On The Fly) Chicken Pot Pie

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed but still COLD
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
1 medium onion diced  
1 large or 2 small ribs of celery, diced, leaves included (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
1 1/2 tsp dry thyme (to taste)
1 1/2 tsp dry tarragon (to taste)
4 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock, divided *
juice of 1 lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
2 tsp of dry parsley (to taste)
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup heavy cream (to taste - I did 1/2 cup)
*1 to 2 Tbsp cornstarch to thicken, if desired (combine with 1 cup of the stock)

 In a large soup pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf salt and pepper. Cook until the onions start to get soft (just a couple minutes) and then add in the thyme, tarragon and mixed vegetables. Stir well and continue to cook until the vegetables are warmed through. Then stir in 1/2 cup of flour and cook for 1 minute (to cook out the raw flour taste). Pour in 5 cups of the chicken stock and lemon juice and stir well. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture boils (and can't be stirred down) and thickens. If the sauce looks too thick, then add the other 1 cup of chicken stock. If you want more of a thick "gravy" texture rather than a soup texture, you can stir in the cornstarch with the 1 cup of chicken stock and then add that slurry to the pot. Add in the chicken and parsley. Return to a boil and then turn off the heat. Stir in the cream and remove the bay leaf. Taste for final seasoning (add more salt, pepper, or herbs depending on your tastes). Pour the mixture into your serving dish (10x15 casserole dish). 
   Turn the oven on to 400F. When the oven is almost hot, unfold the COLD puff pastry sheets onto a floured work surface and pinch the folds/seams together. Roll it out, to set the seams and gently place it over the hot chicken mixture - folding the corners over the edges of the casserole dish. Use as much puff pastry as you need to cover your dish (I used 1 and 3/4 sheets). Any unused pastry can be baked off by itself @ 400F for 15 minutes, or it can be put into a zip-lock bag and refrigerated for later use.
  Put the pastry topped chicken pot pie into the 400F oven and bake for about 25 minutes - until the pastry is puffy and browned all over and the chicken mixture is bubbly. (If the edges of the pastry get too brown, cover them with aluminum foil.) Serve warm.

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