I heard whispers of desire emanating from the kitchen, as my children were discussing what they wanted for dinner. “Savory Pie” came out on top. Since neither yearns to cook, they turned to me, plaintive looks in their eyes. I live to please, and what could satisfy this particular desire better than Chicken Pot Pie? I put the idea forward, and they were thrilled. Not that either of them really knew what it was, since it is a quintessentially American dish, all the more reason to give it a try. I got started.
As any cook knows, getting started often means going on a treasure hunt. Mine included going to the butcher, where there wasn’t a shred of chicken to be found, so I bought turkey breast; visiting the cheese shop for fresh butter; going to the épicerie to get flour. Thanks to a small town and a bicycle, this was no trouble.
And from there it was a trip down memory lane as I made the chicken potpie from FARMHOUSE COOKBOOK. After making the pastry, I cut up the turkey and vegetables (using fresh broccoli instead of peas) and generally reveled in making an American dish with French overtones that I hadn’t even thought of for years. The result was crisp, aromatic, creamy without being heavy, delicious. It reminded me of vol au vent, a very old-fashioned French dish that consists of puff pastry traditionally filled with a similar delicate mixture that includes sweetbreads. There really is nothing new under the sun, and when it comes to something like chicken pot pie, thank goodness for that!
1 recipe for Tender Tart Pastry
1 cup (250ml) chicken stock
1 fresh bay leaf, or dried imported
6 black peppercorns
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups (750ml) water
8 ounces firm potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium head broccoli, florets separated
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces (300g) chicken or turkey breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (as best you can)
- Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the pastry and line a 10-1/2 inch (26.25cm). Trim and crimp the edge. Line the pastry with aluminum foil, fill it with pastry weights and bake it on the lowest rung of the oven until it is golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove the weights and paper, and continue baking until the bottom of the crust set and light golden, 5 to 20 more minutes. Remove the pastry from the oven and let it cool. Leave the oven on.
- Combine the chicken stock, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside to infuse for 5 minutes. Strain.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, whisk in the flour and cook until the mixture bubbles. Continue cooking and whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the chicken stock into the mixture, whisking as you do, and cook until it has thickened. Whisk in the cream and season to taste with plenty of salt, pepper, and a touch of nutmeg. Set the cream sauce aside.
- Bring the water to a boil in the bottom of a vegetable steamer. Place the potatoes in the steamer basket, cover, and steam for 8 minutes. Add the broccoli, cover, and steam until the broccoli and the potatoes are tender, an additional 8 minutes. Remove the steamer with the vegetables from the pan, and set aside.
- Pour the olive oil into a medium skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stir, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until they are golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. Remove them from the pan, return the pan to the heat and add the chicken or turkey. Increase the heat so the meat sizzles merrily and cook, stirring constantly, until the meat is golden on all sides and just about cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Roll out the remaining pastry into a 12-inch (30cm) circle.
- In a large bowl gently fold together the onions and garlic, the chicken or turkey, the vegetables, and the hard cooked eggs. Pour the cream sauce over all, and gently fold all the ingredients together, then turn them into the pre-baked pastry. Cover with the round of pastry, tucking it around the ingredients and pressing the edges gently but firmly onto the baked pastry. Crimp the edge.
- Make several slits in the top of the pastry, place the pie on a baking sheet and slide the whole thing into the oven. Bake until the top pastry is golden, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. 6 servings