Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

Tonight, it's leftovers. Slop together a casserole from old table scraps and... what? Doesn't that sound mouth-watering enough? Well, fine. Let's see what we can do about that. But what we're messing with is, literally, a batch of leftovers, with a little bit of a boost. It starts with the remaining crust from those tasty Apple Slices, of which Mom made enough to feed several armies, and only one army came, so she popped two balls of dough (approximately a single batch) in the freezer. Now is the time to take them out to thaw so she can roll them out all purty-like.

Next, because I don't like to let a sale go to waste, I roasted up a few big ol' chicken breasts last week, and used the skins, the bones, the drippings (don't forget those!) and whatever wasn't necessarily good sandwich stuffings to start a batch of broth. If you don't have a quart or two of broth in your fridge or freezer, you can cheat, and use store-boughten ;-) but it's not really the same. When I roast chicken, I slather it in butter, then cook it at a high-ish temp (375º-400º F), until the skin turns quite dark -- not that golden-brown everybody touts, but something on the border of mahogany in shade.

The broth usually starts with a couple pints of water, all those remnants from the bird, a half a medium sweet onion, chopped (it doesn't matter how finely. It's going to cook down & get removed from the broth, anyway), a generous dose of celery flakes or a stalk of fresh celery (leaves and all), a scant handful of dried mushroom, pulverized, a little salt, pepper, and patience (Mom also adds parsley flakes, but I'm ambivalent, there. I haven't noticed that it added much to the finished flavor). It simmers at least overnight, then gets strained and tossed into containers in a very cold, dark place, to await future use.

So, now, to the next stage. Turning it into something greater than the sum of the parts. Or, so we hope. We usually toss our favorite biscuits on the top of the chicken stew, but today, we have a rolled crust, instead. What could go wrong? Okay, don't answer that. But we're ambitious, today.*

Just remember, because it's leftovers, measurements are inexact -- to say the least. Play with them, until you find the proportions which make you happiest.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 batch crust from Apple Slices , divided, made at least a day in advance.
1 quart rich chicken broth
1 Tbs butter (or, if you have it, the schmaltz from the top of chilled chicken broth)
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped into 1 cm. bits
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced into bite-sized chunks
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into about 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
2-3 Tbs corn starch
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 cups chunked chicken meat
1 cup fresh peas (or, if you use frozen, thaw them in advance of using them here)
Salt & pepper to taste


In medium saucepan, heat broth to simmer.

In separate pan, sauté chopped onions in butter until they are transparent. Remove from butter, add into broth. In same pan, with same butter, stir-fry (at high temp) sliced mushrooms, until golden and edges begin to faintly crisp. Add half to broth, set aside remainder.

Add carrots, celery, and potatoes to broth. Allow to simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Spoon out a half-cup or so of the broth, mix with corn starch, slowly adding back into the stew, stirring constantly, until broth thickens.

Preheat oven to 375º F.

On a heavily-floured surface, roll out half the dough to make bottom crust. Place in bottom of large casserole or spaghetti bowl, pierce with fork a few times (or weigh it down under foil, using rice, beans, or those spiffy ceramic baking weights, if you have them) & bake 10 - 15 minutes, until golden brown. Don't worry if it slouches in the dish as it cooks -- this is a rustic dish, and this is a very soft, short dough.

Crank up the oven temp to 400º F.

Roll out second portion of dough, then cut or tear into decorative shapes (you're never going to get your top crust to stick to a cooked bottom crust, so go crazy with ornamentation, if you wish to hide this reality from the un-initiated in the ways of kitchen. Or, just have a little fun). Set aside.

Add sour cream to stew, allow to reheat. Melt in cheddar cheese. Add in peas, chicken chunks, and remaining mushrooms.

Ladle stew into bottom crust until dish is nearly full (don't overfill -- it will tend to boil over). Top with pretty bits of dough. If you like a more finished appearance, brush dough with well-beaten egg and poppy seed, or with butter, before putting in oven. Bake until top is golden-brown (about 25 minutes).

Allow to stand & cool 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

*The verdict is in: conservative eater Pop ate two helpings.

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