Pot Pie: It Takes Two
The severely cold weather has given me a one-track mind -- getting warm. I pull out all my stops -- the thick woolen socks, an extra scarf, a hot breakfast and pot pie.
In fact, pot pie was all I could think about while in savasana (final relaxation pose) in yoga class last night. I was doing a mental check list, scanning the contents of the crisper drawer in the fridge and by the time I walked back into the cold, I determined there enough in-house provisions to make an ad hoc pot pie.
Visions of a hot savory pie bubbling through its crust were indeed swirling in my head as I boarded the Metro across the river into Arlington. By the time I got home, it was already 7:30, a tad late for a supper project this ambitious, I confess. By myself, the pie likely wouldn't be done until well after 10, but if Mister Groom teamed up with me, we could be curled up pot-pie style in a fraction of the time.
It was a race against time, and I liked the challenge. While he chopped carrots, onions, garlic and rosemary, I boiled a bunch of fingerling potatoes and got to work on a cheddar cheese dough. He pulled meat from the previous night's chicken, and I took the bones to make a quickie stock in small saucepan.
The bok choy (a great alternative to celery) that I bought on the weekend mysteriously disappeared, so I used up some leftover chard instead.
Without the time to roast my veggies, I decided instead to soften them a bit in a hot pan with some olive oil, eventually adding the drained parboiled potatoes and shredded chicken. A few ounces of the quickie stock was added to help moisten the mixture, which was coming together nicely. All I needed now was a wee bit of gravy to tie everything together.
As long as a pot pie has all its key three elements -- crust, gravy and stock -- it doesn't really matter what the filling contains, in my opinion. I love a veggie pot pie just the same, but with leftover chicken in the house, a poultry-based pie made sense. My point is that the combinations for pot pie are endless, and in most cases, you probably have all the fixin's you need right in the pantry. Use what you got -- it's great fun and gratifying to be so resourceful in the kitchen.
While we tucked into our first slice, several filling possibilities came to mind -- sweet potatoes, mushrooms, pearl onions, peas, leeks, parsnips, cauliflower -- any or all would be heavenly (and healthy) pie filler.
But let me backtrack for a minute. The cheddar cheese dough I quickly put together comes from old scribbled notes, and I chose it for its cooperative fuss-free spirit, thanks to the fat in the cheese, butter and milk. Unlike a classic pie dough (often pate brisee), this version needs little resting time in the fridge and rolls out easily.
The gravy was a classic white gravy, using a roux (equal parts butter and flour) and gradual additions of chicken stock. I allowed it to thicken, seasoned with salt and pepper, and poured over the filling, already in the pie dish.
Below, guidelines for the best ad hoc pot pie, maximizing the contents of your fridge and making adjustments as you see fit. There are few rules, except to have an open mind and ideally, a kitchen partner. The rest is gravy...
And now, it's your turn. Share your tried-and-true pot pie tricks and hand-me-downs; I want all of them! Talk to me today at noon, for an hour of live countertop conversation...
Kim's Ad Hoc Chicken Pot Pie
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove minced garlic
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
About 1 cup milk and/or cream (cream is unnecessary but is easiest to work with; half-n-half works well, too)
In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and garlic. Stir to combine. Add butter and with your fingers or with a dough cutter, "cut" butter so that it integrates with the flour mixture, until it resembles a coarse meal texture. Stir in cheddar. Add milk and/or cream, gradually and gently, just until dough holds. Dough will be wet and sticky. Scoop onto plastic and allow to relax in fridge, at least 15 minutes.
When ready to roll, remove dough from fridge and place on a lightly floured work surface. Dust dough with flour and add as necessary until dough is pliable and can be rolled out into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
Filling -- this is what I used last night, based on what was in house. As previously mentioned, this list is subject to change, depending on the kitchen and the cook.
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 carrots, diced
A few sprigs rosemary, needles removed, and finely chopped
6-10 small potatoes -- red, fingerling, banana
Cooked chicken, pulled from bones, amounting to about 5 ounces
Handful Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
In a saucepan with boiling salted water, parboil potatoes, until al dente - not completely cooked. Drain and chop, if necessary, into smaller pieces.
In a deep skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil, and add onion, garlic and carrots. Over medium heat, cook until veggies are softened; add rosemary, potatoes and chicken, stirring until combined. Add salt and pepper as needed, or anything else to zip things up (hot sauce and soy sauce come to mind). Add chard, stirring to combine, allowing it to slightly wilt.
Meanwhile, heat your stock on another burner: If you've got leftover chicken bones, by all means, make an impromptu stock, but if all you have is a can, use that. (An impromptu veggie stock is possible too - with an onion, a few garlic cloves, a few sprigs of parsley, a leek, peppercorns.)
On the fourth burner, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 2 tablespoons flour, allowing the two to combine and cook for a minute. Gradually add stock and whisk or stir vigorously to remove any flour lumps. Season as you like.
Preheat oven to 400.
Assembling your pot pie: I used a 9-inch pie plate, as I don't own a pottery crock, which would be ideal. I greased the bottom of the pan, lined it with a thin layer of dough (only because I had enough; what's important is the top layer), added filling, poured gravy on top, followed by top layer of cheddar dough.
With a paring knife, make "x" incisions in dough to allow steam to release. Bake for 30 minutes, until dough turns a golden color and filling is bubbling.
Serve immediately. Makes at least 4 servings.
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