Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Chicken Pot Pie

Nothing says southern cooking like homemade pot pie. Let me tell you how thrilled Jim was when he heard that I was making this from scratch. I had actually planned to make this last week and made a special trip to the grocery store to pick up a few key ingredients, like chicken, since I was making a CHICKEN pot pie, not a Vegetable Pot Pie. The week was busier than I planned and when asked to meet the girlfriends for a beer at 5 PM, I quickly chose to happy hour (used as a verb) rather than cook. Truth is, this recipe intimidated me…it was the pastry I tell you. I have a brain block when it comes to making and baking homemade pastries and breads. Jim was sorely disappointed when he came home to find me eating leftovers when he was planning on chowing down on pot pie.

I waited until this past weekend when I had plenty of free time to devote to this dish. Here is how I made homemade chicken pot pie by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Thanks Kahakai Kitchen for choosing the Vegetable Pot Pie Recipe.

I started with three chicken breasts that I rinsed with cold water and patted dry. Place in baking dish and rub with olive oil and then sprinkle with your choice of seasoning. I used a pre-made mix called Napa Valley Meritage herb mixture. I put this in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.

On to the dreaded pastry dough. Here is what you need:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water

Wait! Before I start doing anything, lets open an Oregon organic pale ale. Okay, now we are ready to begin.
For the pastry, I used my cuisinart and added 3 cups flour. Wow, this nearly fills my cuisinart bowl! Then add salt, baking powder and pulse to blend.
Now add vegetable shortening and cold unsalted butter.
Ina says to pulse 10 times until mixture resembles small peas. Mine does not look like small peas after pulsing for 50 times. I opened it up and tried to turn it over by hand, but this doesn’t work well either. With the cuisinart on the mixture has stopped moving except for the bottom half inch where the blades are spinning. Not good.

So I went ahead and adding my ice water, hoping the mixture would blend with the added liquid.
This does nothing but compact the dough more.
So I turned it out onto a floured surface and had a mess on my hands. The dough was dry on top and wet on bottom. I kneaded by hand until mixed a little and then patted into small disk.
Wrapped in plastic and put in fridge for 30 minutes to "rest." Dough can be so fickle sometimes!
Okay, let's check the chicken. Not done yet. I put a thermometer in one of the meaty breast and stuck it back in for another 15 minutes. That's exactly what it needed.

Let's prep all the veggies for the pot pie. You can really use whatever you have on hand and don't feel bad if you leave anything out here too. I wish I had peas, thought I had some frozen we will just be using a potato, yellow onion, fennel bulb, carrots and asparagus.
Wash and dice a potato.

This is fennel.

Carrots and asparagus.
Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat. This is a lot of butter.
Add sliced onion and fennel. You know what fennel smells like? Absynthe, a drink with a long and controversial history, enjoyed its greatest popularity in late 19th century Paris, when Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Verlaine, Ernest Hemmingway and Oscar Wilde were among its most ardent fans. It was an inseparable part of artistic life during that period of time. It is said to have inspired fine literature and great paintings.

Traditional absinthe has been illegal to sell in the U.S. since 1912, because it contains the chemical thujone. However, in 2007 some products labelled as "absinthe" were approved for sale in the United Stated. The situation is somewhat complex, but the short version is that the agency that now regulates alcohol in the U.S. (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) defines "thujone free" (an FDA requirement for any food made with Absinthe's defining herb wormwood) as meaning less than 10 parts-per-million (10mg/L) thujone. It is an ongoing debate whether "thujone free" absinthe should be considered authentic, with the common understanding being that traditional absinthe contained higher levels of thujone but current manufacturers arguing that vintage absinthe had similarly low levels of thujone. Whatever the truth of their arguments, the modern low-thujone absinthes are being widely publicized as the first legal absinthes in the U.S. since the 1912 ban. (according to this web site)

Anyway, I once took a shot of imitation Absynthe with my brother and it tasted the way fennel smells. I didn't care for the liquor too much, but hopefully I like fennel cooked in this meal.
After 10-15 minutes the onion and fennel mixture is translucent, here is what mine looks like.

Add 1/2 cup flour and reduce the heat to low, cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
This got nice and thick.
Slowly add chicken stock, pernod (which is a liquor that taste like fennel, I bet absenth would work here...but I have none.) Instead I'm using a splash of white wine. Add safron, salt and pepper.

I turned heat to medium-low and brought it to a boil, stirring almost constantly. This thickened up really nicely. Ina says to make sure this is highly seasoned. So I tasted at this point and decided to add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper.

I hate the order of recipes sometimes. I swear I must have read this recipe a dozen times, but I also read other pot pie recipes and therefore got confused which one I was following. I just realized I need to boil the potatoes for 10 minutes. Which I should have started when I began the cream sauce.
So I quickly put a pot of salted water on the stove and tried to will it to boil faster than humanly possible. My "cream" mixture is now ready, my vegetables are not. So I turned the heat off and covered the cream - I'm going back to stir it every 2-3 minutes to make sure it doesn't fall apart, separate or get so thick my spoon can stand up straight in it.
The potatoes are boiling now, just 10 minutes to go then I remove them.
Add the carrots and asparagus tops to boil for a quick five minutes.
Dice your chicken into bite size pieces.
Add to cream mixture along with actual CREAM.

Add veggies and parsley to the cream mixture.
I added the potatoes last so they didn't get stirred to death and fall apart.
I pulled the chilled dough out of the fridge and cut into four pieces.
With one fourth of the dough I began to roll it out into a circle. And this is where disaster struck. The dough was not pulled together like I had thought. It was way too dry and fell apart. How could I have fixed this?
I am sick to my stomach.

I was so frustrated at this point. So I put my thinking cap on and pulled out a can of biscuits to use as my pastry puff.
Divide mixture evenly into four serving bowls. Now, I think the ramekins that Ina used were much larger. I like this size ramekins, but only have three (should have four but not sure where the other one is right now.) Top with pastry, or in my case, a biscuit. ...sigh...
Brushed the tops with a beaten egg and a little water. Sprinkled with sea salt and pepper. Into the oven at 400 for 10 minutes.

Bingo! Flaky and golden crust.

This tasted really good. I wish I could have got the pastry right, but I will definitely try again when I'm not so pissed off. The biscuits worked great in a pinch and I will make sure to have these on hand again in the future. Glad I made pancakes this morning and not biscuits and gravy!


  1. Oh I am sorry your pastry was such a pain! I think biscuits were an inspired back up though! Your pies look great and I learned a lot about absinthe from your post!

  2. Your pot pie looks fantastic! I would have probably used the biscuits from the get go, making pastry intimidates me!! I love all the pictures Mandy! And the beer! :)

  3. I added chicken to mine too.

    Your end product looks fab.

  4. Looks delicious! Great idea to add the chicken - I don't think my husband would eat it otherwise LOL. I'm making mine tonight so hopefully I have success with the pastry - although that isn't my strong suit.

  5. I like the part where you opened the beer first. I just drank the wine! :)
    Your pies look good even if the pastry wouldn't cooperate.

  6. Such a fun post! Way to save the day with the biscuit topping! I think your finished product looks incredible.

  7. I thought the pot pie sounded delicious. I've never thought about using fennel and asparagus in mine. I bake alot of pies so crust is easy for me now. My first attempt when I was in college looked just like yours and wouldn't stick together for anything. Hints: make sure the butter and shortening are straight from the fridge and in small pieces, once you add the ice water and its as mixed as its going to get dump it out on saran wrap and wrap tightly, throw in the fridge and don't touch it for 30 minutes. I make 15-20 crust this way every xmas and they always turn out fine. Good Luck and don't be intimidated :)

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  9. Wow, props for trying the pastry.
    I started reading your post, freaking out to start because
    1. I didn't know what kind of cuisinart tool you were using (lol!)
    2. It wasn't pulsating and the pastry wasn't sticking.
    I was intimidated!
    How much chicken stock should I put in?

    But since you used the biscuits now...

    I can't wait to make this tonight!
    Thanks Mandy

  10. How much chicken stock should I put in?


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