Archive for July 18th, 2009

Chicken pot pie

I’ve been staying at my daughter Stacey’s house this summer so that I can babysit my grandson. Being a teacher has a wonderful perk. It’s called summer vacation ! It’s been grand. I enjoy making dinner for her and her husband and often times my husband Larry joins us.

It was the end of the month and I was watching my pennies so I could stay on budget until my next paycheck arrived. What could I make that would feed the four of us for the least amount of money? I asked Marcus, her husband, if he had ever eaten a homemade chicken pot pie. His answer was “No” but then he started telling me about eating freshly baked frozen meat pies from the market. His beautiful big eyes rolled with pleasure describing this experience. I’ve witnessed numerous reactions like his at the mere mention of eating these delectable pies. There is this incredible anticipation waiting for it to come out of the oven and then a feeling of awe when breaking into that hot flaky crust and seeing the steam rise from the chicken with all that yummy gravy. Even though those pies were store bought and frozen and the filling was scant, it was the gravy with those bits of meat, carrots and peas housed in hot crust that made us swoon. In our house we served each pie with a scoop of rice so we could capture every drop of that savory gravy.

Over the years I’ve made my own pie with freshly cut up chicken. However lately, I’ve been using the meat from an already roasted store bought chicken. It’s been saving me time AND money. Starting with one roasted chicken weighing about 5 pounds I’ve found that I can make a number of dishes that serve 8-12 people using different parts of the bird. Individual sized frozen pies cost about $2.50 apiece.
I can make two 9 inch deep dish chicken potpies that will serve 6-8 generously with enough breast meat left over to make curried chicken salad for 3-4 sandwiches for the cost of one bird. My local Costco store sells freshly roasted chicken for $4.99 apiece. Now THAT’S a bargain. My pies also have lots more meat and veggies than the store bought ones. So,not only was I making a better pie but I was also saving a substantial amount of money.

In preparation for making my pie I walked down to my local produce stand to pick up the vegetables needed for it. Luckily I found a bag of cremini mushrooms on sale for just $1 a bag. I looked through the bag to make sure they were not slimy. They were marked down because the caps were open. Otherwise they looked fresh and without any brown spots. Since I was planning to use them that night they would be fine. There are bargains to be found on day old shelves at good produce stands as long as you are selective in your choice and use whatever you buy within a few days.

I typically make my own pie crust but the local market had ready made piecrust on sale so I bought them instead. Each box had two pie shells so I bought two boxes. I knew that even if I had bought fresh mushrooms and made my own crust I would still be within budget but I’ve been taking advantage of every opportunity to save money and when a bargain stares me in my face, why ignore it ?

Back home I stripped the chicken down to its bone. The dark meat from the thighs, drumsticks and back were set aside for the pie. The breast meat would be used for chicken salad and the bones to make a stock for the gravy. I made a pot of my “Pumped up chicken stock”* and set it over the stove to boil and simmer for 30 minutes while I prepped the vegetables. I also saved the jelled chicken juices that were at the bottom of the container that the chicken was in. I would use that to enhance the gravy.

I sauteed mushrooms with thyme and garlic and set them aside. Then I sauteed onions, carrots and celery and set them aside as well. In a large stock pot I made a roux with butter and flour, making sure that the flour was cooked thoroughly and added the drained chicken stock. After whisking it till it had bubbled and simmered into a rich gravy I added the vegetables and simmered them together for a few more minutes. Checking to see if the texture of the sauce was about as thick as heavy cream I added the chicken pieces and simmered everything for 2 minutes. I wanted to keep the pieces as whole as possible so I didn’t cook it for long. I tasted a spoonful to see if it needed more salt or pepper. Satisfied with the taste and texture I added the peas without cooking it any further and put the filling aside to cool off while I prepared the pie crust.

Very gently I unrolled each pie crust and placed it on a lightly floured surface. Though not necessary, I like to roll out store bought dough a little bit so that I make sure each piece will hang at least 1 inch over the edge of the pan. With the bottom crust for the pies laid out I ladled the COOLED filling into each pie, making sure the proportions were evenly distributed. I laid the top crust over the filling so that the top edge met the bottom edge and crimped them together. I like to roll the sealed edges a bit forward to make a kind of roped effect but one could also use a fork and press the edges together. That done, I made three V shaped vent holes in the center of each pie to let the steam out and brushed the tops with an egg wash.

The pies were placed on preheated cookie sheets. My brother Mervyn, who once owned a wonderful bakery in San Francisco, taught me that cool technique. This practically insures a crisp bottom crust unless you put in hot filling on a raw dough which I once did. So make sure your filling is cooled off before you ladle it into the pie. Then into the oven the pies went for 30-35 minutes and VOILA ! Two crusty steaming and most aromatic homemade chicken potpies, gravy bubbling through the top were now ready to be devoured !

Hearing the oohing and aahing sounds while eating those pies I felt a warm satisfaction of having made a delicious meal while saving money.

Here is a less long winded recipe for Chicken potpie. Happy eating and saving money!

Chicken Pot Pie makes two 9-inch pies

1 Tablespoon butter
2 ½ cups sliced mushrooms- cremini or button
½ tsp. thyme
½ tsp. black pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
1-cup onion chopped
½ cup celery cut into ½ inch pieces
2 carrots cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ cup butter
6 Tablespoons Flour
3 cups Pumped up chicken broth*
Jelled chicken juices-optional**
2 ½ cups cooked chicken cut into 2 inch pieces
½ cup fresh or defrosted frozen peas

4 uncooked piecrusts

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

1. Sauté mushrooms in butter until soft and juices are released.
2. Add thyme and black pepper. Sauté for 1 minute longer. Set aside.
3. Sauté onions and cook until soft and yellow. Add carrots and celery and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
4. Melt butter and add flour to make a roux.
5. Over medium high heat, whisk the flour and fat together until it is bubbly.
6. Add the chicken stock and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and thickened to a heavy cream consistency.
Add jelled chicken juices. Let this gravy simmer for 3-4 minutes.
7. Lower heat and add vegetables except for peas and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
8. Add the cooked chicken pieces. Simmer for JUST 2 minutes. Do not overcook.
9. Add peas, taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Set aside and COOL THOROUGHLY before putting in piecrust.
10. Ladle equal amounts of filling into prepared pie shells. Place the top crust over the filling.
11. Seal edges together and crimp together with fingers or fork tines.
12. Cut 3 V shaped vent holes in center of each pie crust and brush with egg wash made from one scrambled raw egg and 2
Tablespoons water.
13. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees or until top is browned.

Serve with rice to sop up all the gravy.

*See prior blog posting for recipe- regular chicken broth can be used.
** juices from roasted chicken that have collected at bottom of container or
roasting pan.

chicken pot pie

chicken pot pie

Pie with a scoop of rice-Yum!

Pie with a scoop of rice-Yum!


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