Mr. Scrumptious told me once that he loves chicken pot pie and that he had the "best" of his life at a restaurant in Chicago. Since that day, I've been on a quest to beat it, outdo it, make one that he qualifies as the Best. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the culinary memory that I do and can't tell me exactly how it was made and what about it was so sublime. He also doesn't remember the restaurant. If any Chicagoans are reading this and you know the place that's famed for its Chicken Pot Pie, please enlighten me. I'll fly out just to sample it. And then promptly, try to re-create it.
While this doesn't surpass his ultimate favorite, this one is apparently a VERY close runner-up. He gave it an 8 out of 10. (No one ever gets a 10 by the way). Here is my variation on the "Almost Ultimate Chicken Pot Pie".
Makes 2 pot pies
1 1/2 c. cubed cooked or roasted chicken
6 T. unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, chopped
2 purple fingerling potatoes, chopped
2 baby zucchini, chopped
2 fresh asparagus spears, chopped
1/2 celery stalk, chopped
2 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/3 c. frozen peas
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine
3 oz. Stilton or other mild bleu cheese
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 c. chicken stock, best with leftover baking juices
1 bay leaf
1/2 T. flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Pastry (see below)
1 large egg
1. Prepare the Cream Cheese Pastry (below) and refrigerate.
2. Meanwhile, prepare all the vegetables and cooked chicken and stock. Preheat oven to 425˚F. In a large frying pan, melt 3 T. butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sweat until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the carrot, potato, zucchini and continue cooking another 4 minutes. Next, add the asparagus and celery and stir together. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper. When vegetables are becoming slightly soft, add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook until the mushrooms turn brown and begin giving off their liquid. Add the peas and 1/4 c. white wine and scrape any bits that may have carmelized. Add the Stilton cheese and stir to incorporate. Taste again, adjust seasonings (remember you'll be adding stock though, which has varying degrees of salt. Go easy on salt here). Turn off heat when vegetables are softened but still have some texture and set aside.
3. Melt 3 T. butter and the flour in another large saucepan to make a roux. Cook the roux about 2 minutes, until you smell a good nutty aroma and not the raw flour smell. Whisk in the stock and another 1/4 c. white wine, bay leaf, parsley and salt or pepper to taste. Simmer until sauce has thickened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the cooked chicken and stir through to incorporate. Remove the bay leaf. Add the cooked vegetables and stir to mix thoroughly. Transfer to a baking dish to let the filling cool while you roll out and prepare crust.
4. Roll out the dough to a size 1 inch larger in diameter than the baking dish, to a thickness of 1/4". Pour the filling into your vessel. I like using individual French onion soup crocks, they're perfect! Press the pastry dough over the top of the baking vessel and crimp around the edges.
5. Beat the egg with 1 T. cold water and brush the egg wash on the surface of the pastry dough. With a sharp knife, put a few slits in the dough to vent the steam.
6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the dough has risen and begun to brown. Turn down the heat to 350˚F and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the dough is a deep brown. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
For the crust I used a dough recipe from Mitchell Davis in his cookbook Kitchen Sense. While I rarely cook with others' recipes, I do often bake with them since I'm not nearly so accomplished a baker. This dough was terrific and very light, flaky and delicate. It is similar in texture to those you get with lard or shortening but without that pure animal-fat or greasy taste. I found it much better than others I've tried and it was also extremely easy to roll-out. I had nearly perfect-circle-Food-Network-dough whereas usually it looks like a kindergarten project. For the pot pies, you use half the recipe. I froze the other half and used it for a lovely tart you'll see in my next post.
Here's Mr. Davis's recipe for his Cream Cheese Pastry. Full recipe here, for pot pies use half!
Makes 1 lb. dough for two 9-inch tarts
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. (6 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1. In a bowl, blend the butter and cream cheese until combined.
2. Add the flour and work to a smooth dough.
3. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or until firm enough to roll out.
Note: The dough will keep in the refrigerator for three days or in the freezer for up to six months. Defrost overnight before using.