Mary Anne here. When my children were toddling tots, I struggled to find a dinner that pleased all three of them and their dad as well. Ravioli, Linguini with Clam Sauce, Chicken/Turkey Potpie, and Chicken Tenders were about the only choices they could all grudgingly agree upon. (Note: The links for Ravioli and Linguini with Clam Sauce are Mariel’s new spins on our family favorites and not necessarily kid-friendly! But you never know…)
The potpies that my wee wonders enjoyed were fairly simple and uncreative – by no means the improved, fresh version I now prepare the day after Thanksgiving. The one I threw together for my brood consisted of frozen mixed veggies, leftover poultry, and a basic white sauce. If I was feeling adventurous while trying to tweak their pitifully pallid palates, I’d sneak some fresh thyme or sage into the mix.
Thankfully, they’ve all developed into grownups with their own gustatory passions and these days we compete in the kitchen to see who can produce the most creative – well – creation. Mariel shares her brilliance here on Feast, while one of her brothers, who refuses to allow us to say his name (starts with a T), chooses to remain behind the kitchen partition while throwing down his own masterful spatula and challenging me on a regular basis!
This rendition of a most basic comfort food is a more ambitious endeavor than my basic Turkey Potpie, which utilizes Thanksgiving leftovers, but my newest spin is absolutely worth the extra steps. I decided to forgo traditional potatoes and swapped in a sweet potato. Feeling flush, I bought fresh herbs reminiscent of my mom’s Turkey Stuffing and, as a leek lover, I chose these more expensive roots over the lowly yellow onion. Baby Portobella mushrooms were on sale, and mindful of a son-in-law mad about mushrooms, these too were tossed into the mix. I’m not a fan of peas so I decided string beans could add their verdant color. The result was nothing less than dramatic in the potpie’s rich and creamy sauce, and perfectly poached shredded chicken.
One last thing about this seemingly simple home-cooked staple – I was LAZY. I just didn’t feel like preparing a homemade crust and opted to spend the bucks on puff pastry. I wasn’t sorry since it added a certain elegance to this otherwise familiar family fare. If you want to save a few dollars – and really, who doesn’t – swap out the puff pastry and prepare your own dough.
Added bonus: the filling can be prepared the day before. If you don’t feel like fussing with a homemade pie crust or puff pastry, the filling is perfect as a Creamed Chicken a la King over vol-au-vents, Popovers, or homemade biscuits.
Chicken Pot Pie
Creamed Chicken a la King
Tip: The filling can be made the day before. Allow to cool completely and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature, about 1 hour before baking.
4 lbs. chicken breasts, with skin and bones – $9.22
6 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium broth – $3.99
4 Tablespoons sweet butter, sliced – stock
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice – $0.99
1 large sweet potato or baking potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice – $1.58
2 large leeks, rinsed thoroughly to remove the sand; chopped white and pale green parts only – $2.49
2 large shallots, finely diced – $1.49
1½ cups sliced portobella or button mushrooms – $2.00
1 cup green beans, quartered – $0.69
1 Tablespoon fresh savory, chopped, or 2 Teaspoons dried – stock
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped, or 2 Teaspoons dried – stock
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, or 2 teaspoons dried – stock
½ cup flour – stock
½ cup cooking sherry – stock
½ cup heavy cream – $1.69
1 sheet of puff pastry dough, defrosted according to package directions – $3.29
For the egg wash:
1 egg – stock
2 Tablespoons water
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $27.43
Total Per Serving: $2.74
1. Butter or spray a 9 x 13 x 2 inch casserole dish.
2. Place the chicken breasts in a large stockpot. Cover with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil; reduce the flame and simmer covered, for 40 minutes.
3. Using tongs or a large fork, transfer the chicken to large platter. When cool enough to handle, remove the bones and skin from the breasts and shred or cut up the poached chicken into bite-size chinks.
4. In the same cooking stock, add the carrots and sweet potatoes. Simmer uncovered, until fork tender, about 12 minutes. Toss in the green beans and continue cooking for about 1 minute, just until bright green but still very crisp.
5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Strain the broth through a large colander, lined with cheesecloth, into a bowl. Reserve 4 cups of the stock/broth and set aside.
6. Using the same stockpot, melt the butter over medium flame. Add the leeks, shallots, and herbs, stirring well to combine. Sauté about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté an additional 3 or 4 minutes until the veggies are tender.
7. Add the flour to the leek mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the reserved stock and sherry. Increase the flame to medium-high, and stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Stir in the heavy cream and continue to boil, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 5 to 8 minutes. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.
8. Pour the creamed leek mixture over the carrot and sweet potato mixture, stirring well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool for about 45 minutes or so before topping with the puff pastry. (It will melt and be difficult to handle if you don’t wait.)
Note: If preparing this for Creamed Chicken over biscuits or popovers, return to the stockpot and gently heat through. Serve warm over the biscuit of your choice.
9. Position the oven rack in the middle. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg and water.
10. Lightly flour a large piece of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin dusted with flour, roll out the puff pastry to 11 x 15 rectangle.
11. Using the edges of the parchment, lift the dough and turn over onto the top of the filled casserole. Tuck the pastry down into the sides of the pan.
12. Using a pastry brush, lightly paint the dough with the egg wash. Cut slits in the dough to vent the pastry.
13. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the crust is golden and puffed and the filling is bubbling. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.