Thursday, October 21, 2010

Comfort Food

When the weather starts to cool down my stomach starts to ask for hearty comfort food. And the perfect solution is Chicken Pot Pie.(And we're not talking about those frozen blocks you can buy in your grocer's freezer) This has always been a staple in our household. My kids could eat pot pie every meal. It also keeps well and makes great leftovers.

Chicken Pot Pie is one of those labors of love. It can be a little involved if you are stewing your own chicken, but it is so worth it. It's also easy to prepare the chicken and the filling the day before and then make your biscuits or pie crust and bake the next day after work. Trust me, your family will make you an instant hero when you serve this dish. And it's a good way to put some vegetables down some picky eaters. Who can resist all that great filling and biscuits?

The recipe for this delicious meal follows along with a recipe for easy baking powder biscuits. The pictures above show the Pot Pie made with a flaky butter pie crust, but 95% of the time I put biscuits on the top, that seems to be the favorite crust. While this might look like a lengthy process, I have include some alternate methods which make this a meal you could put on the table in a jiff. Enjoy all the smiles you'll receive.

Chicken Pot Pie
1 chicken stewed and the meat taken off the bone and torn into chunks(reserve the stock) see below
8 cups chicken stock
½ stick butter and ¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 large onion chopped
3 -4 garlic cloves minced
4 carrots halved lengthwise and sliced in ¼ inch pieces
2 medium potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 cup small dry pasta such as Ditalini
1 cup frozen lima beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 recipe pie crust or 1 recipe baking powder biscuits

In a large pot on the stove over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic to this and cook until the onions are wilted about 2 -3 minutes. Stir being careful the garlic does not burn. To this mixture add the flour and whisk together with the onions and garlic until smooth. Keep stirring for a minute or 2 so the flour with cook. Next add about 4 cups of chicken stock and whisk until smooth, add the remaining stock and let it all come to a slow simmer.
When the stock is bubbling slightly, add the carrots, potatoes and pasta. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pasta is al dente and the potatoes are fork tender, approximately 10 minutes. Be sure to stir this mixture frequently as the pasta has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan. When the potatoes and pasta are finished add the lima beans, corn and peas and cook for 6-8 more minutes until they are heated through. If you think your mixture is too thick you can add more broth, but remember, it is a stew and the biscuits will soak up quite a bit of liquid. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chicken.
Pie Crust Version
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray. Roll out the bottom crust to be approximately the size of the pan, place it in the bottom. Don’t try to make it go up the sides, this is just to give a nice crunch bottom. Pour the chicken mixture on top of the bottom crust making sure to leave about ½ inch at the top (you may have extra filling, that’s ok, you can make a small potpie or you can freeze this for another time). Roll out the top crust a little larger than the pan opening and place on the top. I usually crimp the edges down inside the pan, that gives you a little extra crust on the sides. Coat the top of the potpie with egg wash. Place this pan on a baking sheet (this protects your oven in the event of spill overs) and bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Baking Powder Biscuit Version
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray. Pour the chicken mixture into the pan leaving about 1 inch clearance to the top of the pan. Arrange the biscuits on top leaving about ¼ inch between them. It’s ok to have them close, they will just puff up and it’s good to have lots of biscuits when eating. If you like, you can brush a little melted butter on top of the biscuits before baking. Place the pan on a baking sheet (this protects your oven in the event of spill overs) and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Whatever goes. You can use any vegetables you like. I adore lima beans so I put them in everything, but you don’t’ have to. You could add a few fresh mushrooms when you add the potatoes. You can add fresh green beans, asparagus or broccoli. Just cut them in bite size pieces and add to the broth.
If you wanted to make this vegetarian, omit the chicken and substitute vegetable broth.
Here are some shortcuts. Instead of fresh carrots, use a bag of frozen peas and carrots, it works fine. You can also use a bag of frozen vegetables that includes corn, beans, and carrots. If you do not want to go to the trouble of stewing a chicken, buy a rotisserie chicken in the grocery, it works just fine. Then you just need to buy a couple of cartons of chicken broth to substitute for the stock. This is a great short cut and gets food on the table faster.
You can substitute canned biscuits for the topping. You could also substitute pie crust from the refrigerator case in the grocery store.>

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 cups All Purpose Flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the shortening using a pastry blender or 2 knives. Add the milk and stir to mix. The mixture will be a little sticky, if not add a bit more milk, if it’s too sticky add a bit more flour.
Turn out on to a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough into a round about ½ inch thick. Cut using a biscuit cutter dipped in flour or you can use a small drinking glass to cut. Place on an ungreased sheet pan leaving a one inch space between the biscuits. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 – 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Note: You can substitute buttermilk for regular milk, it may take a bit more though. Sometimes I use half milk and half buttermilk, just depends on what I have on hand.>

Here's a biscuit version.

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