Sunday, January 25, 2009
Chicken Pie, oh my.
(photo by Dan)
At some point I wrote down a simple recipe for Deep-Dish Chicken Pie. Today I took it for a test-drive. Here's a photo that looks like it was taken in a cave (that we ate it after dark was not the fault of the photographer).
(photo by Dan)
Have: dough for 1 pie crust (top crust only)
Cook and dice: 3 carrots
Cook and cut into bite-sized chunks: 2 1/2 - 3 c. chicken breast
Melt: 1/3 c. unsalted butter
Add: 1/3 c. chopped onion and cook until soft.
Stir in: 1/3 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Add: 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
Then add: 2/3 c. half-and-half while stirring until mixture is thickened and bubbly.
Remove pan from heat and add: chicken breast chunks, carrots, 1 c. thawed frozen peas, and 1 (drained) 6-oz. jar sliced mushrooms
Butter: 9-inch pie plate (deep)
Transfer filling to pie plate. Top with pie crust. Cut slits in the top of the pie with a paring knife.
Bake 30-40 minutes at 425 degrees F, until crust is golden brown. Allow to settle 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
I thought I could improve upon the recipe as given. First of all, I knew I'd make my own crust rather than buy one. It's not hard and it's much cheaper. Also, I never eat jarred or canned mushrooms. If I can't afford fresh (or dried, in recipes that call for it), I'll go without. The canned and jarred varieties always seem slimy, rubbery, or both. So for my pie I cooked up sliced baby portobello mushrooms (same price as regular white mushrooms) with the onion.
To improve the experience of putting together my dinner, I also decided to watch Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, starring Ellen Burstyn, while I made the whole thing. These were all good decisions. [By the way, I stopped getting much pleasure out of watching The Academy Awards in 2000 when Burstyn didn't win for Requiem For A Dream (I don't know that I loved the movie, but she was a force to be reckoned with and no one should have beaten her that year).]
My best, recipe-improving decision of all? I cooked the chicken using my all-time favorite method, which I'd like to share with you. It's adapted from Nigel Slater's lovely and inspiring Kitchen Diaries, which can be read like a food-heavy-but-plot-light novel. He roasts whole chickens this way, but since I'm member of a small household I use it with individual chicken breasts (for this recipe, I used three). Bone in. Skin on.
To wit: Choose an oven- and stovetop-safe pan that will just fit the amount of chicken you're making. You don't want it to be too large. Don't give your chicken room to breathe. Massage olive oil, sea salt, and pepper into your chicken breasts or pieces (or whole chicken). Place the chicken in your pan - a whole chicken breast-side down (personally, with only the breasts to work with, I chose skin-side down). Whack this into a 400 degree F oven for just over an hour (could be less time for less than a whole chicken). For the last 20 minutes of cooking, flip your chicken over. Check your internal temp (if you have a meat thermometer) and make sure the juices run clear from the thickest part of your meat to know when it's done.
I threw some rosemary sprigs in the pot to add flavor for this chicken pie, but normally I don't add herbs. Here's something I do add to the chicken every time I make it (this is also Slater's suggestion): Right after you put the pot with the chicken into the oven, break apart but do not peel a whole head of garlic. Drop the unpeeled cloves into a small pot of boiling water. Boil 5 minutes. Drain the water and chuck the unpeeled cloves into your chicken pan in the oven.
When the chicken's cooked, remove it from the pan to let it rest somewhere warm. Mine had to cool so I could cut it into chunks for the pie. Meanwhile, squeeze the roasted garlic out of its papery shells into the bottom of the (unwashed) pot you just used by crushing them with the back of a spoon.
Then put the pot on a burner, add about 2 cups of white wine or vermouth or whatever -- I used some leftover sake, crazy as that seems -- and stir or whisk until you get a lovely gravy. Cook for several minutes, sieve to rid yourself of garlic paper and lumps, and serve over chicken. It's charming on rice, too. For this pie, I used the gravy in place of some of the chicken broth required in the recipe.
Oh, yum, you guys. Seriously do this.