Back when I was cooking at Café Boulud, I had a vegetable-truffle pot pie on the menu. It was this rich, yummy veggie dish—but eight times out of ten, people would ask me to add chicken. People just really, really love chicken pot pie. (Sorry, vegetarians: you lose this one.) Old-school chicken pot pie is made with biscuit dough on top, but I’m not a fan of that: biscuit dough is really heavy, and it gets mushy when it falls into the pie. Nobody, really, likes mushy chicken pot pie. In this recipe, I’ve changed it up. The dough here is more like a cracker—so when you break into the pot pie, you get something a lot like crackers and soup. And who doesn’t like crackers and soup? My dough is ridiculously easy, but you need to make it the night before: this is definitely a two-step process. And be careful to cut all the vegetables to the same size, so they cook evenly. You don’t want to be biting into undercooked or overmushy veggies. I like to do the pot pies in individual casseroles, so everybody gets lots of dough, but you can also make it in one big casserole.
Makes 4 pot pies, pr 1 large pot pie that serves 4
FOR THE DOUGH
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) salted butter
3 1/2 cups all-purpose fl our, plus some for flouring your work surface
1/2 teaspoon salt
FOR THE FILLING
6 chicken legs (about 3 pounds)
7 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
5 tablespoons salted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose fl our
5 small carrots, or 2 to 3 large carrots, peeled and
chopped (1 cup)
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium celery stalks, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms (about 12 mushrooms),
stems removed, caps quartered (2 cups)
1/2 pound new potatoes, cut into small chunks (1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 cup fresh peas
1 tablepoon chipotle-flavored Tabasco sauce
TO FINISH THE DISH
Pinch of salt
Pinch of fresh-ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
TO MAKE THE DOUGH
Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove so it’s just liquified.
Using a tabletop mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the fl our, salt, butter, and 1/2 cup water.
Mix everything together on medium-low speed (#2 on a KitchenAid) for about 2 minutes, until the mixture forms a rough dough. If it’s too crumbly, add a bit more water; if it’s too wet, add a little more flour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and use your hands to bring it together into a ball; then flatten it out. Knead the dough, pushing it fl at with the heels of your hands, forming it back into a circle, turning and flattening it again, until you have a pretty smooth ball.
Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and let it chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours. (The dough will hold in the fridge for up to 5 days at this point.)
TO MAKE THE FILLING
Combine the chicken legs (skin, bones, and all), chicken broth, salt, and pepper in a large pot and bring it up to a simmer, uncovered, over high heat.
Cook the chicken for about 45 to 50 minutes at a very low simmer, so it poaches instead of boiling (the broth should be at 160° to 170°F).
When a knife goes into the chicken easily and it’s more or less falling off the bone, use a slotted spoon to pull it out of the pot, pile it on a plate, and put it in the fridge to cool down until you’re able to handle it. Don’t dump out the broth! Instead, pour it into a bowl—it’s the key to pot-pie goodness. Use a ladle to skim off any fat that rises to the top, so you don’t end up with oily broth. You should have about 6 cups of broth.
Rinse the pot and put it back on the stove. Add the butter, and melt it over low heat.
When the butter has melted, add the flour and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 1 minute, so the butter and flour are completely combined.
Add the chicken broth back to the pot, whisking everything together. Turn the heat up to medium and bring the mixture to a low simmer.
Meanwhile, take the chicken out of the fridge, remove the skin, and pull out the bones. Use your hands to tear the meat into chunks.
Cook the broth for about 5 minutes, so that the taste of the raw fl our disappears and the broth is thick and full of chickeny fl avor. Use a ladle or spoon to skim off any white foam that rises to the top. Then add the carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms, potatoes, and thyme, and continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked but not mushy.
Turn off the heat, and add the peas and chipotle Tabasco. Stir well to combine, and then stir in the chicken meat. You should have a thick, soupy mixture.
(The filling can hold in the fridge for up to a day at this point.)
TO FINISH THE DISH
Take the dough out of the fridge an hour before you’re ready to use it. The dough will be really tough, so you want to bring it to room temperature so it’s easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Here’s the key to this dish: the filling has to be niceand hot, but not boiling. So if you’ve let the filling cool down, return it to the stove and heat it up gently. Flour your work surface, and using either a rolling pin or a pasta roller, roll the dough out as thin as you can get it without tearing it.
Turn your casserole over so it’s face-down on top of the dough. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough about 1 1/2 inches outside the edge of the casserole (so you have a piece of dough that fi ts the casserole and has an overhang). If you’re making individual pot pies, make sure you cut out all your shapes at the same time.
Make an egg wash by whisking the egg, salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons of water together in a small bowl.
Pour the filling into the casserole. (If you’re using individual casseroles, ladle about 11/2 cups into each one.
Make sure you get chicken, vegetables, and broth into every casserole.)
Brush the outside edges and the top lip of the casserole with the egg wash, using a pastry brush (or, working very carefully, with a spoon). Do the same with the outside edges of the dough. Then flip the dough over on top of the casserole so it completely covers the top. You want to get it tight, like a drum, so it closes all the air in. Smooth and tap the edges to make sure it’s all sealed.
Brush the entire surface of the dough with the egg wash, being sure to cover all of the edges (this will help the top of the pot pie come out nice and golden brown). Sprinkle the Parmesan on top.
Put the pot pie (or the individual pot pies) on a baking sheet, and put the sheet on the middle oven rack. Bake for 10 minutes. Then rotate the sheet and bake for another 15 minutes or so, until the pot pie is golden brown and crispy on top. When you cut into it, you’ll see that the pastry is like a dome, with a hollow of air underneath it and the fi lling below that. Do this at the table for maximum chef drama.
From American Flavor, by Andrew Carmellini