I love old cookbooks because it’s where the classics became classics. But, I also love messing with those same classic recipes. Yes, these days you can go to any semi-fancy dining establishment and get a “deconstructed” whatever. I’m not talking about that level of mess. I’m talking about getting into the heart of a recipe and tinkering around until it becomes something you’d want to eat.
Let’s take the basic chicken pot pie for this example. Typically, a pot pie is an entire pie (top and bottom crust), but I find that the bottom bit gets soggy. So, I remove that portion (not unheard of…many American recipes omit the bottom crust). My husband isn’t a fan of onions, so I try to limit their existence in whatever I make. For those of you who have read previous posts, you know I hate peas with a passion. But, even I give them a bit of leeway.
How do you mess with a classic recipe? Take to the internet and find a recipe that fits your cooking style, ingredients, and difficulty level. Then, make it. Again and again and again. I took Ina Garten’s chicken pot pie recipe and made it suit my own tastes. Ina’s original recipe (at the link) is crazy large (it says four individual pot pies, but it was more like four large pot pies and six child sized pies). My severely modified recipe is below.
Individual Chicken Pot Pies
- 2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, chopped
- 5 C chicken stock
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- ¾ C all-purpose flour
- ¼ C heavy cream
- 3 C medium-diced carrots, microwave for 3 minutes (basically, you want them a bit soft so that they aren’t crazy crunchy in the pie)
- 1 (16-oz) package frozen peas (keep them frozen)
- 1 bunch fresh parsley leaves, minced
- 1 t fresh thyme leaves (or ½ t dried)
- 1 box refrigerated pie crusts (so two shells, softened as the box says)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Salt and pepper the chicken breast bits. Cook them in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat. OR, you can use plain leftover chicken from some other meal. Just make sure that it’s in chunks and not ground chicken. You should have 1½ – 2 cups after cooking.
In a very large pot (at least 4 qt, but an 8 qt would be best), heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cube in the stock. Pour the stock into a measuring cup or bowl with a spout (something from which it is easy to pour). Once the pot is empty, melt the butter and sauté the onion and celery over medium-low heat for 10 – 15 minutes, until translucent.
Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. (You’re basically making a blonde roux with added veggies. So, make sure there aren’t any uncooked bits of flour hanging around.) Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for a few minutes, stirring, until thick. Add ½ t salt, ½ t pepper, and the heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, parsley, and thyme. Mix well.
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Place your bowls or ramekins on a large cookie sheet. Divide the filling equally among them.
Roll out the dough and divide evenly for the number of bowls you have. Place the dough on each bowl and crimp the edges by folding it over the side, pressing to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash (1 beaten egg and a touch of that heavy cream you’ll have leftover in the fridge) and make 1-3 slits in the top. (If you don’t make the slits, the dough will vent where it wants to vent—making a messy presentation. See the photo below for one messy version. I did it as an example. OK, not really. I forgot to make the slit.)
Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.
The first time I made Ina’s original recipe, it came out way too salty. So, I toned down the bullion and extra salt. Then, it was bland so I upped the parsley and added thyme. I played around with the veggie mix as well. I’d say this is a pretty flexible recipe. It could probably even go veg-friendly by substituting potatoes or other root vegetables for the chicken.
In the picture, you’ll see the six small pot pies that I made for Mr. Moo (omit the sea salt on top for babies). In addition to these six, I had four “adult” size portions plus enough remaining to probably do an extra adult pie (ran out of ramekins, darn it). They re-heat pretty well. (I’d suggest doing it in the oven rather than the microwave. You’ll have better crust integrity if that way.) They also freeze nicely. You just have to remember to defrost them inside the fridge before baking. And, never put cold Pyrex in a hot oven (just asking for a cracking).