GAIL MONAGHAN

COOKING - ENTERTAINING - LINENS

May

Gail Monaghan

CLASSIC CHICKEN INDIVIDUAL POT PIES

with a Seafood Pot Pie Variation

About the Recipe

Even the ancient Romans found it hard to resist succulent ingredients lusciously sauced and encased in flakey, golden pastry. They concocted savory pot pies brimming with game birds, chicken, venison and/or rabbit even before inventing their sweet-version cousins. 

My personal pot pie memories are more basic.  As a small child, my favorite dinner was classic Swansen’s eaten in front of  the Mickey Mouse Club on “maid’s night out”. Though my addiction to The Mouseketeers and Swansen’s was soon outgrown, my basic love of crusty treats was not.

Just out of college, assisted by The Joy of Cooking, I taught myself to make chicken pot pies and then moved right on to variations. A fortuitous discovery was how cleverly the pot pie dealt with leftovers. Favorite stews, fricassees, roast vegetables, and even pastas were crowd-pleasers when redished inside crust.

These homemade creations were well-received, but two imperfections persisted. Bottom crusts absorbed liquid from fillings and turned limp. In addition, getting the filling piping hot and and the pastry simultaneously baked to golden, crispy perfection was above my pay grade. 

Seeking solutions, I recalled The Brown Derby’s signature pot pies from my California childhood and checked out the legendary eatery’s 1949 cookbook. An ah-hah moment came when I read that they eliminated the bottom crust entirely. Less was more and sogginess averted. Even more user-friendly, their top crust was a simple piece of cut-out pastry that could be brainlessly baked up to a day ahead, reheated last minute, and laid atop the bubbling filling just before serving.

Whether planning an intimate Sunday supper, a elegant extravaganza, or something in between, individual pot pies or generous portions taken from a larger whole are the quintessential one-dish main course. Easy as pie: Just follow with cheese and a salad before dessert.

The chicken classic below—chock full of freshly cooked poultry and vegetables in a subtly seasoned béchamel--evokes a spring garden. The Cote d’Azur seafood pie is robust and also gorgeous, with pale pink shrimp, creamy scallops, and taupe mushrooms all set off by saffron-yellow sauce and green peas. 

Try one of these recipes or be creative with fridge leftovers (adding a bit of liquid if the rejiggered filling seems to dry). You can’t go wrong. Everything tastes better topped with crust.

NOTE: Both recipes can be made as one large pie if desired.


My Classic Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 10-12

Time: about 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 recipes ‘The Brown Derby Crust for Pot Pies’ (below)

For poaching the chicken:

  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs

  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

  • Several sprigs of fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

For the mushrooms:

  • 4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 2  pounds white button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the vegetables:

  • 6 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 3 large onions, peeled and diced

  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin rounds

  • 3 ribs celery, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise

  • Several sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • One 10-ounce bag frozen pearl onions (thawed)

  • One 10-ounce bag frozen green peas (thawed)

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 6 tablespoons brandy or sherry or a mixture

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or to taste

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

  • Large pinch cayenne pepper

  • 1/3 cup minced chives and/or fresh parsley

NOTE: You will need 10-12 ramekins that are approximately 4 inches high and 5 inches across.

Method

  1. Place the chicken pieces in a large saucepan. Pour the stock over. If it does not cover the chicken, add more till it does. Add smashed garlic and thyme.

  2. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the chicken is done, about 8 minutes. Don’t overcook.

  3. Transfer the chicken and garlic to a large platter, and reserve the broth in the saucepan. Add or subtract broth so you have exactly 4 cups.

  4. While the chicken is cooking, start the mushrooms: put 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet set over high heat. When melted, add sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper. Add more butter if needed. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are very tender, about 15 minutes. Add tablespoons of water along the way if too dry. Add cooked mushrooms to the chicken on the platter.

  5. Wipe out skillet and add 4 tablespoons of butter. Set over medium –high heat. When the butter has melted, add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and beginning to color, about 15-20 minutes. Add pearl onions and peas and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add vegetables to the platter.

  6. While the vegetables are cooking, bring the reserved broth to a simmer,. Place the remaining 1 stick of butter in a saucepan—large enough to everything on the platter plus the sauce—over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and cook, stirring for two minutes. Whisk in the hot broth vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook 1 minute and then add the milk and any accumulated juices on the platter. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce fully thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the liquor and cook 1 minute more. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and cayenne.

  7. While the vegetables are cooking, bring the reserved broth to a simmer,. Place the remaining 1 stick of butter in a saucepan—large enough to everything on the platter plus the sauce—over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and cook, stirring for two minutes. Whisk in the hot broth vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook 1 minute and then add the milk and any accumulated juices on the platter. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce fully thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the liquor and cook 1 minute more. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and cayenne.

  8. Place the pot pie covers on a baking sheet and place in the oven to warm.

  9. Divide chicken mixture among ramekins or pot pie dishes. If the mixture is no longer hot, turn the oven up to 350 and return the filled ramekins to the oven until they are. Cover with the reheated pre-baked pastry covers. Serve immediately.


SEAFOOD POT PIE

Serves 8

Time: about 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter divided into three 1/4 cup portions

  • 3 celery ribs, thinly sliced

  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered

  • 12 large white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black paper to taste

  • 2 cups frozen green peas, thawed

  • 18 large raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and split lengthwise

  • Six 2-ounce pieces of halibut, monkfish, or cod 

  • 9 large sea scallops, halved horizontally

  • 18 large fresh oysters removed from their shells

  • 2 tomatoes diced

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives

  • 2 cooked lobster tails, each cut into 6 equal pieces to produce 12 pieces in all

  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives

  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon plus more to taste

  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup light cream

  • Large pinch of saffron dissolved in 1 cup strong fish or shellfish stock

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • a few drops of Tabasco sauce to taste

  • The Brown Derby’s Pastry for Covered Pies (recipe follows)

NOTE: If you cannot find all the seafood, you can substitute with more of the ones you do find. You will need 8 ramekins or pot pie dishes 4 inches high and approximately 5 inches across. Or this can be made as one large pot pie

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200. Melt 1/4 cup of the butter in a large skillet or saute pan set over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and the garlic and cook, stirring frequently until softened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper, and cook about 10 minutes more until all vegetables are tender. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large heatproof bowl. Place in the oven to keep warm.

  3. Melt the second 1/4 cup of butter in the same pan over high heat. When the butter foam begins to subside add the shrimp and the fish and sauté, stirring until the fish begins to color and the shrimp turn red. Add the scallops and salt to taste and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Then add the oysters and lobster pieces and cook for 1 minute more. Make sure all the seafood is just cooked through.

  4. Transfer the seafood mixture to the bowl containing the cooked vegetables and toss together with the tomato, chives and lemon juice. Keep warm in the oven.

  5. Place the pot pie covers and the ramekins on a baking sheet and place in the oven to warm.

  6. Melt the remaining ¼ cup butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring for 3 minutes. Whisk in the cream, saffron-infused stock, and thyme and cook, stirring until thickened. If too thick add a bit more cream. If too thin, whisk in one or two eggs yolks. If yolks are added be careful not to boil or the sauce will curdle. Off heat season with salt, pepper, Tabasco Sauce and lemon juice. Fold the sauce gently into the cooked seafood and vegetables. Adjust seasoning. At this point you can continue with the recipe or cool the mixture and refrigerate for up to 24  hours before continuing.

  7. Divide the seafood and vegetable mixture among ramekins or pot pie dishes. If no longer hot, turn the oven up to 350 and return the filled ramekins to the oven until they are. Cover with the reheated prebaked pot pie covers. Serve immediately.


BROWN DERBY PASTRY FOR COVERED PIES

Makes enough pastry for 8 individual pot pies

Time: about 20 minutes plus resting time and 20 minutes to bake

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour (I like to use 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour ½ cup whole wheat flour)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water

  • 1 egg yolk whisked together with 1 tablespoon cream

Method

  1. Place the flour and salt together in a food processor and process fifteen seconds to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter pieces are the size of small peas.

  2. Add 4 tablespoons ice water all at once through the feed tube, and process until the dough just begins to come together. Do not let it form a ball. If dough is too dry to come together, add more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time.

  3. Form the dough into a ball and then press into a disk. Place the disk between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper and roll to about a 1/3-inch thickness. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

  4. Using a 5-inch saucer or bowl rim as a template, cut the dough into eight circles. Refrigerate the cut circles for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer or overnight.

  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 F. Place the circles on 1 or 2 baking sheets, paint them with a bit of egg yolk mixture, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Once cool, these pie tops will keep 2-3 days at room temperature.

NOTE: Well-wrapped, the circles may be frozen for up to two months. They can be baked right from the freezer. If frozen, baking time will be a few minutes longer.