Saturday, October 13, 2012

American Pie

 When blogger Steve Cotton was visiting Pátzcuaro recently, he wrote about having an excellent chicken pot pie at the Restaurant La Esquina del Sol, We had originally read about it from The Unseen Moon of Felipe Zapata,.

Dining at the Esquina del Sol is something like going to a suburban restaurant in the northwest Arkansas Ozarks. But this post is not a review of the restaurant.

I knew that if these two caballeros recommended it, it must be good. But as an experienced cook, I have my pride, and I have made chicken pot pie several times in the past. It can be challenging to get all the ingredients lined up, assembled in good order, and baked to be served at the right moment. But if carried out well, the results are very worthwhile.  I wanted to make it for a company comida, and to exceed my previous efforts.

For my basic text, I went to James Beard's American Cookery. There is a straightforward old fashioned CPP recipe. I found a more elaborate version on the Net. Elements of another recipe from SAVEUR were referenced.

I'll break down this ambitious project into its primal elements.

Chicken stock. The real stuff, made from chicken bony parts, giblets and aromatic vegetables. You need to do this well in advance, so it's out of the way and you can remove the layer of fat from the surface.

Chicken meat. I prefer to work with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I like the boneless, skinless chicken breasts by Bachoco, as sold in Costco. I may try muslos (thighs) next time. I used one package, about 1 1/2 pounds, and with the supporting vegetables, it yielded one large and one small CPP.

Vegetables. Carrots, onion and celery are requisite. Baby onions (cebollitas), mushrooms and peas are nice enhancements, but increase the complexity of the project. So do potatoes, but they may be worth the effort. You could use papas chicas, (baby potatoes, but avoid the purple ones, as the dye comes off in the cooking water. On the other hand, they will be tedious to peel.)

Pastry crust. A good, made from scratch, lard-butter-flour crust, rich enough to be tasty but sturdy enough to hold up.

Here's the recipe referenced above, with my changes noted. (You do know that Don Cuevas is seldom satisfied to follow a recipe as is?)

Chicken Pot Pie - James Beard
(My notes are in italics.)

1 bunch parsley — pluck the stems off and discard, except when using in stock making.
1, 3–4-lb. chicken — I used 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which do not need to be simmered longer than 12 minutes, covered, then left covered off heat for 30 to 60 minutes.
1 pint pearl onions, blanched and peeled— use "cebollitas"
2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2" slices
1/2 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut in 1" dice— Two, medium potatoes
1/4 lb. sugar snap peas, trimmed—Unavailable, so I used 250 grams frozen peas and carrots
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped—Live it up! Use two.
1/4 lb. white mushrooms, quartered—1 pound, or 500 grams
4 TBS butter—Keep plenty of butter handy. You'll need it.
2 TBS all-purpose flour—More, probably.
1 cup heavy cream— Here's a trick: I don't use cream, believe it or not, as it's too rich. I used Nido brand Leche Entera en Polvo, dissolved in water. It's plenty rich and good tasting. 

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
A pinch or two of leaf thyme is nice.
1 recipe Pot Pie Pastry— The recipe below is good, but I made a couple of significant changes .
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 TBS water

Chop enough parsley to fill 1/4 cup; set aside. Place remaining parsley, chicken, and half the onions in a large pot with water to cover; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes. Remove chicken; cool. Pull off meat in like-size pieces; place in a large bowl. Return bones to pot; simmer 1 hour. Strain stock; return to pot over medium heat. Cook carrots, potatoes, sugar snaps, and remaining onions in stock, in batches, just until tender, adding as cooked to chicken. (You can do it this way, or you can make a separate, dedicated and richer chicken stock in advance.)

Preheat oven to 450°. Cook garlic and mushrooms in 1 TBS of the butter in a small skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add to chicken mixture. In the same skillet, melt remaining 3 TBS butter and sprinkle in flour. Stir constantly over medium heat, 2–3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup stock until thickened. Remove from heat and add cream. Add chopped parsley, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Gently stir sauce into chicken mixture.

Prepare pastry. Line a 9" pan with pastry (notes), fill with chicken mixture, and cover with top pastry. Crimp edges, cut a vent in top, and brush with egg wash. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, and continue baking until crust is browned, about 35 minutes.

1. I do not use a bottom crust, thereby avoiding the possibility of a soggy bottom. You can do as you like.

2. Another tip is to let the pie filling cool before assembling it.

3. Another is to bake the pies on a lipped baking tray with aluminum foil or baking parchment underneath, to make cleanup much easier.

Pot Pie Pastry


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps sugar, optional
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 lb. chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chilled shortening —I used manteca de cerdo (lard), from our favorite carnicería. This makes a very flaky short crust.

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add butter and shortening, and cut into flour with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 4–5 TBS ice water, until dough just holds together.

Divide into 2 uneven balls: two-thirds for the bottom crust and one-third for the top. Pat each into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the dough to rest.

Roll out on a floured surface to fit a 9" pie pan. Fill and bake according to pot pie recipe.

SERVES 6 – 8
Adapted from James Beard’s American Cookery - Saveur Issue #8

Here's the larger of the two chicken pot pies that I made. I suggest bread and butter pickles as an accompaniment. Unfortunately, I forgot to put them out.

Chicken Pot Pie
We accompanied the pie with other dishes.

Boston Baked Beans and Brown Bread. Kind of superfluous, but good.
Fat and mayo free cole slaw

Since I was making pies, I made a Deep Dish Apple and a Peach Pie.

It was all the epitome of American comfort food.
Amazingly, we had very few leftovers, as we gave our guests some to take home. 


Leslie Limon said...

This is one dinner party I would have loved to attend. Everything looks delicious! And I have a weakness for Chicken Pot Pie. :)

Steve Cotton said...

If you are trying to draw me back to the highlands with food, you are surpassing your goal. It all looks great.

Andean said...

I just had chicken pot pie this week for lunch--swanson. Surely not as tasty as yours, but it works. And the crust on the bottom, yum.

tancho said...

Mighty good looking cpp, but a lot of work!

DonCuevas said...

Sí, mucho trabajo, pero valío la pena.

Don Cuevas

DonCuevas said...

I used to like Marie Callender's frozen Turkey pies or the White Meat Chicken with broccoli.

Saludos, Don Cuevas

DonCuevas said...

Other days, other chickens.

(Our landlords came over about an hour ago and retrieved their errant hen.)

Saludos, Don Cuevas

DonCuevas said...

Ojalá que puedes, comer aquí, Leslie.

Tomorrow wil be black pepper and whiskey flavored roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes, butter steamed brussels sprouts.
Saludos, Don Cuevas

DonCuevas said...

I should write the whole menu.
We didn't have any appetizers, which was just as well, as the meal was so filling.

We drank some Sarmientos de Tarapacua Chilean vino tinto, then moved to a sparkling version of the agua fresca de tunas moradas that we'd had when Steve was here.

Then came the big CPP, the baked beans and brown bread and the coleslaw.

After a pause, we had dessert: Deep Dish apple or Peach Pie or both. We were joined by other friends at dessert time.

Saludos, Don Cuevas