I love food. Everything about it. The flavors, the textures, the colors. The way food brings people together and puts a smile on their faces. Cooking is my hobby; my passion. After a long or stressful day, cooking is one thing that can put me at ease. It's never a chore. Food is an amazing thing and I am still discovering its possibilities. I would be delighted if you would share this journey with me.
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Monday, July 16, 2012
Chicken Pot Pies (An Easy Make Ahead Freezer Meal)
I know I have been absent lately. It's all the moving, painting and housework that keeps me busy. And while in this transitional phase, I haven't been able to cook much. That's not to say I haven't eaten well though. Thanks to freezer chicken pot pies, I am able to have great home cooking without really having a proper kitchen!
Now let's talk about chicken pot pie. I have noticed that they are frequently served without a bottom crust. I've never really understood how a pie without a bottom crust came to be.
Was it for health reasons that the bottom crust was eliminated? Because I really believe it is the crust that makes the pie. The flaky, buttery crust the holds a variety of fillings, both savory and sweet. I mean, if it wasn't for the crust, we would be eating fruit compote, frittatas, creamy chicken stew, and steak and kidney beans in gravy. Don't get me wrong. None of that is bad. But the crust makes it that much better.
So one day, I set out to make Chicken Pot Pies. With crust top and bottom. And I froze some of them which came in incredibly handy in times like these.
Chicken Pot Pies
Makes 4 individual pies (approx 5" diameter)
8 slices of Bacon, cut into 1 cm pieces
500 grams Skinless, Boneless Chicken Thighs, cut into chunks
2 cups Carrots, diced 1 cup Celery, diced
1 Large Onion, chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1 tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 tbsp Butter
1/3 cup Flour
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Skim Milk
1 cup Frozen Peas
Juice of 1/2 Large Lemon
Salt and Pepper 1 Egg, beaten
For Pastry Crust (or if you don't want to make crust, you can use puff pastry)
1 1/4 cups Flour (you could use Whole Wheat as I do)
1/8 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Cold Butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp Ice Water
To make the Pastry Crust
In a food processor, mix together flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a course meal. Slowly add the ice water, pulsing just until the dough starts to stick together in a ball. Remove the dough from the processor, form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
To make the Filling
In a large pan, cook the bacon over medium high heat until it starts to brown. Drain the fat. Add the chicken pieces and cook with the bacon for about 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots, onions, bay leaf and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes until veggies start to soften. Add the thyme and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and the milk. Bring up to a boil and let simmer until the sauce is thick enough to easily coat the back of a spoon (5- 8 minutes). Stir in the peas and the lemon juice. Let cool.
While the filling is cooling, take about 1/3 of the pastry dough and set aside. This will be the dough for the tops. Cut the remaining piece into 4. Roll each of the 4 pieces out so that it covers the bottoms and sides of the pie dishes and place gently into the dishes.
Cut the reserved dough (the 1/3 piece) into 4 pieces and roll out so that it will cover the top of the dish.
Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Cover with top crust, pinch edges to seal, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Brush with beaten egg. (At this point, you can wrap and freeze the pies to bake later).
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
To cook pies from frozen, preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Unwrap frozen pot pies and arrange on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until crusts are golden brown, about another 25 minutes.