Is It Fall Yet?

by Matt on September 8, 2006

Fall_yet

Chicken_pot_pie_with_type

I realize it’s not quite Fall yet here in the States, but you know it’s only around the corner. The days are getting shorter, the light hits things differently, and if you must know I’ve already celebrated Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve, and Kwanzaa–all through work, of course. Forgive me if I jump the gun and tell myself Fall is already here; it’s only so I can dive into the rich, savory, hearty foods that autumn brings.

Like almost every other person I know, my introduction to pot pies was through the frozen foods section of the grocery store as a child. Thanks to Swanson, I always thought pot pies arrived pre-made in that light blue box, living in that petite aluminum bowl before making their way into the oven. In fact, I had never really given them much thought, and then it hit me: how on earth could I not go crazy over warm chicken, cream, and tender vegetables all hidden under a perfect, golden baked crust? Shame on me, I thought, and thus I began my exploration under the hood and into these glorious, little savory pies.

Like most good things, magic happens when a few things come together to create something greater than the sums of their parts. A few bites of roasted leftover chicken, some small bits of tender vegetables and some herbs and spices go a long way when baked together in butter and broth. And then there’s the crust. Oh that crust! It’s the absolute best part of a pot pie, and without it it’s just a plate of food living in the cramped quarters of a baking dish.

I’ve seen people get fancy with pot pies, and you’ll never hear me disagree. I love them in every shape and form. But mess with them too much and they become other baked pies; shepherd’s pie, steak and kidney pie, beef pie, etc. Right now I’m craving the pot pie in its most simplest form, created with chicken, stock, butter and vegetables. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t add anything your heart desires. My friend Cindie uses the pot pie as a vehicle to clean out her fridge, adding onions and herbs and anything else that fits. That sounds heavenly! But this week I’m going to stick to the pure and simple, opting for the chicken pot pie of my youth. Minus the small aluminum dish and box, if you don’t mind.

Easy Chicken Pot Pies
This recipe first appeared in the November 1995 issue of Bon Appétit. It’s so simple and foolproof and the perfect base to customize, if you wish. I cannot make a pastry or pie crust if my life depended on it, but you can easily forgo the premade stuff and do it  yourself. And if you crave the freshness of non-frozen veggies you can use those. Get chopping!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
8 ounces skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cups canned chicken broth
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

Method
Preheat oven to 425°F. Place crust on work surface. Press out fold lines; pinch to seal any cracks. Cut out 2 pastry rounds to fit top of two 2-cup ramekins. Arrange crusts on baking sheet. Pierce with fork. Bake crusts until golden, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon sage in medium bowl. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to flour; toss to coat. Melt butter in heavy large skillet oven medium-high heat. Add chicken and any remaining flour to skillet and stir until chicken is brown, about 5 minutes. Mix in broth, vegetables and 1 teaspoon sage. Bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat, cover skillet and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer filling to ramekins. Top with crusts and serve.

This makes 2 Servings but can easily be doubled for larger pies, hint hint.