Thursday, 3 May 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

What a day of thunderstorms and hail we've had! I was without internet for hours and nearly pacing the floors. How we've come to embrace our technology and all the gadgets we carry around the way we carried around our lipstick and smokes back in the day. No cellphones and laptops and iPads and such back then. Not even cab money. A tube of lipstick was all you needed because if you found yourself stranded, you'd colour up your lips and sit on the curb and smoke until somebody came along to rescue you. Well those days are long gone now. Who knew smoking and red dye were bad for your health? And we certainly didn't even imagine that anything you might eat would come back to haunt you! And actually, my youth came before fast food and trans fats and carcinogens and additives. So what your mom put on the table most likely didn't cause cancer inasmuch as it gave you an appetite for creamy, delicious fat and certainly made you chubby if you ate too much of it.
So in the eighties, everything came to a sudden halt. Nouvelle Cuisine was the order of the day. Organic wasn't invented yet. But certainly, smaller portions, less animal fat, exercise became de rigeur, smoking was becoming banned in restaurants (but still allowed in crowded bars) and we took a step toward nationwide health. We had become a human population of unhealthy and obese people and cancer had reached epidemic proportions. And saving ourselves from our destructive ways became the agenda of every doctor, politician, educator and whoever else could jump on the health bandwagon. So my question is: After nearly thirty years of education and a strive to improve, why are we becoming more obese and unhealthy than ever before? Many experts blame the fast food industry and our need for the grab and go mentality that has such a hold on us. And I don't minimize that opinion at all. But I also think that healthy food habits begin in the home. I believe that families need to find the time every day to sit to a table that has been set with a plate and a fork and a knife and a napkin. The meal on the table can be healthy and delicious and portion controlled. And it can be prepared in the same amount of time that it would take to drive through a take out window. And it would cost much less.
This post isn't about anything gourmet at all. I started out making my pot pie with leftover chicken or turkey, but it is such a favourite and so quick and easy, that now I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts and make it just for its own self. It's delicious and it's not on the Jenny Craig menu I'm sure. But kids and grownups alike love it and it's certainly better for you than anything from a drive-thru window.
You'll need:
A frozen deep dish pie shell. (you could make your own pastry, but I have a full time career and I prefer to leave the pastry making up to the experts at the Tenderflake pastry company. And they offer one with no transfats)
Leftover chicken or turkey or I just buy 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts and bake them off
2 peeled and sliced carrots
2 sliced celery stalks
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade if you have it)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon of celery seed (optional)
If you're using fresh chicken, place your breasts on a cookie sheet (I line it with tin foil because I'm lazy that way) and sprinkle with salt and pepper and celery seed. Bake in the oven at 350 for 25 minutes. Skip this step if you're using leftover poultry.
Preheat the oven to 350. And take your pastry shells out of the box and let them thaw. It doesn't take long.
Microwave your carrots and celery in the same bowl for 5 minutes.
While the vegetables are in the microwave, melt your butter in a pot and add your flour. (This is called a roux by chefs, but it will seem like a glob in the pot if you haven't done this before) Whisk it around for a minute or two on medium heat and add just a splash of chicken stock to loosen it up a bit. But keep whisking it all the while. You need to keep it to heat to toast the flour. If you're not patient with this, your sauce will taste like raw flour. (Ew.) When it starts to golden up in colour, add your chicken stock and keep on whisking. It will get think instantly. Then add your milk and some salt and pepper and another dash of celery seed. This all seems pretty frantic because flour makes the action happen fast! Don't be afraid. As soon as it gets as thick as soup, take if off the heat. If it gets too thick, just add another splash of stock. the whisk is your best friend at this stage. Phew. That's the worst of it over now. Chop up your chicken into bite size chunks and add it to your sauce. Also add your carrots and celery. Ditch the whisk now and use a big spoon to mix it all together so the sauce coats all the chicken and veg. Taste it and add seasoning if you think you need it. Pour all the mixture into one of the pie shells. Wet your finger with some water and run it around the outside rim of the pastry and do the same with the remaining shell. Then flip the empty shell onto the top of the pie. Still in its tinfoil plate that it comes with, pinch it down onto the bottom shell and then pull off the tin plate and you'll be left with the top shell of the pie. Cut some slits into it with a sharp pointed knife. I like to make a pretty pattern, but that's just because I enjoy a flower shape in any form! The idea is to let the steam escape from the pie so your sauce doesn't turn to some kind of yucky tea in there. And for sure, you want to bake this on a cookie sheet in case it bubbles out and you'll end up with it all over the bottom of your stove. Bake it on 350 for about 35 or 40 minutes or until your pie gets golden.
This all seems very dramatic and a lot of trouble, but in fact it only takes about ten minutes. And it's easy and fun to make! It is imperative that you let it sit for 10 minutes before you serve it after it comes out of the oven so it can set up inside or you'll have nothing but steam and vegetables on the plate. And I might just tell you that your family will go wild for it and you'll probably end up making it once a week for thirty years like I have been doing. And just for a test, ask them one time "Do you want McDonalds tonight or chicken pot pie?" I think you'll know the answer after you serve this just one time!

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