RECIPE: Chicken Pot Pie, French-Style

Some time back in the days of nouvelle cuisine, the idea of thickening sauces with flour was discarded by big-time chefs, and reductions became the thing; they’re fine, but there’s something supremely comforting about the mellow richness of the older style they can’t quite match. This recipe is adapted from a fairly standard country-French
casserole, meant to get us through the winter with pleasure to spare. You can use pre-cooked or left-over chicken, of course, but it won’t have as much flavor as this one, cooked on the bone. I use Knorr stock cubes for the basic stock. I haven’t fed a kid yet who will willingly eat mushrooms, so I use whole button mushrooms, and transfer them from the kid’s plate to mine after the dish is served—I’ve made enough sacrifices already, and I’m not doing without the flavor; he’ll learn, eventually.
serves 4

1 chicken
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 sprigs thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
4 sprigs tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 bay leaves
8 ounces mushrooms (optional)
8 ounces puff pastry, defrosted if frozen (see note below)

Cut the chicken in pieces and remove the skin. Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, and when it’s hot, brown the chicken pieces.

Add the onion, carrots, and tomatoes, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring everything together. Sprinkle the flour over the meat, turning it in the sauce. Add half the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to take up any residues, and stir well again.

As the liquid begins to simmer, add garlic and herbs, stir, and add the remainder of the chicken stock. Cover the pan and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you’re using mushrooms (and you really should), add them to the pan for the last 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/200C.

Remove the chicken pieces to a plate and allow to cool. Transfer the vegetables to a shallow casserole or baking dish, remove the herb sprigs and bay leaves. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper to your taste if necessary. Take the chicken meat off the bones, cut into bite-size chunks, and add to the dish.

Roll out the pastry until it is 1 inch wider all around than the sides of the baking dish. Place over the top of the dish, crimping the dough at the sides, and poke three or four holes in the top, to vent the steam as it bakes. Place in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees F/180C and continue to bake about 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. After allowing it to cool slightly (the top may fall a bit), cut and serve.

Note: Pepperidge Farm and Trader Joe’s both make good frozen puff pastry—one sheet will make this recipe.

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