I'm fully embracing the pseudo-fall weather that has finally arrived here in Austin by making an old-timey classic, the chicken pot pie. This one comes courtesy of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, which is probably my go to cookbook these days. I didn't eat too many chicken pot pies growing up - the savory pie of choice in my family was beef based, and instead of a creamy sauce inside the pie, it was served in a bowl with homemade beef stock. We simply referred to it as "meat pie", a name which doesn't really do it justice. I absolutely loved it as a child (and still do). My grandmother would have two or three pies waiting for my sister and I every year when we visited during the summertime. They would be gone in a few days; I would eat them every meal if my mom let me. So all savory pies, including this chicken pot pie, are great comfort food. It just reminds me of home.
Chicken Pot Pie
By Thomas Keller, from Ad Hoc at Home
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
2½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
About 5 tablespoons ice water
Making your own pie crust is obviously more work than using store bought, but it's not that difficult, and makes your pies infinitely better. There are two maxims of pie dough making: 1) Don't overwork the dough; and 2) Keep things cold, make sure the butter doesn't melt. And truthfully, maxim two is really just a product of failing at maxim one, so I guess there's really only one maxim.
Combine the flour and salt, then add the butter and toss to coat. Cut the flour into the butter with a pastry knife or board scraper until there are no butter pieces larger than a pea. Drizzle ¼ cup of the water over and mix the dough with a fork until it just holds together. Add the last tablespoon of water if necessary to bring the dough together. Quickly knead the dough until smooth. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Shape each piece into a one inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a round that is ⅛ inch thick. Put the larger piece in a 9" pie pan, gently pressing the dough into the corners and sides. Place the smaller piece on a parchment lined baking sheet and let both rest for at least 15 minutes.
1 cup ½ inch pieces red-skinned potatoes
1¼ cup ½-inch pieces carrots
12 white pearl onions, peeled and root trimmed
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns
1¼ cups ½-inch pieces celery
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Put the potatoes, carrots and onions in separate small saucepans, each with 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig and 8 peppercorns. Cover each with water, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain each pot, discard the herbs and peppercorns, and set aside. Cut the onions in half.
Blanch the celery in salted water until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and add to the other vegetables, along with the chicken.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
½ teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Pinch of cayenne
Over medium heat, make a roux by melting the butter, adding the flour and cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. The goal is to just cook the raw flour; the roux should maintain a straw color and not brown or darken. Reduce the heat as necessary to accomplish this. Slowly whisk in the milk, bring to a gentle simmer and reduce the heat to maintain it (medium-low to low). Reduce the sauce to 2 cups, about 35 minutes, whisking frequently. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve, then add the salt, pepper, parsley, thyme and cayenne.
Midway through making the béchamel, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with the racks in the center and lower third of the oven.
Assembling the pie
1 egg, beaten
Remove both doughs from the fridge. Scatter the vegetables and chicken in the pie shell and pour the béchamel over them. Using a pastry brush, moisten the rim of the pie with the egg. Cover the pie with the top crust, pressing the edges to seal. Using a paring knife, trim away the excess dough around the edges of the pie pan. Cut a small hole in the center of the pie. Brush the top of the pie with the egg.
Bake on the lower rack for 50 minutes to an hour. If the crust is not golden brown, transfer to the top rack for the last 10 minutes of baking. Let the pie cool on a rack for 10 minutes after removing from the oven.
I served it with a simple salad, thought about my grandmothers old house in New Jersey, and reveled in the 80 something degree weather that passes for fall in this part of the country.