Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From Amasea's Kitchen in Sun Valley: Mini Chicken Pot Pies for deep winter

My poor husband.
He's camping outdoors with students at his school for the next two nights, and we just had our first snow in weeks. And it wasn't even a light snow -- four-plus inches, with temps dropping tonight to 15, more snow expected tonight and tomorrow, and a low tomorrow night of 9. Yep, that's single digits.
All this chilly, we're-not-out-of-winter-yet weather calls for comfort food, and what's more comforting than chicken pot pie? But because it'll be just me for the next few days, I didn't want to make a whole pie. Instead, last night I found a new use for my ramekins.

I started by thawing two Marie Callendar's frozen pie crusts. I know how to make crust, but time was tight and I just wanted to get cracking on the filling. I'd also thawed two chicken breasts (from Costco -- they come in six separately packaged pairs, so you can easily thaw a few at a time), then cut them into about 1-inch cubes. In hindsight, I think I'd probably cut the chicken smaller, but that might be less of an issue if you're making a big pie instead of little ones.

I cut three medium-sized red carrots into smaller pieces, about 3/4-inch square, and put the carrots and chicken in boiling water until they were cooked through, about 15 minutes. These were drained and set aside, then I rinsed out the pot to reuse it for the next step. I lowered the heat to a little less than medium, melted a cube of butter, and added a diced onion, fresh-ground black pepper to taste, about a tablespoon of red pepper flakes (which was noticeable but not overwhelming in the finished product, so adjust to your taste) and about half a tablespoon of celery seed (mine is a little old, so if yours is fresh, use less). I cooked until the onion got soft and transparent. The butter ended up getting a little too bubbly and brown, so I probably should have turned the heat down a little more.

Into the same pot, I added about half a cup of flour, 2 cups of chicken broth, 1/3 cup half-and-half and 2/3 cup milk, a cup or so of frozen peas and a cup or so of canned corn. This mixture will thicken pretty quickly, so stir frequently and keep an eye on. I kept it warm until the peas were almost thawed. Then I tasted, and added a little salt, but you might not need to add any if your broth is saltier than mine.

The crust split as it thawed, so I mushed it back together at the splits, tore off pieces, and lined the ramekins -- it was quite the cut-and-paste job -- leaving whole pieces aside to be the tops of the pies. At the end, I didn't have enough unbroken pieces to top all the pies, so I balled together the bits left over and rolled them out with a rolling pin. Worked beautifully, though be careful not to overwork the dough, because it will lose its awesome flakiness.

A few tablespoons of the filling went into each mini pie, then I pressed the cover crust onto and over the edges, poking a few knife holes into each to vent. I baked these at 425 for about 45 minutes, or until the crust was golden, then let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I got a pretty good critique, too: My husband gave me two thumbs up, because he didn't want to stop eating long enough to actually comment! I hope the comfort stays with him through the next two cold, snow days...

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