© Susie Cushner
Chicken pot pies
When asked to choose a favorite comfort food, chicken pot pies are often at the top of the list
When asked to choose a favorite comfort food, chicken pot pies are often at the top of the list. The pies featured here, though, are different from store-bought ones. The filling, chicken, sau¬téed butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, all enrobed in a smooth white sauce, is spooned into ramekins, then covered with cheese-flecked pastry rounds. When baked, the golden crusts are tender and flaky, a perfect contrast to the creamy chicken and vegetables beneath.
For the crust
3 c. (750 ml) sifted all-purpose flour
1 c. (250 ml) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
¾ c. (180 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
4½ tbsp. (67.5 ml) vegetable shortening, chilled and broken into small pieces
¾ tsp. (3.75 ml) salt
¼ c. (60 ml) plus 2 tbsp. (30 ml) ice water
For the filling
2 tbsp. (30 g) unsalted butter
2 tbsp. (30 ml) canola oil
1½ c. (375 ml) diced butternut squash (½-in./12-mm dice)
4 oz. (115 g) small Brussels sprouts, bases trimmed and quartered lengthwise
4 oz. (115 g) small brown (cremini) mushrooms cut into ¼-in- (6-mm-) thick slices
½ c. (125 ml) thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
1½ tsp. (7.5 ml) crushed dried rosemary
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 c. (500 ml) diced cooked chicken or turkey (½-in./12-mm dice)
For the white sauce
5 tbsp. (75 g) unsalted butter
¼ c. (60 ml) all-purpose flour
2½ c. (625 ml) whole milk
freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the crust: combine the flour, cheddar, butter, shortening and salt in a food processor, and pulse for 15 seconds. Add the ice water and process until a loose ball of dough forms, about 30 seconds. (If you have a small-capacity processor, divide the ingredients in half and make the dough in two batches.) Remove the dough and shape it into two equal balls. Flatten each one, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
For the filling: in a medium, heavy frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the canola oil until hot. Add the squash and Brussels sprouts, and sauté, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more. Add the leeks, rosemary, salt and several grinds of pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned and just tender, 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and add the cooked chicken.
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C). Have ready six 1-cup (250-ml) ramekins and a rimmed baking sheet.
For the sauce: melt the butter in a medium sauce¬pan over medium heat. When hot, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1½ to 2 minutes. Add the milk, ¾ teaspoon (3.75 ml) salt and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pepper, and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the chicken and vegetables, and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins.
On a floured surface, roll out one ball of dough to a circle about 11 inches (28 cm) in diameter and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Cut out three rounds that are 2 inches (5 cm) larger in diameter than the tops of the ramekins. (For example, if your ramekins are 4 inches/10 cm in diameter, cut out 6-inch/15-cm rounds.) You may need to gather the dough scraps and roll them out again to get three rounds. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.
Brush a ½-inch (12-mm) border around the edge of each round with some of the beaten egg (this will help the pastry topping to adhere to the ramekin). Cover each ramekin with a circle of dough (egg-brushed-side down) and press the overhang¬ing dough against the sides. Make a 1-inch (2.5-cm) slit in the centre of each crust. (The pot pies can be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking. Cover and refrigerate the remaining beaten egg and whisk lightly before using.)
Place the pot pies on the rimmed baking sheet, and brush the pastry tops and sides with the remaining beaten egg. Bake until the tops are golden, 30 to 35 minutes (slightly longer if the pies have been refrigerated). Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Notes You can use leftover chicken or turkey or buy a rotisserie bird. If you choose the latter, count on using more than half the chicken. To make the dough by hand, mix the flour, cheddar and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry blender or two table knives until the mixture resembles oatmeal flakes. Gradually add the water, mixing just until the dough holds together.
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