Wednesday, September 23, 2015

If You Can't Stand The Heat.....(then it must be Autumn in SoCal)

It's the first day of Autumn. The days are starting to get shorter, the leaves are changing colors on the trees, and I'm still using my swimming pool on a daily basis because Mother Nature refuses to dip below 90 all this week. 

Ahh, Fall.

I'll reluctantly admit that I've been really terrible about making meals at home these last several weeks.  I try to adhere to my unspoken "we'll only eat out once a week" promise, but it's just been way too hot to cook.  I swear that by this time next year I'll have air conditioning in the house, but until then I'm continuing to use every other restaurant's air conditioning until the thermostat drops to a reasonable 80 degrees or less.  So you can imagine my slight chagrin at learning today is National Great American Pot Pie Day; a meal that consists of both stove AND oven usage...guaranteed to sweat me right into a puddle on the floor.  But pot pie also happens to be one of my favorite dishes, so in honor of the first day of autumn, sweat away we shall!!!

There are a lot of different pot pie recipes out there, but the one we're attempting today breaks away slightly from the traditional pie crust and is designed to mimic the crust on a soup we had at Bistro Jeanty in Napa (which is an incredibly AWESOME place, but we'll save that for another time):

See that nice puffy crust on the bowl in front of Nick.  That's what we're going to create.

Easy as pie.

**Important to order to get the puff pastry to puff, you need to make the filling the night before (or with as much time for it to cool significantly).  If you don't care about the puff-factor, feel free to do this all at one time.

So let's get started! 

  • 1/3 cup butter - divided
  • 1 lb chicken - thawed, chopped
  • 1 1/3 cup chopped onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms, garlic (basically whatever root veggies you have on hand) 
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • thyme, oregano, paprika (a pinch of each)
  • puff pastry
  • egg wash (1 egg white plus 1 tbsp. water beaten together)
  1. In a dutch oven, melt half of the butter over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown. Season with salt and pepper.  When mostly cooked through, remove from heat and set aside. 
  2. Melt the other half of the butter and add the vegetables - you can do this in batches for better caramelizing or all at once.  Stir frequently and let everything soften up - about 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the flour and let it brown up slightly.  Add the chicken back to the pot and stir.  
  3. Now gradually stir in the broth, then the milk and let simmer.  Stir in your spices - about a pinch of each.  I suggest thyme, oregano and paprika, but you can also add sage, rosemary or omit the others.  Take a taste for yourself as you stir each spice in to see what you like, and realize that the flavors will develop further as the filling sits overnight. 
  4. Once your filling has thickened up, remove from heat.  Let it cool uncovered until about room temperature, then cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours and up to overnight.
  5. 40 minutes prior to baking, take your puff pastry out of the freezer and let thaw at room temperature.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  On a well floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to approximately 1/4 inch thickness.  Using oven safe individual baking dishes or ramekins, cut the pastry to the size of the lip of the dish plus 1/2 inch.  Set aside. 
  6. Spoon about a cup to a cup and a half of filling into the ramekins.  "Paint" the puff pastry with egg wash on one side - and turn them over onto your dishes (egg wash side down), taking care to make sure the pastry does not touch the filling, and pulling tight across the lip of the dish.  Seal around the lip of the dish, brush the top with more egg wash and place in the oven.   
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes - or until the puff pastry is golden brown.  Do not open the oven until completely done.

and Puff!  ...errr....Poof!  Pot pie with a gorgeous puffed presentation. 
Now I made the filling at about 10pm last night when it was nice and cool in the house.  It can just as easily be made in a slow cooker if you'd like - just throw everything in the pot except the milk, butter and flour and let it cook for 6 hours on low.  The broth will be a little thin, which is just fine; or you can either thicken it up on the stove with a little cornstarch or Beurre Manié.

Is it crazy to celebrate the beginning with Autumn in 90 degree heat with a toasty pot pie?  Absolutely!! 

Is it tasty enough that you can lay about in shorts and a tank top, turn on all the fans and eat it without a care? 


Only 90 days 'til Winter!

**thanks to Pillsbury for allowing me to slightly tweak their recipe for my purposes without knowing about it.  You can find the original here.