Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Classic Chicken Pie

Whenever one of our bakers needs a main dish for a potluck event, whether it's for the volunteer firefighters, the local Grange, the American Legion, or the P.T.A, THIS is the recipe we all pull out. A really good chicken pie, Vermont-style, is one of the most comforting foods we know. Make this with a biscuit topping or pastry topping—either way, you'll be sure to turn to this recipe again and again.

one 5-pound roasting chicken, or 5 pounds of chicken parts, including light and dark meat*
1 large onion (7 ounces, 1 1/2 cups), cut in chunks
2 large carrots (7 ounces, 1 3/4 cups), cut in chunks
5 sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 quarts (64 ounces) water

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 1/2 cups (28 ounces) chicken stock (prepared from poaching liquid) OR 28 ounces (about 2 cans) of reduced-salt canned chicken broth
2 cups fresh, chopped vegetables of your choice, such as celery, baby onions, carrots, and peas; or one small box frozen mixed vegetables
1 teaspoon salt

Biscuit Crust
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cold butter
1 large egg
2/3 cup (5 1/4 ounces) milk

*If you decide to use leftover cooked turkey or chicken, you'll need 2 to 2 1/4 pounds (6 to 7 cups) of boneless, skinless meat.

To make the filling: Place the chicken (or chicken parts), onion, carrots, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and salt in a deep stockpot. Add the water; it should almost cover the chicken (if it doesn't, add more). Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer the chicken and vegetables for about 1 1/4 hours (for a whole chicken) or 45 minutes to 1 hour (for chicken parts), till chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and vegetables, discarding the vegetables, and spread the chicken on a platter to cool. Simmer the stock till it's reduced to 3 1/2 cups; this will take about 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes there's more than 3 1/2 cups of stock remaining, simply measure out 3 1/2 cups, and freeze the rest.

To make the sauce: When the yellow fat has risen to the top of the stock-this should take about 40 minutes-skim it off and discard it. Melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. (If using canned broth, use 4 tablespoons of butter instead of 6). Add 1/2 cup flour and stir to combine. Gradually pour in the stock, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, then stir the fresh or frozen vegetables into the sauce. Reduce to a simmer. Continue simmering over low heat while you prepare the chicken.

Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, discard, and tear the chicken meat into 1-inch pieces. Stir the chicken and salt into the sauce. Add ground black pepper and additional salt to taste, if desired.

Spoon the chicken and vegetables into a lightly greased shallow 2- to 3-quart casserole dish, or 9" x 13" pan. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the biscuit crust: Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender, your fingers, or an electric mixer, cut in the butter till the mixture is crumbly. Whisk together the egg and milk, and stir into the dry ingredients, mixing just till fully combined. The dough will be very wet and sticky.

Using a spoon or cookie/ice cream scoop, drop the batter in golf-ball-sized rounds onto the chicken, spacing them evenly and leaving a bit of room in between for expansion. Place the chicken and biscuits in the oven, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm. Yield: 8 to 12 servings.


Chicken Pie with Pie Crust Topping

If tradition holds that your chicken pie needs a pie crust top rather than a biscuit top, try this.

1 1/2 cups (6 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon (1/8 ounce) buttermilk powder (optional; it'll help make the crust tender)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) cold butter
1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar
3 to 5 tablespoons (1 1/2 to 2 1/2 ounces) ice water

Whisk together the flour, buttermilk powder (if you're using it), salt, and baking powder. Using a pastry fork, pastry blender, your fingers, or a mixer, mix in the butter, leaving some pea-sized lumps.

Mix the vinegar with 3 tablespoons of the water. Sprinkle this mixture over the flour and butter, and toss with a fork. Squeeze the dough together; if it's not cohesive, add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons water (just enough to make the dough stick together comfortably). Shape the dough into a flattened disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes or longer before rolling into a large rectangle to fit the top of your pie. If desired, use small cookie cutters to make decorative cutouts from the dough scraps. Moisten the crust with water, and lay the cutouts on top. Bake as directed above, until crust is golden.

©2006 The King Arthur Flour Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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