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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« A Cold-Weather Recipe, By Request: Onion Soup | Main | And So, 2011 »

December 30, 2010

Another Cold-Weather Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie

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Posted by Derek

Here, as promised, is another dish for weather like the present. It takes some time, but if the snow is coming down and the wind is rattling the windows, you may well have some. You'll need, at a minimum: a chicken, vegetables (carrots, celery, onions, peas, etc.), some flour and milk, and some source of pie crust, either home-made or bought. (Note that if you're going to make your own crust, that needs to be started early in the process so it'll be ready to roll out - see below. If you're a make-your-own-crust type, though, you probably already knew that, though).

First take the chicken (up to a 3-pound / 1.4kg one) and simmer it in water (to cover). I season this with salt, black pepper, and a bay leaf, but you can modify this to taste - you're going to have extra chicken broth when this is over (no bad thing!), so season it the way you like it. A half hour should take care of the bird - take it out of the broth and let it cool down enough to handle, then remove the skin and pull the meat off the bones. You'll need to cut the larger pieces down to size - 1 to 2 cm on a side, say. I usually put the chicken pieces into a large bowl; you'll be adding more to it in a few minutes.

Now, the vegetables: peel and cut up 3 or 4 medium-sized carrots into similar-sized pieces as the chicken, and do the same with two large stalks of celery. For the onions, you can chop up a large one, or do what I often do - take half to 3/4 of a bag of frozen pearl onions (8 to 12 oz., 230 to 340 g) and let them thaw while working on the other vegetables. If you like mushrooms, you can also add some to taste; I often do. If they're fresh, you'll want to saute them along with the other vegetables in the coming step, or you can add canned ones at any point.

Take the cut vegetables and saute them in a large pot in oil over medium-to-high heat for five minutes or a bit more - you just want to get them started cooking, and not brown them or make them actually soft. You can add salt and black pepper as desired at this point. Then turn them out into the same bowl as the cut chicken. Take the same pot and melt about 4 tablespoons butter (50g) in it, then add 1/2 cup flour (which I think should be about 60 to 65 g), and stir that in. Cook the butter-flour mixture (which will be pretty solid) for a minute or two, then add 2 cups (475 mL) of the chicken broth you have, whisking it in to break up that flour lump, followed by 1 1/2 cups of milk (350 to 360 mL). Continue to whisk this around vigorously while it's heating - it'll thicken into a sauce (more specifically, into a b├ęchamel sauce).

This is a good time to get the oven going - heat it to 400F, or 200 to 210C. Now Season the sauce with some more ground black pepper and about a half teaspoon of dried thyme (0.75 g), then add the vegetables and chicken, and stir to mix everything. At this point, you can add a cup of frozen peas, as they are, to the mix - they'll come out festively green at the end. If you have some fresh parsley on hand, you can chop a small handful and add it now. It goes well, but I've made it without as well, and it's still completely edible.

This mixture is ready to go into whatever sort of form you wish your chicken pot pie to take. Store-bought pie crust, the kind that comes refrigerated and rolled up, can be used to line a large oven-proof bowl. You than empty the pot pie mixture into that and use the second crust in the package across the top. (Some people like a bottom/side crust, others don't). You can use a wider, shallower pan and just have a top crust, or break the recipe up into individual oven-proof bowls. Your call! They all work fine.

If you're going to go all the way and make your own crust, then I'm going to have to refer you to your favorite recipe for it, since I rarely make my own, to be honest. (I wouldn't recommend making your first one at the same time you're doing all the rest of this). Remember, though, jome-made pie crust has to be refrigerated for a half hour or so to get it ready to be worked. You can also use a biscuit topping, if you've got a recipe you like for that - I haven't tried it myself, but it seems like it would work fine.

Cook the pie at the above-mentioned 400F until the crust is starting to brown. Depending on the format of your pie (or pies, if you broke it up into smaller servings for a group), this could be as short as 20 minutes or more like 35 to 40. And there you have it! And as a side effect, you now have some chicken stock to freeze for later on. Enjoy!

Comments (14) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping


1. Paul on December 30, 2010 10:51 PM writes...

About pie crusts:

The Cook's Illustrated recipe for pie crust is quite good. it uses a mixture of vodka and water instead of just water. The explanation is that you need enough liquid to make the dough pliable, but too much water interacts with the gluten and makes the crust too tough. Alcohol moistens without causing the same undesired effect.

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2. Anonymous on December 30, 2010 11:12 PM writes...

for gods sake post some chemistry, Im sick of this bullshit, okay we get it, you like to cool, start another separate blog

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3. piko on December 31, 2010 3:01 AM writes...

Hey, It is about serious chemistry. More complex than all my reactions in the lab.

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4. flavor on December 31, 2010 3:07 AM writes...

@2 cooking=MAILLARD CHEMISTRY=chemistry, while you look into that, we'll eat

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5. J-ster on December 31, 2010 7:55 AM writes...

Cooking nitpick: the sauce you describe is a veloute, not bechamel. Bechamel uses milk rather than broth or stock.

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6. lost academic on December 31, 2010 8:21 AM writes...

I like to use either fresh or store-bought biscuit dough as crust.

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7. barry on December 31, 2010 12:12 PM writes...

A friend taught me years ago that you must always make two more pie-crusts for Thanksgiving than you plan to use for the meal. The last two will be filled with the meat picked off the turkey carcass, the creamed onions and the left-over gravy after the meal for the next day's pot pie.
It just takes a moment's thought to recognize that you had done the whole pot-pie prep in making the Thanksgiving meal.

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8. JimB on January 1, 2011 4:29 PM writes...

Could I suggest the addition of fresh tarragon? Not classical but very lovely.

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9. Kismet on January 2, 2011 1:11 PM writes...

Offtopic: Am I right in assuming you do not check (or approve) posts in the moderation queue?

How do I avoid moderation for posts? Are all posts containing links put on the queue or does length also play a role...?

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10. any on January 3, 2011 10:07 AM writes...

Here is a great pie crust recipe:

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11. ech on January 3, 2011 2:27 PM writes...

A local restaurant has a great chicken pot pie that has an unusual ingredient: some fennel bulb. Adds a great anise note to the sauce.

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12. Anon on January 4, 2011 5:43 PM writes...

Is this something that you could prepare and then store uncooked in the fridge for a few days?

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13. Norepi on January 7, 2011 8:19 PM writes...

This recipe is terrific. I made it for dinner tonight and my boyfriend and I were very happy. Thanks Derek!

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14. Becki on August 27, 2012 11:07 AM writes...

Delicious! Made it yesterday.

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