Light Individual Chicken Pot Pies for Spring!

Plated2 copy2Spring is in the air and I have one more recipe in a lighter vein to share with you as we usher in this beautiful and transitional season. Chicken pot pie!

I really love chicken pot pies any time of the year and I especially love individual ones because you can have a reasonable portion that is just right. Since these pies aren’t the quickest thing to make, it’s wonderful to freeze some of them and then enjoy those goodies at a later date for a quick weeknight dinner. Just thaw, top with your favorite crust, bake, add a salad on the side and you’re good to go.

This particular version of the dish has been lightened up a bit by cutting back on the fat and amping up the vegetables—some of which are roasted, giving them an extra boost of flavor. The filling is still creamy and rich tasting, but uses only a touch of olive oil and butter for flavor, flour to make a roux and some homemade unsalted chicken stock and low fat milk instead of cream to make the sauce. The taste of the sauce is additionally enhanced by a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick. (You can cut back on the cayenne or eliminate it completely if you are heat sensitive.)

I roasted a whole organic chicken for the meat and made my stock from the carcass, which you can see how to do by clicking on this post. Homemade stock adds unbelievable flavor and richness to any dish, and is well worth the effort. Really there isn’t much effort…you just need to give it a couple of hours on the stove, then cool and strain it. Extra stock freezes well and is really nice to have on hand. You can also buy a pre-roasted organic whole chicken at your grocer and make stock from the carcass, or use a purchased good quality low or no sodium stock to save some time.

outofoven1 copyI made a biscuit topping for the pies in the post I linked to above, but this time I used a bit of puff pastry to top my first round, then topped the pies I froze and thawed later with a purchased refrigerated pie crust just before baking. Any of these options will make a delicious and very satisfying result. My only regret is that we’ve now gone through all of the pies in the freezer, which were as good as freshly made. Time to make some more!

This recipe definitely lends itself to a vegetarian version by substituting another hearty veggie like butternut squash for the chicken, and by using homemade vegetable stock. Enjoy these pies with a spoon to sop up every last bit of the sauce!

Happy Spring!

Light Individual Chicken Pot Pies
Serves 10
Freezes beautifully without crust

small uncooked red potato(es), 1/2 inch dice
1/2 lb. uncooked green snap beans, trimmed and snapped into bite sized pieces
Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp unsalted butter
large uncooked onion, diced
2 large ribs uncooked celery, sliced
large uncooked carrots, peeled and diced
oz. fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
cloves garlic, minced
tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Tbsp all-purpose flour
cups unsalted home-prepared chicken stock or other unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 1/2 cups roasted skinless chicken breast and thigh, diced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped, plus extra for sprinkling on top
Additional salt and pepper to taste
servings Dufour Frozen Puff Pastry (about 1/2 of one sheet in a 2-sheet, 14 oz. package) OR refrigerated pie crust (you’ll need two of them for 10 rounds)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray 10 one cup ramekins with cooking or olive oil spray.

Step 1: Make two aluminum foil trays and place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the potatoes in one tray and the green beans in the other. Season lightly with salt and pepper and roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes for the potatoes and 15 minutes for the beans, stirring once. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Step 2: Heat the 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrot and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, a little pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Stir in the 5 tablespoons of flour and stir continuously for about 4 minutes to cook the flour and make a light roux. Add the chicken stock, stirring, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook another 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring occasionally. Stir in the milk, then simmer another 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, green beans, chicken, cayenne, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. Stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Divide the filing evenly amongst the 10 prepared ramekins. If freezing any pies, allow the filling to cool in the ramekins, then cover them with plastic wrap and place into the freezer on a flat surface. Once frozen, place the covered ramekins into a freezer bag. Thaw before using and then proceed to step 3.

Step 3: Thaw and roll out the pastry according to the package directions. Cut the pastry with a knife into 10 equal portions if using puff pastry, or if using pie crust make 10 slightly larger rounds to fit over your ramekins and pierce them to vent. Place one portion on top of each of the 10 pies, securing the edges of the pastry around the edge of the ramekin. Brush with a little whisked egg wash and sprinkle with some chopped thyme, if desired.

Step 4: Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place the ramekins on the foil, evenly spaced, and place the pan with ramekins into the oven. Cook the pies in a 400 F. degree oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the chicken filling is simmering and the pastry is puffed, cooked through and golden brown on top. Watch carefully and if your pastry starts to get too brown, cover it with some aluminum foil. When done, remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Decorate with a bit of chopped fresh parsley and serve with a green salad on the side, if desired. This makes ten servings, and leftovers will keep well for a day in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave.

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Spring Teases Us and a Refresher on How to Cook and Extend a Roasted Chicken

To say this week has been busy would be a severe understatement. In addition to my regular work, I’m learning how to do web site design. It’s really fun, but lots to learn and do. When I have this kind of a week, I tend to focus more on cooking my old standards and less on experimenting with anything new. Are you like that?

I did take a needed break on Monday and went for a walk to enjoy an amazing spring-like day. It was just a tease, though, as the temps have now returned to more normal and winter-like cold, but there were definitely signs that spring is on it’s way. Let me share a few pics to brighten your day:

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Last Friday there was a sale on whole organic chickens, and faced with that lovely prospect, you know I couldn’t resist. Yes, roasted chicken was on the menu. And much like in the Tale of the Little Chicken That Could, posted a couple of years ago, I made an Herb Roasted Chicken first. The next night, I stripped off the remaining meat and instead of making the Individual Chicken Pot Pies, I used the meat to make my Easy Chicken Enchiladas Verdes for the next two nights’ meals. This chicken made exceptionally good enchiladas.

Last night, I combined the stripped chicken carcass with veggies, herbs and water to make a rich Homemade Chicken Stock, which you can see in the photo at the end of this post. I’ll use it to make a lovely risotto and/or a soup later in the week, and share that in my next post. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll click on the individual dish title links in bold above, and check out ideas for cooking and using chicken, as well as enjoy the story I wound around the dishes—if you haven’t read it already.

Here’s my study partner in all of her almost 15 pound glory…Miss Thumbelina, for a giggle.

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New dishes will be on tap for the next post, I promise. Have a great week and may spring be on its way for us all!

This stock has such a rich color and taste...I can't wait to use it in my next dishes!

This stock has such a rich color and taste…I can’t wait to use it in my next dishes!