Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie...From Scratch!

Three years ago, not long after I started this blog, I prepared an easy chicken pot pie recipe from Kraft foods. The recipe, found HERE, used frozen vegetables, condensed soup, processed cheese, and pre-made puff pastry. While I'm sure that many of my more health food conscious readers just shuddered at that description, I'm not going to lie, it was good. My family really liked it.

But, since that first chicken pot pie, I have wanted to try my hand at making one from scratch, with fresh ingredients. Last week, I finally got around to creating this comfort food classic.

It was worth the wait!

I decided to slow cook the chicken in my crock pot, which allowed for tender, juicy meat and also created a flavorful broth that I would use in the "gravy" for the pot pie filling.

In the morning, I dropped 1 whole cut-up chicken into the crockpot, seasoned it with salt and pepper, added celery, carrots, onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh parsley,some poultry seasoning, and a bay leaf. Then I poured in enough water to cover everything. I set the crock pot on low and let it simmer the day away.

Here's what it looked like 5-6 hours later.

I separated out the vegetables and chicken and then I poured everything that was left in the crock pot through a strainer. From this, I ended up with 8 cups of homemade chicken broth. Since I only needed around two cups of broth for the pie filling, I froze the rest into 2 cup portions.

Before I continued on with the "chicken" part of this chicken pot pie, I decided to make the pastry as it needed to chill for 30 minutes before I would be able to roll it out.

I largely borrowed my pastry recipe from Ina Garten's chicken pot pie recipe. I just cut it in half, since her recipe is for 4 individual pies and I was just making 1 family-sized pot pie.

As with most pastry recipes, you combine the dry ingredients and then cut in the fat. This time, shortening and butter qualified as "fat". The shortening makes for a flakier crust and the butter gives it wonderful flavor. Tip: The shortening and butter should both be cold.

That way, you can obtain this crumbly texture as you mix the ingredients with a pastry cutter. All of those little chunks of fat give off steam as they bake in the crust, creating air pockets in the pastry and ideally making for a light, flaky crust.

Once the fat was cut into the flour mixture, I stirred in just enough ice-cold water to help the dough stick together.

Once the dough starts to come together, I put my hands in the bowl and knead it just until I can form it into a ball. You don't want to work the dough any more than you absolutely need to, because the more you work the dough, the stronger the gluten bonds in the flour become. Strong gluten bonds = tough pastry. Since we're going for tender and flaky here, just remember not to overwork the dough.

I divided the dough into 2 parts, one for the top crust and one for the bottom. Then I wrapped them up and put them into the fridge for at least 30 minutes while I prepared the filling for the pot pie.

To make the filling, I melted 1/3 cup of butter in a skillet, then I added some diced onion to saute.

Once the onion was tender, I stirred in 1/3 cup of flour until well combined.

Next in was the yummy homemade broth that I cooked up with the chicken in the crock pot. Stir or whisk as you add the broth, so that you don't get any lumps in the gravy. Cook over medium to medium high heat until the mixture starts to thicken.

Then add in some milk or cream. Return to a low boil.

Once the sauce was finished, I turned off the heat and just let the skillet sit on the burner to stay warm.

By the time I finished picking all of the chicken from the bone, I had a LOT of chicken!

I cut up about 2-1/2 cups for the pot pie, then I put the rest into freezer bags and froze it for a later shortcut to chicken and dumplings, soups, or casseroles.

I added the cut up chicken with the carrots and celery from the crock pot and some green beans (because my family refuses to eat peas) to the sauce to complete the filling. You definitely want to taste this mixture and season it before assembling the pie. Mine was a little bland upon my first taste. I needed to go to work on it with the salt and pepper!

Okay, so now everything is ready except for the pastry...

I rolled chilled dough ball #1 to fit my pie plate.

Then I pinched the edges (not my greatest talent, as you can see) and baked the crust at 425 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

Once the shell was pre-baked, I poured in the filling.

And then I rolled out chilled dough ball #2 and topped the pie off. I realize that the placement of the top crust looks a little haphazard in this photograph. I'm calling it "rustic"...

Brush the top of the pastry with 1 beaten egg. Then cut a few slits around the top to let the filling vent.


Look how perfectly golden brown this turned after 30 minutes in the oven! Oh, and look at that savory gravy oozing from the edges! Try not to drool....

Once the pot pie cools for a few minutes, then you're ready to slice...

And serve!

Hooray! While this one pot pie was quite a project from start to finish, I am so glad that I finally made a chicken pot pie completely from scratch! I could certainly taste the "homemade" difference and I felt accomplished as I served this up to my family for dinner.

Here's my recipe for Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

For the chicken and broth:

Add one whole cut-up chicken to your crock pot. Salt and pepper liberally. Toss in 4 peeled carrots, 3-4 stalks celery, one onion- peeled and quartered, a fistful of fresh parsley, 3 peeled cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning, and bay leaf. Cover with water. Cook on LOW until the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender. Remove the chicken to a dish and pick from the bone. Reserve 2-1/2 cups of chicken. Package the rest and freeze for later. Reserve the carrots and celery for the pot pie filling. Strain the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of broth for the pot pie filling. Package the remaining broth and freeze for use in future recipes.

For the pastry (adapted from Ina Garten's Chicken Pot Pie recipe)

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4-1/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening and butter. Add in enough cold water to make the dough begin to stick together. Knead dough (in the bowl) until you can form the pastry into a ball. Divide dough in half. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the filling:

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4teaspoon pepper
1- 3/4 cups reserved chicken broth
1/2 cup milk, half & half, or cream
2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups pre-cooked mixed vegetables (I used the carrots and celery from the crock pot and added some home-canned green beans)

1. Heat oven to 425°F.
2. Roll out bottom pie crust to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place dough in pie plate. Cut off excess around the edges and crimp or pinch. Pre-bake shell for 8-10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened.
4.Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan.
5. Roll out second crust. Top pie, then seal edge. Brush with beaten egg. Cut slits in several places in top crust. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning if needed. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Eggplant, Eggplant! Crostinis and Pitas.

Hello friends! To those of you who are regular "Krista's Kitchen" readers, I want to apologize for my absence of over two weeks. Nothing too exciting going on, I've just been working more (scroll to the end of this post for upcoming cooking class dates), plus dealing with the seasonal "sickies" (as I type this I have one child on an antibiotic and inhaler and another on the couch with a stomach flu). Lately, at the end of the day, I've found myself un-inspired to try anything new and too tired to write about it even if I had bothered to try a new recipe. I'm going to try to do better this week. I'm thinking about easing back in with two fall favorites: chicken pot pie and a shrimp and sausage stew this week, so stay tuned!

My last post, back in September, was about Eggplant Parmesan. Well, my grandma sent still more eggplant last week. When my husband noticed that I was snapping pictures while preparing this dinner Thursday night, he pointed out, "Your last post was about eggplant."
"Yeeees," I answered. And your point is?
"And now you're writing about eggplant again?" It sounded like more of a judgement than an observation....

I made some crack about changing the focus of my blog to only eggplant recipes. "All Eggplant. All The Time. You better learn to like it, because we're going to be eating a whole lot more. I ordered a truck load just this morning...."

He was not amused. Neither were my children.

I thought that both of these recipes were good. The crostini was my favorite. Totally yummy. And while he is clearly not a fan of the eggplant, I'm pleased to announce that my husband liked it too. But our daughters politely asked for plain bread after taking the required one-bite-to-try-it. At least they weren't repulsed and gagging. They just gave me the "Ummm. No. No thank you." I'm counting this as a small victory.

I found the following two recipes in the August 2010 edition of Cooking Light magazine- one for each eggplant. While my family would have probably been better served with a pot of my homemade chicken noodle soup, it was really time for me to try something new. It has been too long. Below are the results of the only 2 new recipes that I have tried this month.

Both recipes used eggplant prepared the same way- grilled.

To prepare the eggplant for grilling, I sliced them into 1/2" slices. Then I placed the slices in a colander and sprinkled them with salt to draw out the moisture. Let them sit like this for 30 minutes to drain.

While the eggplant drained, I prepared my bread slices for the crostini recipe. I forgot to purchase a whole grain baguette (recommended by the recipe) on my big shopping trip this week, so I ran to the corner store for the bread before preparing the recipe. I could only find French bread. I opted to slice it and brush with olive oil.

Then I toasted the bread between my Pampered Chef Grill Pan and Grill Press.

It worked beautifully!

By the time the bread was all toasted, the eggplant was ready to go. I rinsed off the excess salt and then pressed out more of the moisture with paper towels.

Brush the eggplant with olive oil on both sides,

Then into the grill pan, until golden brown and soft.

While I had the grill pan fired up, I went ahead and grilled the red onion slices for our eggplant pitas.

Now for the sauces. Both the crostini and pitas had Greek yogurt based sauces that started out almost exactly the same. Each sauce called for 1/4 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt.

And freshly squeezed lemon juice.

I know that I've bragged about my Pampered Chef juicer here before, but it really is easy to use, and I love that it strains out the pulp and seeds.

Also into both sauces with the yogurt and lemon juice: garlic, salt, and pepper.

After this, the sauces differ. For the crostini recipe, one of the grilled eggplants is mixed into the sauce. I used my immersion blender, but a standard blender or food processor would work as well. I really enjoyed this "sauce". Really it is more of an eggplant hummus. It was delicious on the crostini, but I'd be happy to just dip in some pita chips and eat it as a snack.

The pita sauce received freshly chopped oregano.

As you can see, these two sauces that started out exactly the same yielded two very different finished products.

With all of the components for both recipes prepared, it was time for assembly.

I'll begin with the crostini, since it was my favorite.

Arrange bread slices on a serving platter.

Top with the eggplant hummus.

Toss some arugula, tomatoes, and fresh mint with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper.

Arrange the "salad" over the hummus and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Slices of fresh Parmesan would be wonderful here, but I just had the grated stuff from a can this week. Still good!

Let's zoom in...

Mmmm. I loved all of the flavors working together here.

Now for the super easy pita assembly.

Just spread some of the yogurt sauce in a pita.

Stuff with eggplant and onion slices.

Add in more of the arugula salad.

And tah-dah! Dinner. Or lunch.

I ate one pita for dinner, then wrapped one for lunch the next day. For the record, I liked it better the next day. Maybe because it's one of those recipes that just tastes better the next day or maybe because the next day, it wasn't in competition with that delicious crostini.

Here are the recipes:

Eggplant Crostini from August 2010 Cooking Light
1 (1-pound) eggplant
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
16 (1/2-ounce) slices multigrain baguette
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1/4 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup arugula
1 cup red, orange, yellow, and green cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, torn
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
2. Slice eggplant into 1-inch-thick slices; brush both sides evenly with 1 tablespoon oil. Place eggplant in a single layer on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 6 minutes on each side or until eggplant is tender. Brush both sides of bread slices evenly with 2 tablespoons oil. Place bread slices in a single layer on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 1 minute on each side or until toasted.
3. Combine eggplant, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon juice, and next 3 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon eggplant mixture on each bread slice.
4. Combine arugula, tomatoes, and mint in a bowl. Drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons juice and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss to coat. Divide salad mixture evenly among bread slices; top evenly with cheese

Amount per serving
Calories: 175
Fat: 9.5g
Saturated fat: 2.1g
Monounsaturated fat: 5.3g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.8g
Protein: 6.2g
Carbohydrate: 17.7g
Fiber: 5.9g
Cholesterol: 4mg
Iron: 1.2mg
Sodium: 330mg
Calcium: 195mg

I used slices of French bread, toasted, in place of whole grain baguette. Also, I substituted the quartered cherry tomatoes with cut up Roma tomatoes.

Grilled Eggplant Pita Sandwiches with Yogurt-Garlic Spread from August 2010 Cooking Light
2 (1-pound) eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup plain reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cooking spray
4 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
2 cups arugula

1. Place eggplant slices in a colander; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Toss well. Drain 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly; pat dry with paper towels.
2. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, yogurt, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
4. Brush eggplant and onion slices with oil. Place eggplant and onion slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.
5. Fill each pita half with 1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, one quarter of eggplant slices, one quarter of onion slices, and 1/4 cup arugula.

Amount per serving
Calories: 311
Fat: 8.2g
Saturated fat: 1.6g
Monounsaturated fat: 5g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2g
Protein: 12.7g
Carbohydrate: 50.6g
Fiber: 9.2g
Cholesterol: 1.7mg
Iron: 3.5mg
Sodium: 697mg
Calcium: 117mg

Notes: I doubled the "salad" recipe from the crostini recipe and used it in place of plain arugula in these sandwiches. Enjoy!

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I've been busy with work lately...

If you're reading this from Northern Ohio or Northern Indiana you can see what I've been working on in person! There are 5 remaining stops on the Krista's Kitchen Fall Cooking Class Tour and it's not too late to sign up! The remaining dates/locations:

Wednesday October 19th Dream Dinners at Home Strongsville, OH

Wednesday November 9th Tortellini alla Panna Strongsville, OH

Saturday December 3rd Canning Quick Bread (Holiday Gifts) Medina, OH

Thursday December 8th Company's Coming- Holiday Brunch Warsaw, IN

Saturday December 10th Gingerbread Cookies Nappanee, IN

To get more details and/or register for a class email me at

Oh, and if you're in these areas and are interested in booking a Pampered Chef party (click HERE to check out the benefits you receive from hosting a show) please email me at the same address.

I hope that you all have a wonderful week!
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