Chicken Potpie from Ad Hoc

Fair warning:  tonight's entry will read more like a journal entry than a recipe reminder--you have been warned.  
It's simple.  Really, it's just chicken pot pie.  However, it's a pot pie from Thomas Keller via Ad Hoc.  So, while it is simple, it does take many steps.

Simple seems nice these days.  I just finished teaching a two-week course on yoga and stress relief for teenagers.  Wonderfully, we talked about mindfulness, growth mindset, and reducing judgments and negative self talk.  We went to a zendo and sat for a meditation and drank tea. We practiced yoga outside in Briones Regional Park (where two cows ambled into our field after we were finished with our practice).  We brought in someone who studied Sanskrit, another who gave us an overview of the nervous system and its connections to restorative yoga, a counselor who talked students through some basic dialectical behavioral techniques regarding Wise Mind, and a dear friend of mine who led a yoga class in heart openings.  It was a sweet two weeks filled with reminding myself and students to simplify, something that I sometimes struggle to do.  Who am I kidding--sometimes?  Let's rephrase, something I often struggle to do.

Today, I went to yoga at my studio with another good friend--it was a beginner's class.  Keeping in the theme of simplification, we entered into Warrior I and stayed there a while.  Usually I come in and out of this pose so quickly through a sun salutation that I don't often have time to readjust my back thigh or to square my hips properly or to drop my tailbone toward the floor.  It only got better. Late in class, my Marichyasana was elongated, my outer hip released to the floor.  Oh, it was a sweet class, and the final Supta Baddha Konasana was delightful.  Something simple to take with me to the next yoga class.

The weather has been wonderful here this past week.  After the yoga class (it was still morning, mind you), the husband and I walked through the farmer's market, gathering victuals for tomorrow's corned beef and cabbage dinner, followed by a mulching of the garden (which we spruced up yesterday with a thorough weeding and watering).  A summer dress and brunch came next.  Then I read student journals, graded papers, and then off to the store for salad fixings for the week.  Nothing was complicated today.  Everything was simple, but it had many steps.  

The husband and I have been cooking for the past couple of hours--he makes the pie crusts in this family and I ignore the recipes for the fillings (okay, not ignore, but I did put more chicken, less carrots, and no pearl onions (none found around these here parts) with the substitution of shallots).  Now the pie is finishing as I write this, we are listening to some Trampled By Turtles (best band name in a while), and George Saunders' The Tenth of December calling me to finish the last two stories.  I think that can be arranged.

As for the recipe, some further simplifications are in order:  Keller requests that you cook the potatoes, carrots, and onions in separate saucepans.  Bah.  I cooked them all in one pot and added the celery during the last few minutes of cooking.  Also, put the bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns in a sachet.  I did not, and I was not pleased to pick out the peppercorns-especially since I threw all of them in the pot.  That was a lot of peppercorns, people.  I also did not strain the bechamel sauce.  Everything turned out just fine.  I kept it simple even if I had many steps.  Not a bad adage for the weekend.

Edited to add:  Okay, the potpie is finished and we just cut into it.  Whoo boy.  This is comfort food at its best.  The crust is perfectly flaky, the filling is herby and just right, and the veggies (particularly the celery) are just the right crisp-tender texture.  (There was a part of me that pooh-poohed the vegetable parboiling.  However, that step is the most important step of all.)  Finally, we just may have to think about this as a homey family dinner.  Add mushrooms?  Perhaps...

One Year Ago: Paparot--Spinach and Polenta Soup
Two Years Ago: Seared Lamb in Swarthy Pasilla Honey
Three Years Ago: Carrot Cake (Joy of Cooking)
Four Years Ago: German Apple Pancake

Chicken Potpie
Adapted from Ad Hoc

Serves 6-8

Pie Crust
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled
About 5 tablespoons of ice water

Chicken Filling:
1 1/4 cup 1/2-inch pieces Yukon Gold potatoes
1 cup 1/2-inch pieces carrots (cut on the diagonal)
3 shallots, sliced in chunks (Keller calls for 12 pearl onions)
1 1/4 cups 1/2-inch pieces of celery (cut on the diagonal)
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
Pinch of cayenne

1 egg, beaten


Pie Crust:
1.  Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Then add the butter and toss to coat with flour. With your hands, work the butter into the flour, tossing and incorporating any pieces of butter that have settled at the bottom of the bowl, until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. 
2.  Drizzle 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of ice water over the top and, using a fork, mix the dough until it holds together when pinched: add the remaining tablespoon of water if the dough is very dry. Knead the dough until it is completely smooth and the butter is incorporated. 

3.  Divide the dough in half, with one piece slightly larger (for the bottom crust of the pie). Shape each half in a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to a day. (If the dough does not rest, it will shrink as it bakes.)

4.  Remove the dough from the fridge.  Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of the large disk with flour and roll it out to a 13 to 14 inch round about 1/8 inch thick: roll outward from the center, rotating the dough frequently and adding a little flour to the work surface or dough as needed to prevent sticking. Transfer dough to a 9- to 10-inch pie plate, gently molding  the dough into the corners and up the sides.

5. Roll out the second piece of dough in the same manner, to a 12 inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate both doughs for 15 minutes.
Makes one 9 to 10 inch double crust pie.

Pot Pie:
1.  Put the potatoes, carrots, and onions in a saucepan with water to cover and add bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and peppercorns to the pan (a sachet is nice). Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add celery for the last 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. 

2.  Drain the vegetables, discard the bay, thyme, and peppercorns.

3.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the bechamel doesn't burn.

4.  Position the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

5.  Season the bechamel with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.

7.  Remove both doughs from the refrigerator.

8.  Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell. Pour the bechamel over them. At this point, if the top crust is too hard to shape, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Moisten the rim of pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with a small cutter or the tip of a paring knife to allow steam to escape.

9.  Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the center rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust. On the other hand, if crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.

10.  Cut the potpie into 6 wedges and serve warm.


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