A Very English Chicken Potpie  Recipe
A Very English Chicken Potpie

By Joseph Erdos

I first tasted, and fell in love with, potpie while studying in London. Every day on my way to class I passed through an alley by a small eatery with a sign that read "Upstairs Pie Room" right next to an unassuming door. One day I decided to find out what this room was all about. I discovered a homey little restaurant with a menu of traditional English savory pies. The Pie Room became a regular haunt, and by summer's end I had tried every pie on the menu.

Inspired by those pies, I've created a recipe that is classic and true to the one I remember eating in London. First, chicken breasts are roasted until tender. A thick sauce is made with butter, onions, flour and stock, to which hearty vegetables and the cubed chicken is added. The pie can be cooked in one large casserole dish, but just as the Pie Room specialized in personal pies, I divided the mixture among ovenproof dishes. Each is topped with a round of puff pastry and baked until brown and bubbly. The end result is hard to resist, and one bite may even convince you to visit the Pie Room and try all the pies for yourself.

Chicken Potpie Recipe

Makes 4 servings.

3 split chicken breasts

Olive oil

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Poultry seasoning

4 tablespoons butter

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 pound pearl onions, peeled and blanched for 4 minutes

4 carrots, sliced and blanched for 2 minutes

1-1/2 cups frozen peas

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1 pound puff pastry (store bought, or made with the recipe that follows)

1 large egg, beaten, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Add to baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and rub all over. Season with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Roast until juices run clear, about 30 to 40 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat should read 165 F. Let chicken cool until easy to handle. Discard skin and remove bones. Cut into large cubes.

Heat chicken stock until very hot. Pour a bit of stock into roasting pan to loosen brown bits; add it back into stock.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add chopped onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, constantly stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in hot stock and stir to combine. Simmer on low, while stirring, until liquid thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add cream, cubed chicken, pearl onions, carrots, peas and parsley. Mix well to combine. Divide the mixture among 4 ovenproof bowls.

On a well-floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to 1/4-inch thick. Cut 4 discs to fit each bowl. Slash a few vent holes in each disc. Brush the edge of each bowl with egg wash. Place dough on top. Brush dough with egg wash. Place bowls on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes.

Puff Pastry

Adapted from a recipe by Michel Richard in "Baking with Julia" by Dorie Greenspan.

Yield: 2-1/2 pounds pastry

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/4 cups ice water

2 cups (4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter

Combine flours and salt in a food processor. Pulse to aerate. Add the water and pulse until a ball forms. Remove and form into a disc. Slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between two sheets of plastic wrap and beat with a rolling pin until about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Unwrap the dough and place on a well-floured work surface, preferably marble or granite. Flatten and roll the dough into a large square. Roll the edges thin while keeping the center thicker. Place the butter in the middle of the dough and fold over the corners overlapping like an envelope. Press the rolling pin against the edges, making sure the package is square.

Make sure the work surface, dough and rolling pin are well-floured. Roll the package of dough into a rectangle, three times as long as it is wide. Brush off any excess flour. Fold the dough in thirds, up from the bottom and down from the top, like a business letter. Rotate the dough counter-clockwise so that the closed fold is to the left.

Roll the dough into a rectangle again, and fold into thirds again. The second turn is now complete. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Repeat again twice, wrap and refrigerate. Then repeat again twice to equal six folds. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until ready to use. Leftover dough can be wrapped in plastic and frozen. Defrost before using.

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