Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homemade and Healthy Chicken Pot Pie

As a kid I disdained chicken pot pies; I hated gravy and the idea of mixing all of the foods together was a strict no-no in my book. However, when I began eating meat again after a 15 year hiatus the first meat I made was a baked chicken. But once the chicken was cooked, I had no desire to eat it, it just looked too foreign to me. Being the frugal sort I searched for another way to eat it. If the meat was hidden in something like a pot pie I would probably be more amenable to eating it. It was true and ever since then I have delighted in making and eating chicken pot pies!

The great thing about homemade pot pies is that you control the ingredients from the crust to the type of vegetables to the gravy, which is why I have the audacity to title this post a "healthy" pot pie. In this version, the gravy is made with chicken stock (not a roux of butter and flour which is higher in calories). While the crust is invariably made with butter or some other shortening, you can control that to some extent.

Pot pies can easily be made without meat or a variety of other meats; they're a great way to use up leftovers or odds and ends from the refrigerator. In this version I added some fresh fennel and cooked rice along with my usual onions, carrots and celery. Past versions have included potatoes, turnips and sweet potatoes. Using lamb or stew beef (already cooked) would be an excellent idea as well. In fact, leftover stews with their vegetables and meat were probably the original impetus for this recipe; just wrap it up in pastry and you have a whole new meal with very little effort. Delish!

Chicken Pot Pie

2 chicken thighs and 1 chicken tenderloin (or tender as they're usually called) chopped in 1 inch pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup homemade chicken stock OR 1 cup store bought stock
1 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons flour (all purpose or spelt flour is ok too)
2 store bought pie crusts (or make your own with enough to fill pan and cover pie)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Add carrots, celery and fennel and cook another 4 minutes until softened. Add chicken and stir and cook another 7-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add stock and bring to low simmer. In separate bowl or measuring cup mix flour with 1/2 cup cold water and blend in all flour so there are no lumps. Raise heat to medium and add flour water mixture and stir as liquid begins to thicken. As liquid thickens into a gravy, add rice and mix well. If rice absorbs too much liquid, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time so that entire mixture is still encased in gravy. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Pour into prepared baking shell and spread evenly. Cover with remaining pie crust and pinch edges together to seal. Poke 8-10 slits in top with knife or fork to allow steam to escape. Bake for 30 minutes until top is browned. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes (it is very hot inside!) Slice and serve.


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