Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Friday Dinner: Chicken Pot Pie with Savory Crumble Topping

Typically, chicken pot pie comes with a pastry topping that never seems to provide a good ratio of topping to filling once you've served everybody. America's Test Kitchen solved this by creating a recipe that provides a savory, crunchy topping for all. Besides the crispy, tender biscuit-y topping, it's the type of pan in which it's baked that really does the trick. You want a 13" x 9" pan with sides no more than 2 1/2 to 3 inchies high.

I don't think I'm telling tales out of school but if asked, Lynn (my cooking cohort) would be happy with topping, gravy and baby peas. The girl LOVES her baby peas! The topping is comprised of savory biscuit pieces that are first par-baked and then fully browned when the casserole goes into the oven. In fact, all of the filling ingredients are par-cooked and then baked  with the topping to heat everything up and provide the time for the biscuit bits to brown.

We've made this dish three times now. The first time around we made it as written and found it delicious- with two notes: not enough salt and felt it would benefit from some herbs. The second time, it seemed like there wasn't enough filling - and we adjusted the salt and added some thyme (but not enough for us). In between and before we cooked it last Friday, I looked at the recipe. It calls for "3 medium carrots, about 1 cup". Three medium carrots is definitely more than 1 cup so our adaptation includes more salt, the addition of a diced russet potato, herbs and some modification in how the amount of ingredients are defined.

This time was wonderful - although we still think we could increase the amount of herbs. The entire recipe as published calls for 1/2 teaspoon of salt, at one point during cooking the vegetables. It does call for adjusting the seasoning for the gravy to taste but  - and I didn't invent this - it is a conventional recommendation to season as you go.


Adapted from: America's Test Kitchen
Serves 6

Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sage leaves
  • about 1/4 cup (loosely packed) whole celery leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut in a small dice
  • 3 medium carrots washed, (if necessary) peeled and cut in a medium dice
  • 2 small celery ribs, cut in a small dice
  • 1 small russet potato, peeled and cut in a small dice
  • table salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, trim the very bottom of the stem and slice thin, 1/4 inch
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter (see head notes)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves (reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish)
  • 3/4 cup frozen baby peas
Savory Crumble Topping Ingredients:
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons butter cut into 1/2" cubes and chilled
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated with a microplane grater (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream, chilled
  • Chicken: add the chicken breasts, thyme sprigs, sage leaves, celery leaves and the broth to a large dutch oven and simmer (4-5 quarts) over medium heat. Simmer for 8-12 minutes until the chicken is just cooked (Internal temperature: 165F). Remove the cooked chicken to a large bowl. Remove the thyme sprigs, sage leaves and celery leaves. Pour the broth into a liquid measuring cup or a 1.5-2 quart bowl and reserve. Adjust  your oven's rack to the upper-middle and pre-heat to 450F.
  • Topping:  In a 3 quart (or larger) bowl, combine flour, baking powder, table salt and (optional) cayenne pepper. Whisk to combine. Sprinkle the chilled butter pieces over the flour and using the whisk to stir the butter cubes into the flour, coating them. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like very coarse cornmeal - it's okay (and even better) if it doesn't look exactly like cornmeal - a few rogue larger bits are okay. Stir in the grated Parmesan. Add the cream and stir until just combined. Using your hands, fold the dough over a couple of times to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl but don't be afraid to leave a few teaspoons in the bottom of the bowl. Without squishing the dough, break off clumps that are between 1/2 - 3/4" each on to a rimmed baking sheet. Back until the edges are just golden and the tops are still beige - about 10-12 minutes. Set aside.
  • Filling:
    • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the empty dutch oven over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and diced potato and 1/2 teaspoon table salt all at once and stir to coat with oil. Reduce the head to medium-low, cover and cook stirring every couple of minutes until just tender, about 5 - 7 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, cut the chicken breasts into 1/2 - 3/4" cubes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl with the cubed chicken and set aside.
    • In the emptied dutch oven, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle a medium pinch of salt over the mushrooms and stir to incorporate. adjust the heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring every couple of minutes for about 5 minutes. Uncover the dutch oven and stir-in the soy sauce and tomato paste. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring about every minute until the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are browned again, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the chicken and vegetables. Set aside.
    • Heat the butter in the dutch oven over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and, using a whisk, combine. Cook the roux for 1 minute. Slowly whisk-in the the reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any fond (browned bits). Continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir-in the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the parsley.
    • Stir the chicken-vegetable-mushroom mixture and the peas into the sauce. Pour this mixture into a 13 x 9" baking dish or casserole of similar size - not too deep, no more than 3" Scatter the crumble topping evenly over the filling. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until the filling bubbles and the topping is nicely browned - 12 to 15 minutes. Serve and sprinkle each serving with some of the reserved parsley.

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