Chicken Pot Pie

Teal really like chicken pot pies.   However, I find them to be typically bland, pasty and just not worth the calories.   So on a cold, dreary late fall day, Teal asked if we could make pot pies.  I took up the challenge: to make a pot pie that is actually worth eating.

The engineering mind took over.  I was thinking  about what makes them so boring?  The answer is, there is  a lack of caramelization,  too much goo (a.k.a “gravy”) and few if any spices.  So, I set out to correct these deficiencies and add a few twists.  I started with a small batch of 4 servings figuring I could scale it up later if they turned out.  These are still not “health food” but still better than what you will find in the frozen foods section of your local store.  If the steps below seem like a lot, remember that each is done while you are chopping the next. It is an efficient use of your time.

Teal enjoying the pot pie

Veggies

3 large carrots, washed, scraped of dark spots and cut into ~3/8″ pieces

2 medium onions chopped to about the same size

1 large pinch of dried thyme crushed

1 pinch of savory crushed

1-2  tsp sweet paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the carrots in bacon grease (about 1 TB) for 3 min on med-high heat so they just barely start to brown and then add the onions. Keep stirring until the onions are thoroughly translucent  and soft. Then dump them out into a large mixing bowl and heap into a pile while mixing in the  thyme and savory, 1 tsp sweet paprika as well as salt and pepper to taste.  Heaping will conserve the heat and keep them cooking.  The carrots should be slightly soft at this point.

Leave the pan  on the stove, off the heat.    Other veggies can be added, but Teal prefers that we stick to the basics (certainly no celery or parsnips). 1-2 small (sweet) potatoes might be acceptable, but we were out.   At this point, the fry pan is sticky with bits of the veggies – these will come off as the chicken (below) cooks.

Chicken

1 package – about 1- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Remove connective tissue, and excess fat. Chop into 1/2″ pieces.

Dredge the chicken in 3-4 TBsp flour with 1 tsp granulated garlic. This will be a sticky gooey mess. Chicken will be coated but not “dry”.

Add 1 TBsp bacon grease to the pan. Then add the chicken and saute until lightly browned and tender. Stir to break up the pieces, but pause enough to let each side brown a bit.  We use thighs as they can withstand the higher temps needed for browning, while staying tender unlike breast meat.   Once browned and tender, remove from the heat and dump into the bowl with the veggies reserving any left-over grease. Note that at this point, the chicken is completely cooked and food safe if you want to save these for later.

Sauce / gravy

Pot pies need some sauce, but not the pasty white stuff you often see. It needs some flavor from our friendly Maillard reactions.   This starts with a browned roux.: 3-4 TBsp flour, 1-2 TBsp bacon grease. Stir over medium high heat. All of the flour should be coated and thick (and not runny). Now cook, while stirring constantly, until it is a light caramel brown.   Next whisk in 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock until it thickens and is smooth with no or minimal lumps.

Add 10 oz  frozen baby peas to the veggies and chicken,  then add the sauce and stir gently to mix.

Pot Pies

Divide the mixture into four  approximately 5″ wide oven proof ramekins. Cover with a thin layer of pie crust. Our favorite is: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-single-pie-crust-recipe .

A typical single crust recipe will have a lot left over.  So you will have the opportunity for odd shaped pie crust cookie snacks  – cover with cinnamon sugar and bake with the pot pies. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake at 425  for 30-40 min until the crust is crispy.  Remember to remove the snack pieces before they burn (about 10 min).   Let the pot pies rest about 15 min before serving.

With the added flavor of the caramelization, high proportion of veggies and herbs, even I like these pot pies. They will now be one of our winter staples.  The pies can be frozen par-baked, so the crust starts to set up  and then heated and served.

 

Spent Grain Sourdough

With a little planning ahead a brewing day can also be a baking day.   I  am doing extract brewing and the spent specialty grains are perfect for baking.   The cooked grains are rich in fiber, have lower carbs and add great texture (yes, even with the husks present).

Given that many of my beers are high gravity I need to make a starter for the beer. The sourdough also requires a starter. So why not do both in parallel?

Spent grain sourdough bread

Day T-2   Pull your sourdough starter from the fridge and mix with 1 cup all purpose flour and 3/4 c water.   Mix well, cover and allow to rise at room temp.

Day T-1  Make the starter for the beer. I typically use 1.5 l water and 3/4 c DME. Bring to a boil in an erlenmeyer flask, including the stir bar, with a foil cover .   Remove from heat and quickly cool in a snowbank or ice water (brewing in the winter does have some advantages for cooling). Rehydrate the yeast per the mfr instructions if using dry yeast, add to the flask and then put on the stir plate.

Add to the sourdough starter. Add another 1 1/4 c flour and 3/4-1 c water to have  a heavy sticky dough.  Cover and let rise at room temp.    Make sure you keep the sourdough work well away from the beer starter or you will risk contamination. Doing the additions in 2 stages, seems to yield more consistent results.

Sourdough starter a few hours after 2nd addition

 

Brew and baking day

Steep the specialty grains per the beer recipe drain well and cool.   For the bread pictured above,  this was Caramunich III.       By the time you are done brewing,  the grains will be cool enough for baking.

Bread

Place the sourdough starter in the mixer bowl reserving 2/3 cup to save for the next batch.

Add 2.5 cups of the spent grains – they should be just damp at this point. Wring out if too moist

Add 2 c bread flour (King Arthur)

1 tsp dry yeast (SAF Instant)

Mix lightly and then rest for 10-15 min.

Continue mixing for 3 min. This should be a very sticky ball, mostly pulling away from the sides of the mixer .  You may have to adjust with more flour or water but do not be tempted to make it too firm.

Add 1tsp fine sea salt. Mix for another 2 min.   The salt firms up the dough, so don’t add too early or the texture will not be as nice.

Cover the bowl with a very damp warm kitchen towel and place in the oven to proof. Ours has a bread proofing (100F) setting.  Let rise for 1.5 hours.

Take the dough our and place on a floured counter. Pull and fold 5-8 times.  It will still be very sticky but this evens out the texture.

Place in a large pan or dutch oven and oil the inside well (olive oil or butter).  Cover and rise again for another 1-1.5 hours at 100F. The dough should have risen about 2.5 times.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Place bread covered in the oven for 15-20 min.

Remove the lid, set for convection backing. Insert temperature probe and bake until the internal temp is 195F (15-30 min).   Itis best to go by temp rather than time.   The Thermoworks Chefalarm with the Pro Series Needle Probe is perfect. I also use this for brewing as the probe is waterproof.

Remove and turn onto a rack to cool and serve (unless your spouse beats you to it for the first slice (as mine did in the photo above).  Serve with a glass from a previous batch of your beer.

While you may be tempted to interleave the baking and brewing work during the boil, I would recommend against it. The sourdough has a variety of yeasts and bacteria in it that would definitely not be beneficial to your beer.   I have learned the hard way not to taste the raw sourdough!

Note that previously I had tried adding brewing grains (dry) as part of the flour for the bread and the texture was not that good. The steeping of the grains for brewing makes a huge difference in the bread. I will also try increasing the proportion of spent grain in the future as well as mixing with other flours.  I am really intrigued with trying rye and oats as the spent grains.  There is much room for experimentation, based on this successful base recipe.

Sourdough whole grain variant

The kids got me a couple of Emile Henry ceramic bakers for my birthday.  One is baguette pan and the other is a bread loaf pan.  Today was the first trial of them.  The bread was made in between all of the yard work and errands that needed to get done with our slow spring and sudden summer —  95F today.

This is based on the Multigrain sourdough recipe  but I was out of the KAF Harvest Grains Blend.   So to substitute I used the following mix which was soaked in the boiling water:

  • 1/4 c poppy seed
  • 1/4 c steel cut oats
  • 1/4 white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c roasted / salted pepitas / sunflower seed mix (from Farm and Fleet)

The dough was a bit wet, I probably had too much water in the starter feed but then added more bread flour to make up.  Again the dough was mixed and rested for 30 min before the kneading.  First rise was 2 hrs at 76F (I had to run out and go get more herbs for the garden) .   After rolling to shape, the top was brushed with water and the black sesame seeds were springkled on .  Second rise was 1 hour at 100F.

Bake at 425 F for 33-38 min with the last 5 min uncovered.

YUM! Thank you: Jessie, Elyse and David for the bakers.