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~ Old-Fashioned Chicken Stew w/Puff Pastry Crust... "Pot Pie"! (+ The Difference Between Soup & Stew) ~

IMG_1491As you pretty much all know, I am a gal from Pennsylvania, born and raised here, who has never lived outside of the state.  I come from a long-line of great cooks and I learned my material by good, old-fashioned, hands-on training.  Growing up in Eastern PA, which has a large Pennsylvania Dutch community, I grew up eating what they believe to be the "real" pot pie: A brothy, sometimes thickened, beef, chicken, ham or turkey and vegetable soup with either large, square-cut egg noodles added to it, or, freeform balls of a flour and shortening mixture dropped into it.  It is delicious.  In some parts of the USA, the latter of these two is referred to as chicken and dumplings.  When I moved to Central PA, where we have a large Amish influence, I was introduced to what they believe to be the "real" pot pie:  A thick, creamy casserole of baked beef, chicken, ham or turkey stew topped with dollops of biscuit-type dough.  It too is delicious!

Just when I thought I had the great pot pie debate figured out... 

L... there was a period of my life when Joe traveled frequently to Philadelphia. Because I had spent a lot of time shopping and eating in The City of Brotherly Love prior to marrying Joe, I jumped at every chance I got to join him on trips to this city.  It was there, at the City Tavern Restaurant, that I/we encountered a pastry-topped version of pot pie.  On that night, I had "The Tavern Lobster Pot Pie".  This seafood stew was baked and served in a pewter casserole and topped with an elegant puff pastry crust.  Joe had "The Colonial Turkey Pot Pie", which was a baked stew, served in a pewter casserole too, but it was topped with a flaky pie-type pastry crust.  Both of our meals were unbelieveably wonderful...

L-1... thick, creamy and tinged with just a hint of sherry. While pricy (around $35 and $25 respectively), they were both worth every cent spent!

No one-time trip to Philadelphia should be planned without making a reservation at The City Tavern. Renowned Chef Staib has restored this national landmark to its Colonial glory. You can enjoy General Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and, Benjamin Franklin's favorite ales, and take a trip back in history to 1773. When Adams arrived in Philadelphia in 1774, to attend the first continental congress, it was less than a year old. He was welcomed by citizens of the community and referred to it as "the most genteel tavern in America". To experience rich, delicious, Founding Foodie fare... The City Tavern!  What a delight!

Want to develop or re-create a favorite pot pie recipe?  

Start by learning the difference a between soup & stew!

Soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency.  Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish or main course, but, are always served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon!  

Stew:  If you've cooked/sauteed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, etc) and turned into a knife and fork meal!

Part One:  Starting the Stew

IMG_13041/2  cup olive oil

2  pounds 3/4"-thick cubed boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2  pounds 3/4"-thick cubed boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2  pounds chopped onion

1 1/2  pounds 1/4"-thick sliced celery

1 1/2  pounds 1/4"-thick coined carrots

1 1/2  pounds 3/4"-thick cubed gold potatoes

1 1/2-2  cups frozen peas, thawed or still frozen, it does not matter

2  tablespoons dried thyme leaves

1  tablespoon sea salt

1 1/2  tablespoons white pepper (1 1/2 tablespoons = 4 1/2 teaspoons)

1-4  17-ounce boxes puff pastry sheets (not phyllo dough) (Note:  Each box of pastry contains two pastry sheets.  Each sheet is enough to top 2-4 pot pies, depending upon the size of the oven-safe bowls or ramekins you are using.)

1-2  large eggs, at room temperature, whisked with 1-2 tablespoons of water, for glazing pastry (Note:  This will also vary, depending upon the size of the oven-safe bowls or ramekins you are using.)

  IMG_1246 IMG_1236~ Step 1.  In a 14" chef's pan, or, a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot, place the olive oil. Prep the chicken, onions and celery as directed, placing them in pan as you work.  Add the dried thyme, salt and pepper. Using a large spoon, stir to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

IMG_1272 IMG_1253~ Step 2. Adjust heat to medium-high.  Bring to a steady simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is cooked through and has lost all of its moisture, 45-60 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and set aside. Note:  During this 45-60 minutes, prep the carrots and potatoes.

Part Two:  Making the Sherry Cream Sauce

IMG_12864  tablespoons butter

4  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

2  cups chicken stock

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

1/4  cup dry sherry

2 1/2-3  cups chicken gravy, preferably homemade*, or:  

2-3  12-ounce jars chicken gravy, your favorite brand*

(I like to use 3 cups or 3 jars.) 

*Note:  Gravy is not an unusual ingredient to add to this type of pot pie.  Since chicken or turkey pot pie is often made using leftover chicken or turkey, and, leftover vegetables as well, our foregrandmothers added their leftover gravy to sauce it too!

IMG_1279 IMG_1275~ Step 1.  In a 3 1/3-quart chef's pan, or, a 10" skillet, melt the butter over low heat and add the flour.  Increase heat to medium-high, and, whisking constantly, stir until a thick but smooth roux has formed.  Continue to cook/whisk for 30 more seconds, just until it begins to turn a pale shade of brown.

IMG_1283 IMG_1282                                        ~ Step 2. Whisk in the stock, then the cream, then the nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook, whisking frequently, until nicely thickened, about 5-6 minutes.  Turn off the heat and whisk in the sherry, then the gravy.  Remove from heat.  Note: Sauce can be made a day ahead.

Part Three:  Finishing the Stew

IMG_1324 IMG_1309~ Step 3. Add all of the warm cream sauce to the warm chicken mixture.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Add and stir in the carrots, potatoes and peas. Note:  If you've prepared the sauce a day in advance, be sure to gently reheat it prior to adding it.

IMG_1344~ Step 4.  Adjust heat to a slow, steady simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until potatoes and carrots are cooked through, 30-40 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside to cool to room temperature, 4-6 hours, to give the all of the flavors time to marry.  Better still:

Tip from Mel:  Prepare stew a day ahead, refrigerate overnight, then return to room temperature prior to topping with pastry and baking!

Part Four:  Topping and Baking the Pot Pie

IMG_1363~ Step 5.  When I'm making pot pie, I use, 6 1/2"-round, 12-ounce, classic, double-handled, oven-safe, cream soup bowls.  When I carefully unfold each puff pastry sheet, this means:  each sheet of pastry will be enough to cover two bowls of soup.

Tip from Mel:  Remove pastry from refrigerator 10-12 minutes prior to using it.  Do not place it on a floured surface (as per package directions). Using your fingertips, gently press the seams/folds flat.

IMG_1366~ Step 6.  Using a very sharp knife, trace and cut desired number of circles of puff pastry, just slightly larger than the diameter of the tops of the soup bowls.

~ Step 7.  Place desired number of soup bowls, slightly apart on a baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

~ Step 8.  Position oven rack to the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

IMG_1384 IMG_1353~ Step 9. Ladle or spoon room temperature soup evenly into bowls, to with 1/4" of the top.

~ Step 10.  Cut a 1/2"-3/4" hole in the center of each circle of pastry (I used a small heart-shaped cutter).

Tip from Mel:  This vent allows steam to escape, which allows the pastry to rise better, instead of drooping down in the centers.

IMG_1389~ Step 11.  Using a fork, in a small bowl, whisk 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water for every 6 bowls of pot pie you are baking. Using a pastry brush, generously glaze the top of each pastry circle.

IMG_1407~ Step 12. Bake on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven until soup is starting to bubble and pastry is golden and puffed throughout, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside, to cool, about 5-10 minutes prior to serving:

IMG_1512Old-Fashined Chicken Stew w/Puff Pastry Crust... "Pot Pie"! (+ The Difference Between Soup & Stew):  Recipe yields 6 quarts of stew, or, 16 12-ounce individual bowls of pot pie.

Looking for another way to bake pot pie to perfection?

IMG_1555 IMG_1529Divide stew between 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casseroles.

IMG_1538Using a knife, cut both pastries into 12 pieces.  Place 12 pieces over each. Bake slightly longer, 40-45 minutes.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight deep sides & lid, or a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; 3 1/4-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides or 10" skillet; whisk; 6 1/2"-round, oven-safe soup bowls; baking pan(s), appropriately sized; parchment paper; soup ladle; fork; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b015390a44c89970b-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my classic Philadelphia recipes, ~ Philly's Famous Cheesesteaks ~ can be found in Categories 2 or 17!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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