Chicken cheddar potpie is more than the sum of its parts; it's comfort food to the max. And of course, it is easy to make.
Potpies are simple concoctions of meat and vegetables in a white sauce, with pastry crust on top. They exist in one form or another in many cultures; sometimes the pastry wraps all the way around, and it's an empanada or a cornish pasty. Sometimes, the crust is bread, and it's a calzone. It's sensible.
Since I make clothbound cheddar, I like to add some, right before baking. Since I use sourdough to make almost everything more quickly and easily, it is here in both the sauce (really!) and the crust. The purpose of the sourdough in the sauce is to make an instant, smooth thickening agent while adding subtle flavor. In the crust, it adds texture and flavor to the pastry. The addition of cream cheese to the pastry creates a very tender crust. Vegetables: I'm using carrots and zucchini in this pie, but you should use whatever is in your fridge. Potpie is an adventure, and one shouldn't place too many constraints.
Chicken Cheddar Pot Pie with Savory Pastry
4 T olive oil
3 large chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless
6 large carrots
1 small onion
1 medium zucchini
4 T (heaping) thick sourdough starter (or roux made from 5 T flour sizzled with 3 T butter for one minute.)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups pan juices from chicken and vegetables
1/2 cup good-quality chicken stock
2 dried morels or other wild mushroom
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (heaping) thick sourdough starter
3 oz. cream cheese
3 oz. butter
1/2 tsp salt
Milk, to brush on
1. Place the olive oil, chicken breasts, carrots and onion in a stainless 9x13 baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a cookie sheet, and bake at 350F for one hour or until done and tender. The chicken and vegetables should release just over a cup of juices, which will be used in the sauce.
Remove chicken and vegetables to a plate.
2. The sauce:
Place the baking pan on a burner, medium heat. Add enough chicken stock to make two cups total.
In a small bowl, combine sourdough starter and 3 T. of the milk; whisk to incorporate. Then add the rest of the milk to the bowl, whisking until smooth. When the baking pan is bubbling, whisk the milk mixture into the pan juices, continuing until thickened. The mixture should be smooth, shiny and thick enough to coat a spoon.
Crumble the dried mushrooms into the sauce, stir in and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
3. The Crust:
Place the flour and salt on the counter. Put the sourdough starter on the flour and fold in.
Use a plastic scraper to lift and fold toward the center, until incorporated.
Put the cream cheese on top and fold in to incorporate completely.
At this point the dough is firm enough to work with your hands. It should look like a 10" square.
Add a dusting of flour to the counter to prevent sticking.
Shred the butter on the center of the dough and fold the corners in to make an envelope around the butter.
Roll slightly, then fold in three; then roll to a 9x13 rectangle.
Fold in three, then roll to a 9x13 rectangle.
Do this fold and roll one more time.
The dough is ready to use.
Chop the chicken into 1" cubes. Slice the carrots 1/2" thick.
Slice the raw zucchini lengthwise, then slice into 1/2" thick pieces.
Stir the cheddar cheese into the sauce in the pan.
Sprinkle chicken and vegetables over the sauce, press down into the sauce to coat.
Roll out the crust to a rectangle the size of the pan, and lay this over the filling.
Brush the crust with milk. With scraps of dough, cut small leaves or other shapes with mini cookie cutter. Brush these with milk and lay on top of the crust.
Cut a couple of small slits in the center, to allow steam to escape.
Bake at 400F for 30 minutes or until bubbling and very slightly browned.