For today’s cooks, especially in the age of rediscovered comfort food, pot pies (stews with a crust) are an invitation to use inventive combinations. I’ve made lobster, fish, game, and other types of pot pies, seasoned with everything from chile peppers to curry powder to star anise. Pot pies are a classic, free-form vehicle for favorite ingredients. Think of this recipe, which uses exotic mushrooms and tarragon, as a blank canvas. Best of all, the rustic presentation in individual crocks has no bottom crust, just a biscuit topping. The topping can be made (but not baked) and refrigerated for up to three days, or frozen for up to two weeks. Similarly, the chicken and broth (steps 4 and 5) can be made and refrigerated separately for up to two days.
- 2½ cups sifted all purpose unbleached flour; plus more for dusting a work surface
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1¼ cups heavy cream
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter; cut into small pieces, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon at room temperature
- One 3- to 3½-pound chicken
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 large onion, studded with
- 6 cloves
- 5 large carrots, peeled and diced
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 1 leek, well washed and diced
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 pound mixed exotic mushrooms such as chanterelle, oyster; and cremini, sliced or broken up by hand
- ¼ cup chopped tarragon
1. Make the pot pie tops: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar; baking powder; and 1½ teaspoon salt. After the dry ingredients are thoroughly blended, add the buttermilk and ¼ cup of the cream and paddle until well incorporated. Add the cold butter pieces in rapid succession, paddling only briefly, to leave the mixture as mealy as possible.
2. Scrape the lumpy dough onto a lightly floured board and flatten gently with a rolling pin into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cut into six 3-inch rounds.
3. Brush a cookie sheet lightly with the melted butter; place the rounds on the sheet, and place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake the chilled rounds for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are nicely browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. While they are baking, begin the chicken.
4. Make the chicken and broth: wash the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Tie the bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, and thyme together in a piece of cheesecloth as a bouquet garni. Put the chicken into a pot large enough to hold it, cover with cold water; and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, carefully skimming off any impurities that accumulate on the surface. Add 2 teaspoons salt, the bouquet garni, onion, half the carrots, half the celery, and the leek. When the water returns to a boil, reduce to a persistent simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
5. While the chicken is cooking, fill a large bowl with ice water. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and cool it by lowering it into the ice water. As it cools, strain the broth into a 4-quart pot or casserole, reserving 2 cups of it. (Discard the solids; save the remaining broth for another use.) When the chicken is thoroughly cold, strip off and discard all of the skin. Strip the meat from the bones and shred, using scrupulously clean hands and an immaculate work station.
6. Make the mushroom and tarragon sauce: bring the chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining carrots and celery and simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a saute pan set over medium heat, add the shallots, and saute them. After 3 minutes, add the mushrooms to the pan, raise the heat, and cook for 5 minutes. Season with 1½ teaspoon salt and 1½ teaspoon black pepper.
8. To the pot with the chicken broth and vegetables, add the remaining 1 cup cream, then add the sauteed mushrooms and shallots. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, then add the chicken meat. Cook for 20 minutes, add the tarragon, and transfer to 6 crocks. During the last 5 minutes, reheat the pastry rounds in a nonstick pan in a 200°F oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Top each crock with a pastry round and serve at once.
Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving.