Giving Comfort Food A French Twist: Individual Parisienne Chicken Pot Pies!
This past Friday, for the first time in a VERY long time, my husband and I went out to dine...just the two of us. Usually, on Friday we got out somewhere moderate with at least our 12 year old daughter and my mom in tow. But last Friday, I'm not ashamed to say, I asked Stephen to pick up some drive-thru food for Mackenzie and Mom and made reservations for he and I at our favorite local restaurant, Oliver's. As per usual, the meal, service, price and ambiance was superb! (So much so that we had brunch there on Sunday after church!). Saturday night, we hosted a small dinner party for friends and Sunday evening, at the request of my oldest daughter, I made Sweet and Sour Meatballs for 10 people. On Monday, Stephen went trout fishing with his two sons and I spent the day doing laundry and cleaning the house, albeit at an unencumbered, relaxed pace. Around 3 o'clock, it occurred to me that I needed to make something for supper for not only Mackenzie, Mom and myself but also for Stephen when he came home, no doubt tired, achy and perhaps a little wet. I felt like 'comfort food', food that warms the body and soothes the soul. But I also wanted something, I don't know, French-ish. Sizing up my fridge, I spied three small boneless skinless chicken breasts. Could I stretch three small chicken breasts to feed four? A pot pie seemed like the obvious answer and seeings how I wanted to add a little 'French' to the meal, I decided to give a traditional comfort food like Pot Pie a Parisienne twist!
With the chicken breasts on a plate on the counter, I dove back into the fridge and pantry for ingredients that would fit the bill. Carrots, onion, celery, mini bella and white mushrooms, garlic, no salt added chicken broth, white wine, store bought crescent roll dough, and herbs de provence...that should do it. Nothing says 'Parisienne' in my opinion like white wine, herbs de provence and delicious pastry. Combine those three things with just about anything and you can legit cal it French!
First I diced up the chicken breasts into smaller bite size pieces. Then I diced up three carrots, two stalks of celery, a medium white onion and about 2 cups of fresh mushrooms. When watching cooking challenges on tv, I often note that contestants get dinged for their lack of 'knife skills'. I'm not exactly sure what's involved to have good knife skills, but my goal for this meal was to have all of the ingredients pretty much the same size. Whether or not that constitutes good knife skills, I have no idea. I figure good knife skills are prepping all of your food with good, sharp knives and still having all of your digits in place and having not impaled yourself, or anyone else for that matter, in the process!
I seasoned the chicken very simply with a little salt and freshly ground pepper and Herbs de Provence. Herbs de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs typical of the Provence region of southeast France and typically contains savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavendar leaves, fennel seeds and bay leaf powder. It can be found in most chain grocery stores where the usual seasonings can be found as well as in specialty stores where the blend might be just a little fresher. I sprinkle Herbs de Provence on just about everything from salads to roasted vegetables, particularly potatoes, but it's excellent on fish, chicken, beef and pork which makes it a staple in my spice rack.
In a medium sized pot, I sauteed the diced onion in a little olive oil, seasoned only with salt and pepper. When the onions were translucent, I added in the carrot, celery and mushrooms. While that mixture was sauteeing away, I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. I then browned the chicken pieces. Prior to adding the chicken pieces to the vegetable mixture, I used a micrograter to grate one medium size clove of garlic into the veggie mix, gave it a stir and when the chicken was browned, into the pot it went with the veggies. I reduced the heat to low, covered the pot and let the chicken and veggies get better acquainted while I made the sauce for my Parisienne Chicken Pot Pies.
I wanted the 'sauce' for my pot pies to be special and I prefer a saucy, almost soupy consistency to my pot pies. Having said that, it's easy enough to make it less 'soupy' by simply adding less liquid. To make the 'sauce', I poured about 1/2 cup of dry white wine into the skillet I had browned the chicken in and heating it over medium high heat, I brought it to a gentle boil, all the while scraping up all the ymmy brown bits from the chicken. After letting the wine boil and slightly reduce, about 5 - 7 minutes, I then poured the wine from the skillet into the pot with the chicken and vegetables. Obviously more liquid was going to be required for the sauce and I didn't want it the consistency of water or anything, so I made a roux. A roux is equal amounts of fat and flour cooked together until glutens are cooked out of the flour, a paste has formed and it's used in cooking to thicken sauces and gravies. In French cuisine, the fat of choice is butter, which I did use here, but lard and vegetable oil are often used in other cuisines to make a roux. To make the roux, very simply add equal amounts of butter and flour to a skillet, pan, etc, and over medium low heat, let the butter melt and whisk the flour into the butter, letting it bubble and cook. You can either then add the roux to soups, stews, gravies, or add liquid to the roux, which I did here. I heated up two tablespoons of unsalted butter, whisked in two tablespoons of flour and when the paste was formed, whisked in about 2 cups of no salt added chicken broth. When the broth was thickened, this is what it looked like before I poured it into the pot with the chicken, vegetables and white wine:
Once added to the pot with the chicken and vegetables, I gave it a good stire and let it simmer while I prepared the crust for the pot pies. Now, here's the thing....a baker, I am not. I don't know what it is exactly but I think it's because baking is too much of an exact science for me. That being said, without hesitation I opted to use a package of store bought crescent roll dough, (Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine). I rolled the dough out onto was paper, pinched the perforations together and sliced the dough into 1/4 - 1/2 inch strips horizontally.
If you're fortunate enough to be a whiz at pastry dough, by all means, knock your socks off! And, if you're curious about other possible substituions for crescent roll dough, puff pastry works well too! For me, though, there's something about that little hint of sweetness from the crescent rolls that adds a little kiss of affection to pot pie, but that's just me!
I laddled the Parisienne Chicken Pot Pie filling into 6 ramekins, placed on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I then took the strips of crescent roll dough and first wrapped a strip around the entire edge of the ramekin. I then simply criss-crossed dough strips in a pinwheel fashion, but you could get real fancy here and weave the dough in a lattice pattern.
Pre-crust Individual Parissienne Chicen Pot Pies!
Post-crust Individual Parisienne Chicken Pot Pies!
From conception to assembled pot pies, 40 minutes later, my supper dilemma had been resolved. I figured it would only take about 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven to cook the pot pies and well, it was only quarter to four! They woud just have to wait on the counter until I was ready to cook and eat! Around 5:15, I preheated the oven and watched as these adorable Individual Parisienne Chicken Pot Pies browned and heated through. The aroma that filled the house had my 12 year old pausing the movie she was watching in her room, open the door and come down to see what was cooking, as well as my mom poking her head in from the attached in-law suite asking if she could set the table. Stephen still wasn't home from fishing, but that's ok, I'd re-heat one or two for him and while he ate, run him a nice hot bath....that would surely absolve me of any scorn for not waiting for him....I hoped. Pulling the pot pies out of the oven, I knew instantly there was no way we could wait for hubby to get home!
The thing about being the cook, I usually opt for the least visually appealing end product but in this instance, they all looked so darn good, I took the one that was picture perfect for myself!
The aroma from these Parisienne Chicken Pot Pies certainly made all of us sit up and pay attention, (not to mention salivate), but the combination of hearty vegetables and chikcen, silky smooth sauce with just a hint of white wine acidity, those beautiful Herbs de Provence and that flaky, slightly sweet and thoroughly indulgent flavour from the crescent rolls made these pot pies the epitome of 'Comfort Food'. In fact, I'd go so far as to nominate the above picture for the picture dictionary definition of Comfort Food! Just for the record, Stephen loved his re-heated pot pie when he got home an hour and a half later. (For the record, not only was there no mention of us not waiting until he got home to eat BUT the whole bath idea earned me the title of 'Best Wife Ever' too!). And as if all of that weren't reason enough to give these little Parisienne Chicken Pot Pies a try, what was leftover was equally delicious re-heated for lunch yesterday!
Individual Parisienne Chicken Pot Pie....easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!