Thursday, January 17, 2013

Smoked Chicken Pot Pie

It has been unseasonably cold this winter, so I figured it was time for a warm and comforting recipe on the ole food blog this month.  And in this capacity, you can’t do much better than a good, hearty chicken pot pie. 

This dish brings back memories of youth for me, as the steam rising from the fresh-cracked pastry shell of a pot pie hot from the oven always delighted me on a cold winter day when I was a kid.  Of course, the pies in those days were usually of the frozen Swanson variety, but they did the job back then.  

Of course, we love cooking, right?  And homemade is almost always better, right?  In this case, it is right, for the fresh veggies and cream (and homemade pastry dough) in this dish will win the Pepsi Challenge with those frozen pies any day.

Also, this recipe amps up the flavor a few notches by using smoked chicken in the pies.  Yes, adding a tangy smoked flavor to these already creamy, buttery, savory pies really takes the flavor to a higher plane of existence.  They might just be...the best chicken pot pies you’ve ever tasted.  They are for me.

Pastry Dough

2.5 Cups Flour
2 Sticks Butter
2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Teaspoons Sugar
A Few Ounces Ice Water

Don’t skimp on the dough by using store-bought frozen dough.  Making your own is quick and easy and sooooo much more flavorful. 

Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor.  Cut in butter in cubes...

...and process until fine granules form.  Slowly add ice water in drops until dough forms.  

Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, longer of you wish.   

When you’re ready to make the pie shells, divide dough into thirds.  Roll out one third for two pastry bases, the next third for two more, and one third for all four pastry tops. 

When you roll out the bases dough, roll it into a rough rectangle, then cut in half with a knife or pizza cutter.  Take these and press each into small, straight-sided soup bowls or large ramekins.  Let excess dough drape over the edge, then cut or tear off excess dough, making sure to leave enough for the top to connect to.  

You should refrigerate the dough-filled ramekins until your pot pie filling is done.  Also, you can wait to roll out your tops until after you’ve filled the bases.  Keep top dough refrigerated until you roll it out. 


2 Smoked Chicken Breasts, cubed
2 Potatoes, chopped
3 Carrots, chopped
1 Cup Frozen Peas
Salt, Pepper and Celery salt to taste
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 Medium Spanish Onion, finely diced
3 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Heavy Cream, heated
2-3 cups Chicken Broth

Preheat oven to 400F

Chop the potatoes and carrots into half inch pieces...

...then parboil them for a few minutes. 

Sauté diced onions in butter over medium heat until they turn clear and just start to look golden. Sift in flour, salt and pepper and celery salt, let this cook for a couple minutes.

Add garlic and continue to cook for one minute.  Add the chicken stock and heavy cream.  

Stir in frozen peas, then the parboiled carrots and potatoes. 

While this is cooking, cube your smoked chicken... 

...and then stir it in.  Let mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes. 

Retrieve your ramekins with the pastry dough bases inside, then ladle your chicken mixture into them.  Make sure you get several pieces of chicken into each ramekin.  

Add another circle of dough on top.  Seal with fork. 

Carefully tear off excess dough. 

(Note, if you wish, you can leave the extra dough draped down the sides.  The pie will bake fine, and you'll have extra crust to munch)

Cut slits in surface of pie so steam can escape while the pies are baking.  

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Until next time, 

Here's hoping for a chicken in every pot.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Smoked Chicken Breasts

There are a myriad of ways to smoke chicken:  whole, halved, spatchcocked, cut in pieces, sauced, skin on, skin off, bone in, bone gone, sittin’ on a beer can, etc.  But for simple, unadorned smoke flavor, a boneless, skinless chicken breast is your huckleberry.  I usually buy them in large packages when they are on sale at the grocery store and smoke the whole lot of them, then freeze them for use in a myriad of other recipes later on, such as Smoked Chicken Pot Pies, Smoked Chicken Fajitas, or Smoked Chicken Pizza.  My wife even makes a killer Smoked Chicken Salad with ‘em.  They are as versatile as they are tasty.  Hell, you can even serve ‘em on their own with just a little BBQ sauce and some simple sides. 

As to smoking woods, I would say just about anything but mesquite will work for this technique.  My preferences are any of the fruit woods, maple, pecan or hickory.  In fact, if you're new to smoking or are trying a new smoking wood that you have never used and you want to taste the unadulterated smoke flavor without tastes from what you are smoking dominating your palate, then this recipe twill serve.  The chicken flavor on its own is so subtle that the majority of what you taste is the smoke.  When I try a new wood I’ve never used before, I always use this technique so I can get a good feel for the taste of that particular wood. 
It is for this reason that I don’t really season the breasts at all before I smoke them.  I’m just trying to impart smoke flavor and nothing else.  Since I mainly use this technique for chicken that goes into other recipes, I do my seasoning later, when I know what I’m making, and not in the smoker. 

So, how do we do it?  Simple.  Get your smoker going according to whatever technique you use.  Lately I’ve been using my Weber kettle to smoke in, so I get about a half-chimney of charcoal going, dump it in my indirect heat tray, then add my wood on top.  

Do I soak the wood?  Yes, for a few minutes.  What does this do?  Not much.   Wood doesn’t really absorb water, but it does delay the onset of flame-up until I get the lid on the smoker, so I do it. 

Let the breasts smoke for about 45 minutes to an hour at the rather warm smoking temperature of 300F.  Chicken is very moist and porous, so it will absorb the smoke flavor readily, and you can easily over-smoke it if you leave them in longer than an hour.  But, you do want to cook your breasts to 160F, so check them with a meat thermometer at the 45 minute mark, and continue to cook only if they haven’t reached that temp.  Don’t go much over 160F or your chicken will start to dry out.  You can even pull them at 150F or so and they will continue to cook until they reach 160F.

Once the breasts are done, you can vacuum-seal them and freeze them whole for later use, or use them immediately.  

Until next time, 

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.