Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Day Chicken Pot Pie with Polenta Crust

I am going to start out by saying, I've never liked chicken pot pie.  Actually, I think I had only tasted it once as a child.  It was of the frozen variety and I was quite grossed out.  Fast forward to about 2007.  I was watching the Food Network and Rachel Ray was making a 30 minute meal, pot pie with polenta.  She succeeded in getting my attention.  I love the pairing of roast chicken with a well executed polenta.  This, I thought, had potential.

The first time I made her recipe, I followed it to a T.  First of all, it took me way longer than 30 minutes.  It was tasty, but it was too rich.  I've played around with this recipe and tweaked it over the years and think I have come up with a pretty darn good pot pie.  Not only does it taste good, it is quick to make and I'll go out on a limb here and say, it's not bad for you if you use skim milk and low fat cheese.  What makes this version quick is to start out by using cooked chicken.

I am a self-proclaimed Costco chicken junkie.  I think the the rotisserie chicken sold at Costco is reason in itself to buy a membership.  I have fed Paul and I: 4 nights of dinners, 2 lunches and made chicken stock to boot on one $4.99 Costco rotisserie chicken.  It's the best bargain in town.  If you do not share my enthusiasm for Costco chicken, you can use any roasted chicken, store bought or leftover.  I have also used baked or poached chicken breast (cooked in white wine, lemon and herbs) with equal success. You can also play around with the vegetables and cheese that is used in this dish.  Use what you have on hand.  Some things you wouldn't want to change as they give the pot pie its flavor.  I will indicate which ingredients you may want to switch out in the recipe.

If you are looking for an easy, convenient warm comfort food that looks somewhat it is.  If you are like me, it will also give you a chance to use some of those nifty bowls you may have picked up at Home Goods or Crate and Barrel like these...

Chicken Pot Pie with Polenta Crust
Click here for printable page
Makes 4 hearty servings
Adapted from Rachel Ray Food Network 2007
  • 2 1/2 cups of diced roast chicken ,*baked or poached works fine as well*
  • 1 small diced onion, *you could use 1/2 cup frozen pearl onion*
  • 1 diced shallot  *optional, I like shallots*
  • 1/2 cup baby carrots cut into 3 pieces each or 1 diced carrot
  • 2 ribs diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock *made my stock the day before from the Costco chicken*
  • 1 15 ounce can evaporated skim milk *use cream if you want, but it is unnecessary*
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1 cup vegetable of your choice, I used peas *they should either be frozen, like peas or already cooked. Suggestions: sauteed mushrooms, asparagus tips, cut green beans, or artichoke hearts.*
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese, plus a good pinch for the top of each pie, -This is going into the polenta. I used part skim Jarlsberg and a small square of cheddar that I had left over just to use it up.  *Gruyere, Comte, Swiss, mixed with a little Romano or Parmesan works well.  I've also used low-fat (not fat free) cream cheese, reducing it to a 1/4 cup mixed into the polenta, topped with Parmesan.  Translation= use what you like!*
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs, I use Rosemary *suggestions: thyme, parsley, tarragon, chives*
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • salt 
  • pepper
Assemble all of your ingredients.  The process will go quickly once you start, if everything is chopped and measured out.
In a large non-stick skillet with deep sides, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add celery, onion, carrots and shallots (if using) to the pan.  Season mixture with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
While vegetables are cooking, heat 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup evaporated milk in a heavy pan.  Bring to a boil and whisk in the polenta.  Cook 3-5 minutes on low heat.
During that 3-5 minutes, add chicken to the cooked vegetables and incorporate into veggies, but don't forget the polenta, whisk every 30 seconds or so...
While the chicken is heating, whisk 1/2 cup grated cheese into the polenta. Set aside. ( I move it to the back of the stove and it stays warm from the oven heat.)
Preheat broiler to high and place oven rack in middle of oven.  
Move vegetables and chicken to one side of the pan and make a roux in the other side by melting 2 tablespoons of butter and whisking in 2 tablespoons of flour.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Whisk 2 cups of chicken stock and remaining evaporated milk into the roux and combine with chicken and veggies. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble.  Add mustard, peas or veggie of choice and fresh herbs. Season to taste.  Cook for 1-2 minutes longer.

Fill ovenproof bowls with mixture leaving room at the top for the layer of polenta.  I fill 4 bowls and sometimes fill a smaller ramekin for someone who occasionally looks for extra.
Top each bowl with a layer of polenta and top polenta with a pinch of cheese.
Place bowls on baking sheet.  Place sheet on to middle rack of oven that has been preheated to high broil.  Allow to get bubbly and brown, about 4 minutes.
These babies are HOT! A simple green salad and a glass of Chardonnay is the perfect accompaniment.  BTW, you don't really need a snow day to make these, rainy days work well too.
Break it open...let it cool just a bit and YUM!

Just a note if you want to prepare these ahead.  You can make the mixture filling up to one day before.   When ready to serve, reheat filling in a nonstick pan.  While it is reheating, make the polenta and continue as stated above.  I do not suggest making them ahead with the polenta as the polenta tends to draw the moisture from the filling.

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