Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Small Wonders - Easiest Ever Mini Chicken Pot Pies

For me, there's really nothing quite like the exhilaration of receiving new kitchen stuff. Fellow home cooks, I know you feel me. The holidays were especially sweet this year because my thoughtful family and friends showered me with some seriously amazing cooking swag, not to mention several new cookbooks and cooking gadgets that I simply cannot wait to use. I'm a lucky girl and I know it. Today's dinner inspiration comes from the positively swoon-worthy set of four Le Creuset Mini Cocottes that my mom-in-law gifted me. 

These beautiful Mini Pot Pies are incredibly simple to make, Photo: NK
To say that I have been fantasizing about these mini ovenproof bakers for a little while would be a major understatement. And the colors! Oh, the colors. They're just beyond. From soufflés to individual baked egg dishes, these little pots can do it all. Plus, they go straight from oven to table making a smashing presentation in the process. 

When it came time to decide how to christen my new cocottes, the answer came in seconds thanks to my comfort food-lovin' husband. According to him, it just had to be Chicken Pot Pies. Perfect! Not only will they be cute, individual servings, but also, we'd make sure that they'd also be incredibly simple, fast, and delicious. YES.

Mr. NK and I created today's dish by joining the best features of two popular recipes, as usual, with an eye towards taste and convenience. We had a great time cooking them together and they were done in a flash!! Enjoy these pot pies piping hot, straight out of the oven! We sure did. 

Mini Chicken Pot Pies
Adapted from Allrecipes.com/Robbie Rice "Chicken Pot Pie IX" & Inspired by Le Creuset's Mini-Cocotte Cook Book 

Yield: This recipe below makes exactly enough filling for 4 Le Creuset Mini Cocottes (8 ounce capacity each) or about 4 light servings
If you would to make the filling for two large pot pies, double the recipe below (not the puff pastry) and you will end up with 8 modest servings. 

1/2 Pound Organic Chicken Tenders, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 Cup Peeled Baby Carrots, sliced about 1/3 inch thick
1/2 Cup Frozen Green Peas
1/4 Cup Celery, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Butter, divided
2 Medium Shallots, finely chopped
2 3/4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour 
1/4 teaspoon Salt, plus more
1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
9/10 Cup Chicken Broth (aka: just shy of a cup) 
1/3 Cup 2% Milk (you can also use whole if you like)
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme plus more for garnish 
1 Egg Yolk, beaten
2 Sheets Frozen Puff Pastry, unrolled and fully thawed on a non stick surface for 40 min
Equipment: 4 mini Ceramic Cocottes or Oven-Safe Ramekins (8 Ounce capacity each)

Pie Filling. Photo NK
1. Preheat the oven to 400 with a rack in the middle. 

2. Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium high flame and heat until shimmering. Cook chicken, stirring occasionally, until opaque and almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken and juices from the skillet. Set aside.

3. In the same pan as the chicken, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring
occasionally, until translucent and tender. About 4 minutes. Now stir in the flour, salt and pepper. Slowly add the chicken broth and then the milk. Add the 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and bring the liquid to a boil by turning up the heat. As soon as it bubbles,  lower the heat way back down to a simmer. Allow mixture to simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquids have thickened. Turn off the flame and remove and discard the thyme sprigs.

4. Meanwhile, in another medium sauté pan, add the last tablespoon of butter and melt over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery. Cook the vegetables, stirring often until somewhat tender but still al dente - about 6 to 7 minutes (it will be done one or two minutes after the pot pie filling mixture is finished). Turn off the flame. Hit them with a good dose of more salt and pepper.

5. On a lightly floured, non-stick surface, cut four circles out of the puff pastry leaving about 1/2 inch overflow that will spill over the sides of the cocottes. You can measure by inverting the mini-cocottes on the dough and drawing a slightly wider circle (about a 1/2 inch wider) with your knife.
Assembling the Pot Pies, Photo: NK

6. To assemble pot pies, pour the reserved chicken and the celery carrot mixture back into the saute pan with the cream filling. Stir until everything is incorporated. Taste for salt and add a bit more to your taste if you choose. Pour the filling evenly into the 4 cocottes. Divide the still-frozen peas among the 4 cocottes.

7. Brush the edges of each cocotte with the egg yolk wash and press a puff pastry round on top of each to close. Fold down the 1/2 inch overhang to seal the edges, and create some fluting along the edges with your fork to seal the pastry. Finally, paint the tops of the pastries with more egg wash, and pierce the middle of each pot pie in order to vent.

8. Place cocottes directly in the oven on the middle rack a few inches apart. Cook for 16-17 minutes until the puff pastry has risen and is golden brown. Serve immediately with fresh Thyme Garnish, a fork and a spoon for the delicious creamy filling!

Golden and crispy outside, bubbly and savory inside. Photo: NK

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