I have a few rules for myself about cooking, aside from the obvious ones like “Have good knives and don’t use them stupidly.” Among them:
1. Don’t compromise on ingredients; food is not where I try to save money.
2. Ask the kids to help. Dr. Lecter likes to say, “I LOVE cooking!” not just because she likes the exaggerated /u:/ pronunciation instead of /ʊ/, but also because she likes pouring and stirring things.
3. Cater to your guests, because that’s polite. Sure, overcooking a filet because you like it well done is repugnant and horrible to me, but I will do that for you if I love you enough. And sure, eating vegetarian is an alien concept to me, but I will make you a vegetarian feast if I’ve invited you over.
4. Any recipe calling for a giant pot of gravy is a good recipe.
This is a good recipe.
It comes from Cooks Illustrated. It differs from most pot pies in that there’s no bottom crust, and the top crust is made of tasty savory crumbles. Between the parmesan in the crumbles and the meat, mushrooms, tomato paste, and soy sauce in the filling, this pot pie punches you in the face with umami.
They call it a weekday recipe because it’s speedier than conventional pot pie. From the first slice to getting the pot pie on the table, it took me an hour and a half, but I spent some of my cooking time IM-ing with Earl about wedding plans on my phone. Poorly at that:
Me: Oh, nasty
Me: Fuck this Swype bullshit.
This recipe relies on two unusual ingredients: soy sauce and tomato paste. Do not omit them. They don’t convey their distinctive tastes but greatly deepen the savory flavor of the filling. When making the topping, do not substitute milk or half-and-half for the heavy cream.
1½ pounds (680.389 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
3 cups (709.765 mL) low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons (29.574 mL) vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup (141.748 g))
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices (about 1 cup (141.748 g))
2 small celery ribs, chopped fine (about ½ cup (70.874 g))
Table salt and ground black pepper
10 ounces (283.495) cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and sliced thin
1 teaspoon (4.929 mL) soy sauce (see note)
1 teaspoon (5.333 g) tomato paste (see note)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) (56.702 g) unsalted butter
½ cup (60.243 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (236.588 mL) whole milk
2 teaspoons (9.858 mL) juice from 1 lemon
6 sprigs minced fresh parsley leaves
¾ cup (99.932 g) frozen baby peas
2 cups (10 ounces (283.495 g)) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (5 g) baking powder
¾ teaspoon (4.5 g) table salt
½ teaspoon (2.15 g) ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon (.233 g) cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons (85.05 g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch (1.27 cm) cubes and chilled
1 ounce (28.350 g) Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about ½ cup (13.323 imperial tbsp))
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (188.531 mL) heavy cream (see note)
1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Bring chicken and broth to simmer in covered Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until chicken is just done, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to large bowl. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer into liquid measuring cup and reserve. Do not wash Dutch oven. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450ºF (232.222ºC).
2. FOR THE TOPPING: Combine flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in large bowl. Sprinkle butter pieces over top of flour. Using fingers, rub butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in Parmesan. Add cream and stir until just combined. Crumble mixture into irregularly shaped pieces ranging from ½ to ¾ inch (1.27-1.905 cm) each onto parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and starting to brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Set aside.
3. FOR THE FILLING: Heat 1 tablespoon (14.787 mL) oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, carrots, celery, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. While vegetables are cooking, shred chicken into small bite-size pieces. Transfer cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
4. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their juices, about 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir in soy sauce and tomato paste. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, mushrooms are well browned, and dark fond begins to form on surface of pan, about 5 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to bowl with chicken and vegetables. Set aside.
5. Heat butter in empty Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in reserved chicken broth and milk. Bring to simmer, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and ⅔ of the parsley.
6. Stir chicken-vegetable mixture and peas into sauce. Pour mixture into 13 by 9-inch (33.02 x 22.86 cm) baking dish or casserole dish of similar size. Scatter crumble topping evenly over filling. Bake on rimmed baking sheet until filling is bubbling and topping is well browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.
- I use chicken tenderloins. Breasts can be a little tough, and thighs are annoying to trim if you don’t want a lot of grease. You don’t even have to knife out that annoying silverskin/tendon thing, because it melts once you poach the tenderloins. Then the meat is super easy to shred. Think of it as a timesaver!
- These directions leave the carrots still mildly crunchy, which I love. If you like them very mushy, or intend to feed a young toddler or something, you might want to steam them a little first.
- I never remember to add the peas. They’re in step 6, if you’re wondering.
- They’re serious about the heavy cream too. Don’t skimp on that fat.
- Likewise for the whole milk. I mean, what is even the point of skim-milk gravy? Next I suppose you’ll want low-fat bacon. Gravy and bacon are meant for hedonic eating, and you need all the full-fat calories to fuel that joy.
- On that note, what the hell are you going to do with the 2 remaining tablespoons of heavy cream when they sell heavy cream in 1-cup portions? Pour it in a measuring cup and then top off to 1 cup with the whole milk for the gravy! Use the rest of your whole milk for Oreos.
- I actually completely forgot the lemon and parsley too. Lousy wedding planning. I imagine the sour of the lemon is supposed to make the umami of the rest of the pie pop, but it tastes fine without those extra aromatics.
Enjoy the gravy, folks. And all that other stuff that gets mixed into it, I guess.