Monday, December 10, 2007

An Informal Dinner With Family

My husband requested an informal meal to celebrate his birthday with family. So I found a lighter version of a comfort food classic - Chicken Potpie with Root Vegetables. I have always loved potpies. What's better than a dish with smooth flavor packed gravy, soft vegetables and chicken topped with buttery puffed pastry? With that said, I rarely let myself enjoy them because they tend to be a fairly heavy meal. So, when I saw that Cooking Light put this recipe on the cover of the September 2007 issue, I saved it for a special occasion. Now that I've tried it and received good reviews, I'll definitely put it on rotation for a dinner party option. I would make some minor changes to the recipe below. My thoughts follow:

3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed

1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled baking potato object

1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato

1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled celeriac (celery root)

1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices parsnip

1 (10-ounce) package frozen pearl onions

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces), divided

1 1/2 cups fat-free milk

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cooking spray

1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed


Preheat oven to 400°. Bring broth to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add peas and next 5 ingredients (through onions) to pan; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 6 minutes. Add chicken; cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken and vegetables from broth with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl.

Increase heat to medium. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place all but 1 tablespoon flour in a medium bowl; gradually add milk to bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broth; cook for 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken mixture, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Spoon mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon flour on a work surface; roll dough into a 13 x 9-inch rectangle. Place dough over chicken mixture, pressing to seal at edges of dish. Cut small slits into dough to allow steam to escape; coat dough lightly with cooking spray. Place dish on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until pastry is browned and filling is bubbly.

Yield 8 servings

  • I'm not going to lie to you. This dish takes a lot of time to make. You're working with root vegetables here, and you're going to get quite a workout chopping them. However, it felt less intense because I did all of my prep in the morning and waited until an hour before dinner to put everything together. By the way, I wouldn't know celeriac root if it bit me on the face. So, I just doubled the sweet potato portion of the recipe because they're yummy.

  • When chopping ingredients make sure the pieces are approximately the same size. This will allow everything to cook evenly. Speaking of cooking...whoah. This recipe wildly underestimates the cooking time for the vegetables in the dutch oven. These are root veggies that are very starchy. I kept it on medium heat, rather than a simmer, and cooked the veggies 15-20 minutes, with a tight lid (to allow the steam to do some of the work, too!) I wanted to make sure that mixture was nice and soft before I put it in the oven.

Instead of using a casserole dish, I put the chicken mixture in individual ramekins (10 ounce mini-casserole dishes) and gave them individual puff pastry tops. I was able to put five of them on a baking sheet. They looked so cute. It's worth cleaning the extra dishes. Everyone loved having their very own pot pie.
  • Yes, I know it's Cooking Light. But for gosh sakes (speaking to the magazine editor, of course), skip the cooking spray and make some egg wash to brush over the pastry. It just looks pretty for the pastry to brown over and its not going to make or break the calorie count in the dish.
  • Quick summary on prep: If you want to make this dish for a dinner party, you can prep early in the morning. In fact, you can take the recipe to as far as cooking the chicken mixture. Just put the mixture in the fridge along with the remaining broth. Then, when you're 30 minutes away from sitting down at the table, heat both the mixture and the broth up separately (so you can make the gravy) and combine before putting it in the casserole dish or ramekins.
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