It’s hard to argue that there is any meal more quintessentially English than Sunday lunch at home. Many of our friends and family members make it a weekly practice – either going for lunch at a friends house or hosting their own. As much as Christopher and I enjoy these meals, we often feel that we need Sundays to be more focused on down time – finding ourselves in the garden, on a horse, or gorging ourselves at the buffet at Soho Farmhouse instead of hosting a house full of people. With Zach at school 6 days a week, it’s the only day we have him to ourselves and we all like to sleep late and go where the day naturally takes us.
That said, from time to time, I do get inspired to cook Sunday lunch. And when I do, I like to enjoy the results of my labour with friends and family just like the English do.It’s often a recipe that inspires me, but this past Sunday it was my new mini-cocottes from the Le Creuset outlet. They’re so cute, and they were on final sale, so I couldn’t resist buying 10. They came with a little recipe book of ideas, and once I saw the suggestion of chicken pot pie, I was set on my Sunday lunch menu – an American version of the classic English meat pie. I glanced at the ingredients for the Le Creuset recipe but was worried it wasn’t going to be the old-school, traditional chicken pot pie of my childhood. So I resorted to one of my favourite American classics, The Silver Palate Cookbook, and found the version I was hoping for. Having never made chicken pot pie before I was nervous (and in fact my husband voiced his concern as well), but the instructions were easy to follow and the results were so delicious and so pretty in their little casseroles that my brother-in-law found it hard to believe I’d made them myself*. The nerve of him!
*OK, I have a confession to make. I didn’t make the crust. I knew I wanted to use a puff pastry crust instead of paté brisée (which I do always make from scratch by the way), so I just bought the frozen version. I promise you wouldn’t have known the difference.
TRADITIONAL AMERICAN CHICKEN POT PIE
(adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook)
1 package frozen puff pastry
1 ½ – 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup heavy cream
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium red potatoes, cut in 1-in chunks
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
¾ cup frozen green peas
5 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup dry white wine
1 Tbsp dried tarragon
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken in a baking dish in a single layer. Pour the cream over the chicken and bake for 25-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts.
Remove the chicken from the cream, reserving the cream for the sauce. Once the chicken has cooled, cut it into 1 inch pieces.
Place the potatoes in a pot of cold water. Bring this to a boil. After 10 minutes, add the carrots and cook 5-10 minutes more until both the potatoes and carrots are fork tender. Drain and set the vegetables aside.
Melt the butter in a wide sauté pan, add the onions and cook until translucent. Sprinkle in the flour; stir and cook 5 minutes, but do not brown. Slowly add the broth to the onion mixture, whisking until the sauce smoothes out and thickens. (Which worked really well with my new flat whisk – a great tool!) Add the cream, cognac, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper and cook 5 more minutes.
Add the chicken, potatoes, carrots and frozen peas to this sauce and mix gently. Pour mixture into 6 large ramekins (or mini-cocottes!) for individual pot pies.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Roll out the pastry into a large circle and cut the pastry to fit the ramekins or cocottes. Press down the pastry edges. Beat together the egg and water and brush over the top of the pastry to give a nice glossy finish to the crust. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.