Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Dinner: Faux Pot Pie

Now, to be completely fair, I must say at the outset that my not being a huge fan of the dish we made tonight -- a variation of chicken pot pie -- is mostly my own fault, rather than the fault of the recipe. I halved the recipe and made other adjustments that could have contributed to the less-than-rapturous response I felt to the final results. There's also personal preference at play here; I am a HUGE fan of normal pot pie crust, which is flaky like pie crust, and less so of cornbread, which I enjoy but primarily on its own, or used as part of a homemade corn dog.

So first of all, I already went rogue when I decided to omit arguably the most important -- or if not important, most obvious -- ingredient: the chicken. At this point you might be thinking, well duh, of course you didn't like it if you left out the chicken in CHICKEN pot pie! But I would argue that the actual bits of chicken aren't that critical -- sure, it adds depth and texture contrast, but the flavor of the pot pie comes from the crust and the creamy filling. At least, for me it does. So I thought nothing of leaving out the chunks of chicken -- I was still going to use chicken broth for the filling. If I had had leftover chicken, I would have happily used it (in fact, this recipe is ideal for using up leftover chicken), but I didn't, and I neither felt the inclination to roast my own chicken nor buy a pre-roasted one. I was also too lazy to boil a potato for this or cook my own carrots. I found a bag of frozen peas and carrots in the freezer and made do with that, along with some petite white onions.

The "pie" baked up beautifully. It was golden brown on top, and looked deceptively like real pie crust rather than cornbread. The filling was more brothy than creamy, however, even though it was still thick -- this was likely deliberate, being that it's supposed to be a low-fat recipe.

I missed the chunks of chicken in that my pot pie, bereft of this ingredient, seemed very flat without any protein bits to hold it up. The flavor of the filling was just fine, and the cornbread topping, too, was fine. I just wasn't wowed by it. Again this could be because I prefer regular pot pie crust. Or it could be that chicken pot pie is one of my favorite foods, so variations on the parts I consider staples aren't well received.

If you're on a low-fat diet, enjoy cornbread a lot, or just like a quick meal to throw together, this is a great recipe. If you're a big fan of traditional chicken pot pie, this might not be for you. But this review should be taken with a grain of salt, as I made a number of changes to the recipe (though halving it didn't make a big impact, I don't think).

Chicken Pot Pie with Cornbread Crust
Recipe created by Cristina Ferrare


For the filling:
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1/2 cup frozen sweet petite peas
  • 1 potato, boiled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • cracked pepper, to taste
  • dash of Tabasco sauce

For the crust:

  • 3/4 cup white or yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil

To make filling: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and unsalted butter together. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add in flour until blended. Slowly stir in 2 cups of heated chicken stock, whisking well. Cook mixture over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas, potato, carrots, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Pour into a 2-quart ovenproof casserole dish coated with cooking spray and spread mixture evenly.

To make crust: In a bowl, stir cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Stir milk, egg and canola oil until well combined. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Spoon the batter evenly on the filling. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 22 to 25 minutes.

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