Once you’ve put all that work into choosing your chicken, honor it with something truly delicious. Humble as it may be, chicken potpie is, hands down, the most requested birthday, friends-over, and regular old Thursday when-we-all-need-something-special dinner. It uses a few pots and involves a bit of time in the kitchen, but it’s very worth it. For an extra boost to the broth, throw all the vegetable scraps into the chicken pot as you prep the vegetables.
- Make the filling: Put the chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, the bay leaf, and any scraps and stems from your vegetables into a large pot. Just barely cover the chicken with water, set over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil.
- When the water boils, skim off any foam on the surface, reduce the heat to medium-low, and replace the cover. Cook until the chicken falls off the bone, about 1 hour. Carefully transfer the chicken to a large plate to cool. Remove the stock from heat.
- Meanwhile, cook the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof roasting pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the leeks, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are soft and the mixture starts to smell wonderful, about 10 minutes. If the mixture seems dry, add about 1/4 cup of skimmed stock from the chicken pot. Add the parsley and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Add the peas, cook for another minute, and remove from heat. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- In a separate medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Skim off about 1/2 cup of the fattier stock from the surface of the stock and add it to the butter. Add the flour, whisking the mixture constantly until it browns slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Dip a 1-cup measure into the stock, and, straining to remove any scraps, pour the stock into the flour mixture. Whisk until smooth and repeat twice, using a total of 3 cups stock. The rest of the stock can be strained and frozen for other recipes. Whisk the mustard into the sauce, add several grinds of pepper, and continue to whisk over medium heat until thick, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the vegetables.
- Remove the meat from the chicken, tearing it into bite-sized bits. Add the chicken to the sauce and vegetables. Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper if necessary.
- Make the biscuits: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and gently rub it into the flour with your fingers until it’s well integrated but some chunks of butter remain. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a measuring cup and stir it into the flour mixture with a few swift strokes to create a sticky batter. Use wet hands to scoop 8 evenly spaced biscuit-sized rounds of batter on top of the filling. Bake until the biscuits are golden and a knife inserted into the center biscuit comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.
- For variations, add whatever needs cooking in your refrigerator. A cup of chopped mushrooms can be cooked along with the onions. Or include a cup of asparagus, cut to 1-inch lengths, when you add the peas. For a fall vegetable pie, substitute cubes of celeriac for the celery, omit the peas, and use 2 cups cubed winter squash in the mix.
- Note: Once in a while, my sauce doesn’t quite thicken, no matter how patiently I stir. If this happens to you, you have two options. The first is to use it as is, and have a slightly looser sauce and stew-like pie. The second is to pull out another saucepan and make a new base for your sauce. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in the pot, add a few tablespoons of flour, and stir until you have a golden paste, about 2 minutes. Then slowly pour your too-thin sauce into the butter mixture, whisking as you go. The additional butter and flour should do the trick.
Exclusive from THE HOMEMADE KITCHEN. Copyright © 2015 by Alana Chernila. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photograph copyright © 2015 by Jennifer May.
Alana Chernila is the author of "The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making" and "The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure." She has contributed to Martha Stewart Living magazine and Food52. For more of her writing, visit eatingfromthegroundup.com.