You should use a stewing fowl, but I don't! I find a tender roasting chicken of 3 to 4 lbs., simmered for about forty five minutes to an hour, is what I like best. The meat is tender and juicy, and I cut it in fairly big chunks. I think that the meat has better flavor, too. The broth is not quite as tasty as from a fowl, but I reduce it (cook it down) with the bones to concentrate the flavor. Besides, the roasters are often on sale, and are always available, but I rarely see fowl in the meat case these days. When big Perdue Roasters are on sale for under a dollar a pound, I don't hesitate to use one of them, as the yield is phenomenal. Of course, it is too much for one meal, so I freeze half the meat in the broth without thickening it. Then when I need a quick meal, I thaw it out, cook fresh vegetables in the broth, and proceed as usual. When I'm doing this, I make a double recipe of pie dough and freeze half with the chicken. I take them out of the freezer the day before, and thaw them in the refrigerator. It's my rainy day kit.
Chicken Pot Pie wins my vote for an easy to make meal. First I quarter the bird, and soak it in cold salted water, and then rinse it well. I use a pot that will fit the bird fairly snugly, and put the peeled and cut carrots, peeled celery, onion (white pearl onions for fancy), and parsnip on the bottom. Then I add the quarters, and some stalks of dill and parsley, crushed peppercorns, and a bay leaf, and just cover them all with cold water. I bring that to a boil, and as soon as it boils, I cut back to a simmer and begin to skim.
To tell if the chicken is done, remove a leg and thigh to a plate, and pierce it at the leg joint. The fluid should be clear with no trace of pink. The leg muscle will separate into two parts very easily. When it is done, remove the chicken and vegetables, and put the pot back on the fire. Take the skin off the chicken, and save it for grinding it into chopped liver, or feed it to the cat who has been rubbing against your leg begging for a treat. The skin is also good for grinding into chicken croquettes. My little black poodle got the skin today.
Remove the meat from the bones, and toss the bones back into the reducing chicken stock. Dice the meat rather large, and combine it with the cooked veggies. I add frozen peas to this mix, in their frozen state. This way, they don't over cook and turn out a cheerful bright green. Strain the broth and let it stand, so that you can remove the golden chicken fat from the top. For best flavor, I like to use the chicken fat to make a roux to thicken the broth into a veloute, and then season it with salt and white pepper. It never ceases to amaze me how much salt chicken stock needs.
When you have made the sauce and seasoned it, add the diced chicken and vegetables and heat it all up. Add some fresh snipped dill, if you like it, and serve it under (or over) a crisp pie crust. You can use your regular pie dough with butter, just use a little more butter than usual, especially if you are going to lay the pie dough on top, and bake it all in the oven at 425 degrees F. When the sauce bubbles and the crust is golden it is done.
© 1997, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified October 2007
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