Saturday, October 15, 2011

Onion Hater's Chicken Pot Pie

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Until this year, I'd never made a chicken pot pie. There are many reasons for this.

Like that I hadn't conquered a pie crust until 2 years ago.

Or that I had an unfortunate experience with a super disgusting who-knows-what-filled frozen pot pie when I was pregnant with my 2nd baby. Seriously, those memories are hard to recover from.

And then there's just the idea that chicken pot pie is a pie crust filled with a highly thickened chicken soup. I mean, is that the potential for disaster or what? (Relax, it's really the recipe for a perfect leftover meal.)

But lately, the main thing that has kept me from chicken pot pie recipes is that they have the audacity to allow nutritious little things we like to call vegetables into their butter and cream saturated existence. The most blatant offender is the mighty onion.

If you're an onion lover, or even an onion liker, you won't understand this. However if you are an onion hater, you will know that they very visage of one of those pungent, thin-skinned fruits of the soil in your humble crisper drawer is repugnant. And the idea that one such should be consumed, as in through your mouth, truly unthinkable. Your feelings as an onion hater run very deep. You would happily march on Wall Street to contain the--as you see it--vile root vegetables from further corruption in an otherwise ding dong filled culture.

And what we onion likers really don't get is that even just the smallest sliver of this offensive vegetable can prevent a person from eating an entire dish in which it is contained. Yes, ever. Even the tiniest crunch from bitty nibs can be detected and rejected by you. It's a rough life for the onion haters because people--viscious, cruel, barely human people--are constantly trying to "sneak them past you" or "coax"--as they call it--you into eating them. I myself am married to a long-standing onion hater. And--because I don't like to get stuck eating something all on my own--he's largely won this battle in our marriage. If I use them, and I try not to too much, I make them super big chunks (say next to a pot roast) so they can easily be avoided, or I use a wee bit of onion powder. He can detect even those dried onion bits, and he hates them. He is okay with a tiny bit of the flavor (thus my ability to use a bit of onion powder), but the mouth feel, the texture, the--say it isn't so--crunch: that is unacceptable. This is a quality I believe to be shared with many onion haters. It's not the hint of it they cannot bear, but the texture and the often front and center flavor that repulses them. Unfortunately for chicken pot pie, it pretty much demands them.

It also generally calls for celery, which doesn't exactly have a fan page around here either. And carrots, which can only slide by in an otherwise perfect food environment.

Of course, I love all those vegetables, but the idea of making s lightly fussy, from-scratch "comfort food" so that everyone in my family could complain (and possibly cry) about it--I just wasn't feeling it. But I'd just made a delicious and easy crock pot chicken, so I had pieces and broth.

And then I had an idea--I had a terrible awful idea. I reduced and hid the biggest offender (we shan't even refer to it by name) and replaced another with the always inoffensive potato. And then I chopped those carrots into smitherines and let them hang out and soften with butter.

That pot pie was good. Kip was a huge fan. He liked it a good bit more than my last chicken pot pie--one in which I used onion powder. (And truly, this recipe is some kind of wonderful.) So, onion haters unite, and thank my husband.

And onion likers--you can give me a secret handshake sometime later because although you can't crunch a single onion in this pie, or even taste it exactly, there's a hint of it there--giving it that little something something you'd miss if it weren't there at all. Just--for heaven's sake--don't tell.

Onion Hater's Chicken Pot Pie
adapted from Mom's Crazy Cooking and Pioneer Woman
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Stand time: 10 minutes (this can be skipped, but your fillings will run out more
Cost: about $4.00-4.50

Note: This makes enough filling for 2 pies. You can double the crust if you wish and make two pies. You can freeze the other and then dethaw and cook another day. Or you can reduce the filling recipe by half. Or you can do what we did and make one pie and then eat the leftover filling as a soup.

recipe for 2 pie crusts (a top and a bottom)--I used white whole wheat flour for half of the flour and really couldn't tell much of a difference at all
2 small potatoes, chopped small--about 1 centimeter cubed (I used red and recommend them)
3 medium carrots, chopped, like, a lot (let's call them 1/8-1/10 of a carat--ha, I didn't even intend that pun)
1/2 C frozen peas
2 Tbsp onion (this is about 1/4 of a medium small onion), thrown in the food processor or grated in a cheese grater
4 Tbsp butter
2 C diced chicken (I like it diced small so you get bits of everything in each bite)
1/4 C flour
2 C chicken broth
1 bouillon cube
1 C heavy cream (I never said this was low-fat, only low-onion)
1 tsp thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Dice potatoes and carrots (get the carrots small). Grate the onions or--if you used a food processor to make your pie crust (I did), throw them in there and give them a whirl, scrape and whirl again until they are kind of mushy or at least terribly small.

Melt butter in a large pot. Add the onion mush. Let it cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and carrots. Cook for a few minutes more. Add frozen peas and cook for several more minutes. (You want to get your potatoes cooked a bit, so try not to rush it too much.) When the veggies are soft, add chicken and stir to combine. Sprinkle the flour on and stir to combine. Stir for a minute or so.

Whisk in broth. Stir in bouillon cube (or 1 tsp granules--my preference). Stir and this will begin to thicken. Pour in the cream and kiss your diet good bye (whatever, it needed to go). Allow mixture to cook over low heat, for about 5 minutes. Season with thyme, salt, and pepper. Taste for seasonings and to be sure your potatoes are cooked or darn close.

Put a crust in the bottom (some folks skip this and do a sort of soup with a crusty top, but I'm more of a traditionalist). Pour chicken mixture in. (Remember if you make this full recipe, you'll have leftovers.).

Put the top crust on. Crimp the edges or flop them onto each other into a manner so sloppy you wonder how you ever made it through elementary art. Crimp them if they're not too impossibly mismatched--at least get then to stick together. Cut several vents in your crust so it doesn't ?explode?--I don't know--I've always obediently made my vents. (Okay--just looked it up, you make vents to the top crust settles onto the pie.)

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Let sit for 10 minutes. Serve. Watch your onion-hater eat. Enjoy pie; enjoy victory compromise.


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