Nothing says home cookin’ like a pot pie, except someone who consistently practices saying “home cookin'” and should get their ass kicked. Like many people, I went through my frozen Marie Callender’s pot pie phase in my early twenties and, yes, my nose effused sodium, I spoke thickly for some reason, and I turned into a doughy, paste-y specimen of a human. Once I hit my late twenties and early thirties, I needed to keep my ankles in shape, so I quit the store-bought pot pies.
And then I learned that making pot pies isn’t really that big of a deal, and there are shortcuts to be had, and they can be made so that you will not have to buy an early grave. The first one I made was an Ina Garten recipe and, yes, it’s indulgent and fattening and beautiful. But one can put all sorts o’ goodies into pies, and tonight I made a keeper. My good sense told me not to eat the whole damn thing even though my wife almost had to hold my arm behind my back and tazer me to stop. This pot pie was that good. So, some background is needed.
I have said before that I am an Anglo- and Hiberno-phile, meaning a lover of things English and Irish. Savory pies, some might call them pasties, are a staple of the British isles and Ireland. Also, because of England’s cunning use of flags (thanks Eddie Izzard), they dominated India for many years, and they managed to steal curry from them, amongst other things, and they stole the word “pajamas” (no joke…look it up).
British pub chicken curry is a nut buster if ever there was one. If you’re ever in Fullerton or Santa Ana, California, go to The Olde Ship and you’ll understand the beauty of pub curry. One of the best indulgences I’ve ever eaten was French fries with curry sauce on them, and I got those in Ireland. Granted, I had about 10 Guinnesses and some whisky in me to boot, but I still was touched on an emotional level and right after crawled to my hostel near the Galway road.
I know that there are pie shops in England that sell curried chicken pies, so I decided to do some investigating. It started with me deciding that I wanted to make pot pies tonight with my thawed chicken breasts, the boring bastards that they are. I looked through my mom’s old recipe book and found a pot pie recipe, so that gave me direction. I have had a hankering for curry for a few weeks, so the perfect storm arose: I searched for some pot pie recipes and decided to get creative and improvise a bit.
The result is the recipe below, and I even impressed myself with this one, and it’s totally fucking easy. While a normal pot pie might be a “cold weather” dish, this Chicken Curry Pot Pie is a year round option. It’s easy to make, savory, and delicious, to be sure. Better yet, this is not that bad for you. It has around 14 grams of fat a serving (500 calories or something), and if you notice the ingredients, they’re not bad. Other pot pies are loaded with butter, but these are rich without the fat.
Chicken Curry Pot Pies
Makes 4 in oven-proof small baking dishes (they should hold 2 cups or so each)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. curry powder
2 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces (1/2″ cubes)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup thawed frozen green peas
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. water
1/2 cup low fat cream cheese (1/2 of a brick)
1 box of store bought pie crusts (this was a shortcut that totally paid off), or a recipe to make 2 pie crusts
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the curry powder and let it get happy for a minute as you stir it in and get a paste-y thing going. Add the potatoes, onion, carrots, garlic, and chicken. Cook this, stirring often like stir fry, for about five to seven minutes to get the chicken done. Then add in the broth, mushrooms, peas, apple , salt, and pepper. Get it bubbling, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook it for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms are a bit juicy.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water, whisking it to mix it well. Add this and the cream cheese to the veggies and chicken skillet. Mix this and cook it until the cream cheese is melted and it’s all thickened. This is easy peasy.
Divide the filling evenly between the four bowls. Brush the rims and sides of the bowls with the beaten egg. Unroll the pie crusts (or roll out the pie crusts until they’re about 11″ in diameter), and, using a similar bowl to measure roughly, cut out circles that will overhang the pie bowls about an inch or two. You will need to roll together the scraps and cut the last two crusts from it. Drape this over the bowls and press the dough onto the rim and the sides of each bowl.
Brush the dough on each pie with the rest of the egg wash. Cut a few slits into each pie to let the steam escape. Put the pies on a baking sheet (it catches the bubbly filling that might spill over) and put them in the oven for 30 minutes, until the tops are golden and gorgeous, like this:
And when you put your fork into it, it will look like this:
I’m not kidding when I say that this was one of the easiest pies I’ve ever made, and one of the most unbelievably bitchin’ ones I’ve ever tasted. If you make this for company, everybody’s happy as long as they like curry.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013