Often I find myself throwing hints at my wife about what I’d like to cook to see if she’s interested. When it comes down to it, she’s the final say in what I’m making on a given evening, and I’m fine with that. Every once in a while, I get bold and, pulling my belt round my belly like a 70’s after school special, I declare that I’m making (insert manly dish here) whether she likes it or not! It doesn’t emasculate me, either; like my job (English teacher), I have to know my audience and accommodate them, and generally I’m laid back about it all. I strive to make everyone happy, and that’s me in a nutshell.
So I have been aching for pot pies as of late. Spring is upon us, and pot pies are definitely a winter/autumn dish. A few times in the last week, I’ve given the wife options: “Well, I took out chicken, and I can make pot pies? Or I can make Chinese of some sort. Or I could make pot pies? I could do Mexican, too. Pot pies are easy, you know.” “Let’s do Chinese,” the wife will respond, and I will whip something up with happiness. The next time around, “Mexican sounds good,” and I know that she’s over pot pies for a year.
Today, though, I wanted a pot pie, dammit. Thus, I pulled up my belt, stating firmly and in a gruff tone that I bought pie crusts that I had to use soon, so pot pie was on the menu. I took the last sip of Budweiser and forcefully crushed the can in my left hand raised above my head. “You gotta problem with that, woman?” I said as I threw the can against the wall, missing the trash can, residual beer slack oozing slowly across a 70’s-patterned linoleum floor.
She didn’t respond because she wasn’t at home or even on the phone; I said it to myself to feel brazen, actually, as I would never act this way in front of my wife. In truth, I relied on my ability to make a pot pie to end all pot pies, so she would be stoked whether she wanted pot pie or not. I had cause, so I went with it.
I pulled out three different recipes to imagine this, and I will say that it’s the best pot pie I’ve ever made and it’s my own creation. Moreover, and I can’t believe I can write this in a pot pie recipe, it’s light! No shit. I didn’t use butter or cream or bacon fat or anything like it. The champagne and the whipped cream cheese give it a different dynamic. So the result was a flaky-crusted savory pie perfect for an early Spring evening. The best part? It’s easy to make…as easy as a stripper who needs money to fix her teeth.
Champagne Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pies
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (onion will work here too, but ’tisn’t as sexy)
1 cup carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced into half-moons
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (whatever kind you have will work)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup champagne (white wine would work too, here, wise guy)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen green peas
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces (frozen veggies would work too, I guess, but you’d be ghetto)
2 tbsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. water
1/2 cup cream cheese, whipped or regular
1 box of store bought pie crusts (there will be two) or a recipe for 2 pie crusts
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400°.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, carrots, garlic, and chicken. Cook this for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the chicken is brown and mostly cooked. Add in the mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix it up and cook for 3 minutes so the mushrooms get going. Add in the champagne, bring it to a low boil, and cook it for 3 minutes or so, again just to get it happy.
Add in the broth, green peas, and green beans. Bring this to a low boil, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer it for about 5 minutes to combine the flavors.
In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and the water together. Add this to the chicken mixture along with the cream cheese. Get the cream cheese to melt and simmer it, stirring often, until it’s thick and bubbly, like Britney Spears. Taste it for salt and pepper and adjust if needed. Turn off the heat.
Divide the chicken mixture amongst four oven-proof crocks or bowls or the like. Brush the rims and sides of the crocks with the beaten egg. Roll out the pie crusts and cut circles that will overhang the sides of each bowl by at least 1″; I made the last two circles by mashing together the leftover scraps from the first two and rolling them out on a floured board.
Lay a circle on each bowl, pressing the dough onto the sides and rims. Cut three slits in the top of each pie to let steam escape. Brush the tops of each pie with the remaining beaten egg. Place the pies on a baking sheet and into the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is golden and irresistible, like this:
Let them sit for a good 10 minutes so no one has to go to the emergency room for burn assistance.
The champagne flavor comes through brilliantly and will give it an airiness. While indeed it’s spring, the winter flavors can still be had…just make sure to ask your spouse, though.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013