Potpie: a dish to savor along with the big game

January 24, 2001|By Rob Kasper

FOR MOST SUPER Bowl meals, I was happy with something fast and feral. In prior years, I have made big bowls of chili, massive platters of chicken wings and, of course, the ultimate football-fan entrM-ie: a chicken stuffed with an open can of beer and cooked on a barbecue grill.

But this year after rooting for the Baltimore Ravens during their surprising and bumpy ride - those early-season games without touchdowns were almost as hard to swallow as weekends without beer - I felt the need to cook something memorable for Sunday's Super Bowl matchup with the New York Giants.

The word for this Super Bowl seems to be savor. That is what team owners, broadcasters and sportswriters have been saying as they describe the best way to enjoy the climax of this remarkable season. In that vein, I went hunting for a Super Bowl dish that would be something notable, a dish that would generate fond memories long after it was gone, that would be something to savor.

I went to Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, big playmakers in the cooking world, and found a chicken potpie that makes you want to thank the Lord for chicken and Sunday.

This dish is Comfort Food Maximus. It is hot, yet does not have to be served immediately. It can easily wait, staying warm on the sidelines, until mealtime. It is a rich blend of chicken, vegetables, herbs and the two crucial components of any savoring scenario, butter and cream. It is topped with a crust, a "helmet" if you will, that is so flaky and flavorful it stops your fork in its tracks. But if your fork keeps moving, it soon dives down into chunks of chicken, bits of carrot, and peas, coated in a warm, silky sauce that makes you think of home, and Mama.

Making this potpie is a fair amount of work, as I discovered a few days ago when I whipped a potpie up as a practice run for Sunday's big feed. But this pie does not require any exotic ingredients or advanced culinary skills. There is a pastry crust, but a food processor makes it. The recipe is long on fundamentals. It calls for a lot of chopping and straining and waiting. But as one football team has shown us, if you master the fundamentals, the rewards can be something worth savoring.

Chicken Potpie Maximus

Makes 4 servings

2 cups poached chicken(see below), cut in 3/4 -inch chunks

4 cups poached vegetables(see below), cut in 1/2 -inch pieces

1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas


4 cups poaching broth (see below)

3 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

1 cup heavy cream

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

CRUST (enough for 2 pies):

2 cups flour

1 3/4 sticks chilled butter, cut into

1/2 -inch pieces

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup ice-cold water, plus more if needed

1 egg (for egg wash)

To make crust, place flour, butter pieces, shortening, salt and sugar in bowl of food processor. Blend in short, second-long bursts, pulsing the machine 8 or 9 times, until butter is in small, 1/4 -inch pieces.

Add all but a tablespoon of water through feed tube. Immediately pulse 3 or 4 more times, no more than 5 seconds in all. In your hand, dough should clump together and feel evenly moist. If it does not, add another tablespoon of water and pulse another second or two, but don't overmix dough.

Spread out sheet of plastic wrap and pour the dough onto it. Lift up sides of plastic, gathering the dough, fold over and press dough into compact mass. Wrap tightly, press into flat disc shape, and enclose in plastic bag. Dough can be used right away but will benefit from hour or two of refrigerated rest. Dough not used within a day or two should be stored in freezer.

Poached Chicken and Vegetables

4 pounds of raw chicken, whole or parts

4-5 medium carrots, peeled, ends trimmed

4-5 stalks of celery, with leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme

4 sprigs fresh parsley

2 bay leaves

3/4 pound onion, pearl onions or large yellow onion cut in quarters

6 whole cloves

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup white wine

10 cups lukewarm water

Rinse chicken and place in a large, at least 8-quart, pot. Tie the carrots and celery together in a tight bundle with twine and put in the pot. Do the same with thyme, parsley and bay leaves. Stud some of the onions with the cloves and toss all the onions in the pot. Add the salt, wine and warm water. Set a colander or steam basket upside down on top of the chicken and vegetables to hold them down, under the liquid.

Heat rapidly to a boil, lower the heat and maintain a gentle boil for 20 minutes.

Remove the colander. Raise the heat to bring the broth to a strong boil. Cover the pot with a tight lid; turn off the heat. Let sit for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove the chicken and vegetables, discarding the cloves. Save the broth. ASSEMBLING POTPIE:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For the sauce, put the 4 cups of poaching broth in a medium saucepan and boil rapidly to concentrate the flavor and reduce the mixture by half, to 2 cups.

Meanwhile mix the chicken, vegetables and peas in a deep, 8-inch in diameter, oval baking dish.

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