THE WASHINGTON POST – I’ve heard it over and over again from readers and I am feeling it myself. We have pandemic cooking fatigue. We dream of stepping out for dinner at least one night a week, maybe two?
With coronavirus vaccine shots on the rise, it is looking more and more likely that our communities will begin opening up in the near future, but in the meantime, you, like me, are likely still cooking three meals a day at home.
We’ve tried lots of strategies to cut down on time in the kitchen and on those dishes, dishes, dishes, including cooking extra for leftovers, but there is nothing like a hot-off-the-stove or fresh-from-the-oven dish.
That’s where this variation on the chicken pot pie steps in.
The filling of diced chicken and vegetables comes together fairly quickly – chopping the chicken is the most time-consuming part.
Once the filling is made, it can then be spooned into a ramekin and topped with squares of layered phyllo and baked in about 15 minutes.
I bake off one or two for a single night’s meal for me and my husband. I tuck the filling and phyllo in the refrigerator and then, I take a break, skipping a night or two, before reheating the filling, scooping it into ramekins again, freshly layering with phyllo and baking the second batch.
That break can be all I need to appreciate the dish again. It’s leftovers, yes, but because it is freshly baked, it doesn’t feel that way.
The chicken mixture is easy to use in other ways, too. It is great spooned over egg noodles or cubed potatoes. (It also can be made into a full-size pie with traditional dough).
To jazz up this version, I added a splash of Worcestershire sauce, which I highly recommend.
When I’m in a hurry, I toss in frozen vegetables, but I’ve found this dish is a great way to use up leftover roasted veggies, too.
The recipe is easy to alter flavour-wise, as well by subbing in other seasonings and herbs.
For example, cut the thyme and nutmeg and take it in another direction by adding a seeded, diced a jalapeño with quarter teaspoon chili powder, cumin, oregano and some fresh cilantro for a Mexican-style pie; or maybe mince a couple of garlic cloves and a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and add that with a splash of chicken broth, a few sliced scallions and water chestnuts.
I’ve found myself returning to this pantry-friendly preparation again and again, scanning my spice rack and crisper drawers to shift the flavours to suit my mood.
It’s my antidote to the tired-of-cooking, but still longing for warm-from-the-oven comfort food conundrum. It’s pretty, too.
CHICKEN POT PIE WITH PHYLLO
Phyllo replaces traditional pie dough, making these individual pot pies easier to whip up on a weeknight.
You can make the filling ahead of time and bake them as needed. The recipe calls for frozen vegetables, but if you have leftover roasted vegetables, toss them in.
The pies are best if eaten right away, but can be frozen. Serve with a green salad.
The recipe requires four 10- to 12-ounce ovenproof baking dishes or ramekins.
Make ahead: The filling can be made up to three days in advance. If the filling is chilled, warm it and then fill the ramekins before baking.
Notes: This filling also works well in a whole pot pie. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Make or buy two savoury pie doughs. Roll out both doughs on a lightly floured surface to about 13-inch circles. Line a nine-inch, deep-dish glass or aluminium pie plate with one of the doughs.
Spoon the warm filling into the crust-lined dish.
Gently drape the second crust over the filling, trimming away any excess and sealing and crimping the edges.
Cut four one-inch slits into the top dough. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly.
If the crust begins to brown too quickly, cover the crust edge with strips of foil. Let stand for at least five minutes before serving. If you like your chicken pot pie creamier, you can use up to one cup of sour cream in the filling.
Three teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
One pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into half-inch cubes
One medium yellow or white onion (about 10 ounces), halved and thinly sliced
One (10 or 12-ounce) bag frozen mixed vegetables (two to two-and-a-half cups), defrosted
One teaspoon dried thyme or one tablespoon fresh
Quarter teaspoon ground nutmeg
One teaspoon cayenne, plus more as needed
Two cups no-sodium chicken broth, divided
Quarter cup cornstarch
Half cup sour cream, plus more as needed
One tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Quarter teaspoon table salt, plus more as needed
Canola oil, or any neutral oil, for greasing ramekin
Six (nine-by-14-inch) sheets phyllo dough, defrosted (follow package directions)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat two teaspoons of oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook, stirring often, until it turns white, two to three minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium, and add the remaining oil and the onions. Cook, stirring, until slightly softened, two to three minutes.
Stir in the vegetables, thyme, nutmeg and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot, two to four minutes.
Add one-and-three-quarters cups of broth to the skillet and bring to a boil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining broth and the cornstarch, then whisk both into the broth in the skillet. Return the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, about two minutes. Turn off the heat and return the chicken to the skillet. Add the sour cream, Worcestershire sauce and salt, and stir to combine. Taste, and adjust the sour cream, salt and cayenne as desired.
Grease the four 10 to 12-ounce ovenproof baking dishes by lightly brushing with oil.
When ready to bake, fill each ramekin with one cup to one-and-a-quarter cups of chicken mixture. Divide the phyllo into two stacks of three sheets each, coating each sheet lightly with the cooking spray before stacking. Cut each stack in half crosswise to create four stacks. Drape one stack over each baking dish, tucking in any overhanging edges.
Place the pot pies on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes (check after 12 minutes,) or until the filling is bubbly and the tops turn golden.
Let rest for two minutes before serving. Serve hot.