Chicken pot pie is one of those dishes that has been evolving for centuries. A "traditional" pot pie, which is an American variation on the classic meat pies of Great Britain and Europe, can simply be defined as any combination of meat, gravy, and/or vegetables in a fully enclosed pastry crust. However, ever since the advent of the casserole, most kitchens in America (including mine) make it without a fully enclosed crust, prefering to place the pastry on top of the meat, gravy, and/or vegetables. You can technically call this chicken and dumplings, and the Pennsylvania Dutch have yet another variation called "bott boi," but I already have separate recipes for both of these. Therefore, I choose to call the following family favorite "Chicken Pot Pie Casserole," even though that seems like a contradiction in terms. In the interests of full disclosure, I admit that the recipe began its life as something I took from Alton Brown, but has undergone so many changes and refinements over the years that I can safely call it my own now.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lay out your puff pastry sheet to defrost. If you live in a humid environment, dust the surface with flour so that the pastry doesn't stick to it. Then chop the shallots and peel and dice the carrot. Then, when everything is ready, heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
Drop in the shallots, carrots, bay leaf, and a heavy pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add milk, broth, herbs, spices, celery seeds, and corn.
Also add the broccoli and chicken. Stir. Turn heat to high and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix the cornstarch with an equal amount of cool water and pour it in. Stir vigorously and immediately to prevent clumping.
Carefully unfold the puff pastry sheet and, using a pizza cutter, cut it into six pieces as shown. Then poke holes in the center of each piece with a fork.
Remove the bay leaf from the chicken mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour the whole thing into a 9 x 13 inch lasagna dish. Smooth it out as much as possible and top with pastry pieces, being careful not to let them overlap.
Beat the egg with a few teaspoons of water and brush it over the pastry. Then put the casserole into the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, and let it rest for at least 10 more minutes before serving. If you separate it into six equal servings, each serving gets its own individual piece of pastry.
-e. magill 2/17/2011
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