It’s hard to believe summer’s over and it’s time to get back to work or back to school and stick close to home. What better way to enjoy time at home than with the classic foods your whole family enjoys? New Yorkers know that if you’re craving classic American dishes, the best place to go is the Comfort Diner. From gooey Macaroni and Cheese to Mom’s Meatloaf, the Comfort Diner’s fare never fails to satisfy. The Comfort Diner Cookbook
offers a full range of recipes from the diner-food tradition. It also includes dishes that have been eagerly adopted into the pantheon of American culinary favorites, like Warm Taco Salad, Black Bean Quesadillas, and Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili. Now you too can make yourself and your loved ones a perfectly satisfying, home-cooked meal.
Author Ira Freehod is the founder and owner of New York City’s famed Comfort Diner association of restaurants. The following recipe for Comforting Chicken Potpie
will have you hungering for more good ol’ American favorites. Comforting Chicken Potpie
One of my earliest food memories involves chicken potpie. I was about four years old, and my mother had just taken a potpie out of the oven to let it cool. My brother Jeff, age two at the time, decided to plunge his hand smack into the middle of the potpie. He was rushed to the emergency room, and when he returned home, his hand was wrapped in an enormous gauzy bandage. I was green with envy at the sight of his fascinating white mitten. Not only didn’t I get one of those nifty mittens, dang, I didn’t even get to eat the potpie!
At the restaurant, I started making this with a Cheddar spoonbread crust, just to elevate the concept a bit. But I soon discovered that people preferred the traditional crust. It just goes to show that for some dishes, there’s nothing like the classic.
• 4 6-to 8-ounce chicken breasts
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 cups small-diced carrots (2 to 3 medium-sized carrots)
• 1 cup small-diced celery (2 to 3 stalks)
• 1 cup small-diced red onion (1 medium-sized onion)
• 2 cups medium-diced red potatoes (6 medium-sized potatoes)
• 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 4 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
• Salt and ground white pepper to taste
• 1 cup frozen green peas
• 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawedRecipe
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil the chicken for 10 minutes, until cooked through. Be careful not to overcook the chicken, as it will be cooked more later.
2. While the chicken is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and sauté the carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes for 5 minutes. Again, be careful to avoid overcooking. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set them aside in a large bowl.
3. When the chicken has cooked, remove from the water and drain. Slice it into bite-sized pieces.
4. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 1⁄4 cup butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter. Stir gently and frequently for 2 to 3 minutes, until the flour is absorbed and the bubbling mixture is lightly golden.
5. Add the heavy cream and chicken stock. Mix thoroughly. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chicken and the sautéed vegetables. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes more. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and add the frozen peas.
6. Roll out the puff pastry so it is 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Place it over the pan and tuck down the edges into the pan. Cut a few slits on the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.A Little Potpie Trivia:
Ah, the savory pie. Though the English can take credit for hearty meat pies, it’s actually the influence of German Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants in America that made the chicken potpie a staple of American cuisine. Regional differences result in various tops to the steamy chicken stew that lies beneath. Some cooks cover the chicken and vegetable mixture with dumplings or even noodles called potpie squares. The chicken potpie reached the diner menu in the Depression Era and made for a tasty, reliable Blue Plate Special. As for the commercial take on this dish, Swanson launched its first frozen potpie in 1951, just two years before the Swanson TV dinner came along.