I discovered the beauty of roasting a whole chicken and making stock from the bones long ago. However, when I started buying chickens that were raised out on grass by a farmer, I realized I had to change my cooking technique a little bit. These birds tend to be better-worked, more muscular, and a little more prone to getting dry.
The other thing I realized is that they are expensive! Contrary to popular culture, chicken has become our family's special-occasion meal. A well-raised bird can easily run $3-4/pound, and at 4-5 pounds each, you are now talking about a $20 bird. We save those for when we have guests for dinner, and then we stretch them into two or three or four meals. (You know what's cheap? Ground beef or stew meat, that's what's cheap, relatively speaking here. And eating vegetarian, like using beans or paneer as your protein, is cheapest of all!)
I roasted a bird the other night for some company, and here's how it went:
First night: roast chicken
Second night: chicken tacos
Third night: chicken pot pie
And then I tossed the carcass in the freezer to make stock later.
And then I realized I had never shared my chicken pot pie recipe! It's a true favorite in our house. A full meal in one pan (vegetable, bread, protein).
Chicken Pot Pie
1/2 an onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1-2 ribs celery, diced (optional)
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 C chicken stock (may need more)
1/2 C milk
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 C frozen peas
1 C diced cooked chicken
salt and pepper
1 C flour
1/3 C frozen butter
cold water as needed
Oven - 400.
Start by frying the onion, carrot, and celery in butter over medium heat.
Let them get really soft - no one wants a big crunchy carrot chunk in their pot pie. Drop the heat a little if you need to, and add a little stock if it starts to get too brown. I probably let this go for 10 minutes.
Add the flour and stir it into the butter and vegetables, making sure it is completely combined and no more white floury areas are visible.
Add the chicken stock and stir very well. It will start to bubble and thicken right away. Add the milk and keep stirring. Add thyme, frozen peas, and chicken, and combine. Taste it and season with salt and pepper.
Once everything is all warmed up and thick, scrape it into a casserole dish and set aside.
Now, make the pie crust. This is my standard pie crust recipe. I love freezing the butter and grating it - it takes all the mess away and gets the butter the perfect size without you having to get your hands all dirty.
In a small bowl, put the cup of flour and a pinch of salt. Using a cheese grater, grate the 1/3 C frozen butter into the flour, stopping occasionally to toss the butter around in the flour. Once it's all grated, grab a fork. Pour in ice-cold water about a tablespoon at a time, stopping to stir it in after each addition. Once it's come together and there is no more dry flour visible, turn it out onto the countertop. Press it lightly into a disk, then used a floured rolling pin to roll it out to the size needed to cover the pot pie. You may have more crust than you need - just freeze whatever is leftover and use it whenever you need a little pie crust!
Cut a couple of vents on the top of the pot pie, then pop it into the 400 oven for about 30 minutes. It will get brown and bubbly. Pull it out and let it cool for a few minutes, then enjoy!
Serves 2-4, depending on age and appetite.