No. 8 & 9: Roast Chicken & Light Chicken Potpie

There is nothing better than a good friend coming to visit. Especially a friend who you do nothing more with than talk, laugh, and talk some more.

Jess is just such a friend and is in San Francisco this week for work. We were so excited for her to come out to the 'burbs for a Sunday night full of fun, food and of course ... wine.

Jess and I

(Jess, Audrey, and I in Napa last fall having the best kind of girls getaway weekend. Photo credit to a random guy at James Cole.)

I wanted to make her something really homey. A true Sunday night kind of dish. And what's better for that than chicken potpie?

Roast Chicken

With a full Sunday of errands and house hunting (more on that later), I wasn't sure if I'd have time to roast a whole chicken for the potpies. Turns out, this Pioneer Woman recipe is a breeze.

And you can do it ahead of time like I did (at 8am). And you probably already have the ingredients on hand. Just go get yourself a chicken.

Ingredients

Whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry*
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 lemons
4 sprigs rosemary
Salt and pepper

*I used a 4 1/2 pound roaster, there will be lots of chicken recipes this week as a result.

To make

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (425 for a standard oven).

Zest two of the lemons. Strip the leaves off of one of the rosemary sprigs and chop it up finely.

In a bowl, combine softened butter, lemon zest, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste.

Line a baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil and lay the patted-dry chicken on the foil, breast side up.

Chicken on board

(This is before the foil pan, after patting it dry. Poor little naked bird.)

Use your fingers to smear the butter mixture all over the chicken, under the skin, and inside the cavity. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice of one lemon all over the chicken.

Smeared chicken

Place the six lemon halves (or as many as you can) and the three remaining rosemary leaves into the cavity of the bird.

Cavity shot

(There was no delicate, artistic way to take this shot. It's a cavity. Stuffed with lemons.)

Place the chicken into the oven and roast it for 1 hour 15 minutes or until done. Skin should be deep golden brown and juices should be sizzling.

Light Chicken Potpie

Again, what's more comforting than chicken potpie? This lightened up version from Food Network uses Greek yogurt for creaminess and plenty of herbs for flavor.

Ingredients

For the crust
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
2 tablespoons 2 percent milk

For the filling
2 small russet potatoes
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
5 medium carrots, cut into large chunks
1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup 2 percent milk
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, skin removed
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 cup frozen peas*
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

*Peas are one of the few foods I cannot stand. I was happy to omit them.

To make

To prepare the crust, pulse the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter, one piece at a time, pulsing until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Separate the egg; refrigerate the egg white. Beat the egg yolk and milk in a bowl, then add to the food processor, pulsing until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the potatoes with a fork and bake directly on the oven rack until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, then peel and break into small pieces.

Bring the chicken broth, carrots and thyme to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook 2 minutes; cover and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the milk, celery, potato pieces and the warm broth mixture and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Filling

Remove from the heat and stir in the chicken, yogurt, peas and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the filling to a 2-quart casserole dish. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until about 1/2 inch thick and slightly larger than the dish. Beat the reserved egg white in a bowl; brush over the dough and season with salt and pepper. Press the dough against the sides of the dish. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

The results

Roast Chicken

Oh my goodness, this smelled so good. I can't think of a better way to start your Sunday morning. Ok, maybe pancakes and bacon smell just as good. Fair point.

One of my favorite parts of this version is how easy it is. I can't believe I made roast chicken without having to truss it.

I made a couple adjustments to the cooking method. I lowered the oven temperature to 400 degrees after the first 15 minutes. To make sure the chicken was done, I used a meat thermometer to check that the inner thigh was registering 160 degrees.

Finished chicken

I also tented the chicken with foil for about 10 minutes after it came out to hold some of the moisture in.

Be sure to place the chicken in the middle of your oven. This will ensure brown, crispy skin without burning it.

Chicken Potpie

After the dough disaster from the night before, I went Pillsbury all the way for this crust. I'll admit, I chickened out.

Get it? At least we can all laugh about it.

Since there were only three of us, I halved the filling recipe above. I lined the bottom of 9-inch pie pan and then filled the baked crust with the potpie filling.

Filled crust

I topped it with the second crust, trimmed and fluted the edges, and put it all in the oven on top of a baking sheet.

Picture before baking

I followed the baking instructions on the pie crust package, 40 minutes at 425 degrees. Keep an eye out though, this crust cooked in about 30 minutes. Foil on the crust rim after the first 15 minutes is also key to not burning the edges.

Picture of the finished version

We finshed off this potpie with no problem and got Jess back on the train to the City. And I still have a little filling to play with later this week.

All in all, a great Sunday.

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