Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Summerhill Market Chicken Pot Pie

Baby it’s cold outside!  After a cool day of skiing, shoveling or skating, I can think of nothing better than warming up with a dish of comforting chicken pot pie.  OK, so I don’t ski, shovel or skate much, or perhaps at all these days (but I have an excuse - I’m 7 months pregnant).

Toronto’s “Summerhill Market” chicken pot pies are legendary.  My father grew up next door to the McMullen family, who started the business in 1954.  They’ve been making their famous chicken pot pies for over fifty years and were willing to share the recipe (originally published in the Toronto Star).  They say that the secret is gently poaching the whole chicken, although you can “cheat” and use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the supermarket if you’re short on time.  I season with a bit more salt (& pepper) than the recipe calls for.

We used to sell their pot pies in my shop, up until last summer when Summerhill decided to discontinue their wholesaling.  If you don’t have the time or energy to make this recipe, perhaps you’ll take comfort in reading that we now sell an equally delicious, puff pastry-topped chicken pot pie from a new supplier.   

I suggest that you serve the pie with a tossed green salad (preferably with a sharp vinaigrette dressing, to cut the richness of the pie).

Summerhill Market’s Famous Chicken Pot Pie


·         3 (three) pounds (1.5 kg) chicken
·         6 (six) cups (1.5L) water
·         1 (one) yellow onion, peeled, quartered
·         5 (five) fresh sage leaves
·         3 (three) fresh bay leaves
·         1 (one) teaspoon (5 mL) coarse kosher salt
·         1½ (one-and-a-half) cups (375 mL) each: thinly sliced celery, frozen peas
·         2 (two) cups (500 mL) peeled, thinly sliced carrots
·         2 (two) tablespoons (25 mL) butter
·         ½ (one-half) cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
·         ¼ (one-quarter) teaspoon (1 mL) black pepper
·         397 gram package frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator
·         1 (one) egg
·         2 (two) tablespoons (25 mL) milk


1.       In large pot, combine chicken (breast side down) and water.  Add onion, sage, bay leaves and salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low; cover.  Simmer until falling-off-the-bone tender, about 1 hour.  With tongs, transfer chicken to plate until cool enough to handle, reserving cooking liquid.  Discard chicken skin and bones.  Dice meat into half-inch (1 cm) pieces.  (You should have about 4 cups/1L.)
2.       Divide celery and peas between two shallow casserole dishes that will hold about 6 cups (1.5L.) (I used 9.5-inch (24.5-cm) deep-dish pie plates.  Add equal portions chicken to each.
3.       Meanwhile, add carrots to pot with reserved cooking liquid; cover.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Cook 3 minutes.  With slotted spoon, remove carrots.  Divide between 2 dishes with chicken mixture.
4.       Strain cooking liquid and skim off fat; reserve liquid and discard solids. (You should have about 6 cups/1.5L)
5.       In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and pepper.  Cook, whisking, 1 minute.  Gradually whisk in 5 cups (1.25L) reserved cooking liquid, discarding remainder.  Bring to boil.  Cook, stirring often, until smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes.  Pour over two dishes with chicken mixture; let stand 30 minutes. Stir well.
6.       (Make-ahead:  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days, or overwrap with heavy-duty foil and freeze up to 2 weeks.  Thaw in refrigerator; add 10 minutes to baking time.)
7.       To cook, on lightly floured surface, roll out each half of puff pastry about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than top of dishes. Place over each dish; trim to leave a half-inch (1 cm) overhang, reserving excess pastry. Press overhang onto and over edge; crimp.
8.       In small bowl, whisk egg and milk; brush over pastry. Cut 4 to 6 steam vents.
9.       Bake pot pies in 400 F (200 C) oven until filling is bubbly and pastry is golden, about 25 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
10.   Makes 2 pot pies (6 servings each).

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