Chicken Pot Pies with First-Crop Garlic and White Corn

For this dish, you can use either the leftover meat from any roast poultry (the roast chicken, the capon, or little chickens), or chicken cooked specifically for the recipe.

Because any variation of this dish will improve in taste and complexity if cooked the day before (add the vegetables just before the final heating), this recipe calls for braised chicken legs and thighs, since they (unlike the breast meat) can be reheated without drying out

Of course, you can make the crust with a dough ( for short crust, but omit the sugar). If you do, remember to cut out circles of pastry the same size as the inside diameter of the little casseroles so that steam can escape around their edges and prevent the pie crusts from becoming soggy, and to paint the underside of the raw dough with egg wash to seal it against steam.

But I prefer a buttered toast “crust” that is added only at the reheating time. It stays really crisp and seems to me to be a lot lighter than a dough crust (though perhaps not as comforting).

Twenty garlic cloves are not too many, since the garlic in this recipe is mild-flavored, first-crop garlic in addition to the fact that any garlic cooked this way becomes mild.

You will need four “pots” each of 3-cup capacity and about 4 inches deep.

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Ingredients

  • 4 chicken legs with thighs
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup aromatic vegetable mix
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 20 fresh garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup fresh white corn kernels (from 3–4 ears)
  • 4 slices white bread, ½-inch thick, cut in rounds to just fit inside the pots
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped

Method

Put the chicken in a shallow dish and sprinkle both sides of the legs and thighs with the cumin and rub it in. Cover the dish loosely, and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a heavy casserole, season the chicken, and sear it in the casserole over medium heat for 1 minute on each side. Add the vegetable mix, and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Add the stock, stirring to loosen anything sticking to the bottom of the casserole, and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and put it in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the leg meat is tender.

Take the casserole out of the oven. Remove the chicken and let it cool. Strain the braising liquid, skim off and discard any fat, and put the strained liquid back in the casserole. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, taking off any more fat or scum. Let cool.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the bones. Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks, and when the sauce has cooled slightly, add the chicken. The dish can be prepared in advance up to this point.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the garlic cloves in 2 quarts of salted boiling water and cook them for 10 minutes. Then add the fresh corn and cook another 2 minutes. Drain the garlic and the corn and add them to the chicken.

Bake the bread rounds in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until completely dry and just golden. Remove the toasts and brush them on one side with the melted butter.

When ready to serve, add the lime juice and tarragon to the chicken and heat it (without letting it boil). Portion the chicken and its sauce into the individual “pots.” Put the toast rounds, buttered side up, on top of the chicken in the pots, and then place them on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Variations

To flavor the sauce, use 2 tablespoons of huitlacoche mixed with ½ cup heavy cream. And instead of the legs and thighs, use sixteen chicken wings (which to me are the best part of the chicken), cooked in the same way (but for less time), boned but not cut up. The recipe is also very good with leftover turkey or with duck legs and thighs.

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