Chicken Shepherd's Pot Pie

Today, I am cold. I need to put that out there at the beginning of the post because the chill that has settled over my town and made my apartment's pathetic heat system completely useless is guiding my hand in writing about this deliciously warm casserole (that I wish I had in front of me as we speak). Only this type of weather can evoke the inspiration for a dish that combines two comfort foods into one, after all - which this meal does quite nicely.

I loosely followed a recipe that I found online, but I do emphasize the adverb "loosely." Really, I just took a whole bunch of veggies and a little bit of chicken, and plopped some nice sweet potatoes on top before baking the whole thing into a warm, satisfying perfection. The fact that it was a result of a hodge-podge of ingredients and ideas means that there are some things I would do differently next time. First, I would probably use regular potatoes instead of the sweet potatoes. Along with the carrots, there was just a little bit too much orange beta-carotene for my tastes, and I think the starchier elements of a regular potato would complement the meal much better than the sweet potato did. Also, I would increase the amount of sauce - not because the meal was dry at all, but because the flavors just didn't come through as I had anticipated.

On the whole, though, this Chicken Shepherd's Pot Pie is hands down The Remedy for a bad case of the shivery winter blues. It is warm and filling, with a beautiful balance of veggies, protein, and belly-sticking carbohydrates, it essentially only dirties one pan, a baking dish and a cutting board, and it's basic enough that you can throw in whatever you have in your kitchen and not worry about running out to the store for last minute ingredients.

Chicken Shepherd's Pot Pie, adapted dramatically from Liz's Everyday
Yield: 3-4 servings

The Ingredients
1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded*
1/4 cup chicken broth
3-4 ounces sliced mushrooms (maybe 3/4 cup), coarsely chopped
10 stalks asparagus, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped carrots (frozen is perfect)
1/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 - 1 plum tomato
3-4 tablespoons chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3-4 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 medium potatoes
black pepper, to taste

The Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken and broth in a medium-large saute pan, over medium heat, and warm through. Add in the "tough" vegetables (mushrooms, asparagus, frozen veggies, etc.) and cook until tender. Once mixture is warmed through and soft, add in the softer, more delicate vegetables (namely the tomato), pepper and the garlic and warm through before adding in the tomato sauce. Stir to combine all of the ingredients.

Meanwhile, either in the oven or the microwave, "pre-bake" or soften the potatoes and coarsely mash in a bowl.** When the vegetable and chicken mixture is ready and warm, transfer it to a glass baking dish, top with the potatoes (and any seasonings, like paprika, you may want to use as a garnish), and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until the potatoes have turned a nice, golden brown.

*I know 1 chicken breast for 3 or 4 people may seem a little bit stingy, but you really don't miss it with all of the vegetables mixed around it. I thought the amount of chicken was spot-on, but if you seriously doubt me, you could always just add more.
**I kept the skin on mine and just made sure that it was chopped up to be more palatable. Although I was hesitant about this, in the end I'm happy with the result. If you're not a skin person or you're looking for a more traditional shepherd's pie topping, simply peel the potato before mashing. For a creamier consistency, feel free to add milk, cream, or butter to the potatoes, too - but again, I liked them just the way they were.

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