Have you ever wondered how the first jack-o'-lantern was created? The So Many Fairies story “The Jack-O'-Lantern” is a tale of baker’s son named Garrith, who — with the help of a magic seed and an enterprising fire sprite named Jack — transformed a simple orange squash into a sparkling, magical lantern that charmed an entire town.
For this week's recipe, I've done something like the opposite — I've taken Garrith's jack-o'-lantern idea and turned it into something that a more typical baker might create: a chicken pot pie. But these pot pies have a little something extra. In a nod to the season, each one has a smiling jack-o'-lantern face grinning from the top of the crust.
Like most comfort foods, these pies are fine if they sit for a day to let their flavors meld. We made and baked ours one Sunday afternoon, then reheated them Monday night for a quick weeknight dinner. If you plan ahead like that, these would make a wonderful, hearty meal to begin or end a night of trick-or-treating.
Jack-O'-Lantern Pot Pies
(makes eight 3½ inch pies)
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 pound)
3 cups chicken stock (reserved from cooking the chicken thighs)
6 tablespoons butter, divided, plus extra for brushing the crusts
¼ cup flour
½ cup cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup each diced celery, onion, and carrots
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup potatoes, diced
1 cup frozen broccoli florets
salt and pepper, to taste
4 standard-sized pie crusts
Put the chicken thighs into a large pot and cover with water. Boil until the chicken is cooked, then shred the chicken. Reserve 3 cups of the chicken stock.
In a small bowl, use a fork to mash together 4 tablespoons of butter with the flour. Separately — in a mason jar or tupperware container with a lid — mix the cream and cornstarch, shaking the container hard to mix the two. Set both the flour and cream mixtures aside.
In a large skillet with high sides, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the celery, onion, carrots, and garlic, and saute them all together for about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and the chicken stock. Cover the pan and simmer the vegetables together for 10 minutes or until the potatoes just barely start to soften.
Add the flour and butter mixture, stirring well to incorporate it. Next, add the cream mixture and stir it in thoroughly as well. Bring the ingredients to a gentle boil, stirring the entire time. Once the mixture has bubbled for a minute or two, turn off the heat. Add the shredded chicken and broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Let the filling mixture cool while you attend to the pie crusts. Roll the crusts out on a floured cutting board and cut them to fit your ramekins. You'll need 8 tops and 8 bottoms. (If you're using 3½ inch ramekins, like I did, the bottoms will need to be about 7 inches and the tops will need to be about 4 inches.)
Press the bottom crusts down into the ramekins with your fingers and spoon in some filling.
Then, use a sharp knife to “carve” a jack-o'-lantern face into each top crust before you lay it on top of the filling. Use a fork or your fingers to pinch the crust together, and use scissors to snip off any excess. Cover each pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
When you're ready to bake these pies, brush the tops with butter and cook them for 30-35 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Serve them right inside the ramekins, but warn littles to be careful — they'll be piping hot.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.
When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.