I know spring has sprung but I live in Canada. Spring doesn’t really happen here until mid-April if we’re lucky. Sure, we have the odd good day here and there but a stretch of positive temperatures is not our current reality. And to make matters worse, I find I’m more prone to a chill during fake spring than I am when we’re in the depths of winter. It’s probably because every time the thermometer ventures further south than 5°C, I consider cropped jeans a sensible choice. They never are. By 5 pm the temperature plummets and I’m left with a pair of cold ankles and regret. That’s why I’m still stuck on cozy recipes like today’s Chicken Curry Pot Pies. These petit pies are powerful ankle warmers, and I’m speaking from experience here.
Japanese curry is a bit like a game of broken telephone. The concept of curry was brought to Japan via the British, who in turn borrowed it from India. Curry or karé as it would come to be known was introduced to Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912). At this time the Indian subcontinent was under British colonial rule. Karé was classified as yōshoku or Western food and became a delicacy served in expensive restaurants specializing in western fare.
By the early 20th century, karé raisu or curry rice had become synonymous with military service. It was a popular menu item in many Army and Navy mess halls and from there it made an appearance in school cafeterias. Today, curry rice is a Japanese comfort food classic and is more widely consumed than Japanese restaurant standbys, like sushi or tempura. Like the British curries that inspired it, Japanese curry is sweeter and milder than Indian curries and is flavored with curry powder rather than curry leaves and/or graham marsala. Curry powder is actually a British invention.
But enough about the history, let’s talk about these Chicken Curry Pot Pies. These wee pies could not be more straightforward. But before we get into it, I have a confession to make. I did not make the puff pastry. I did indeed buy it. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I’m all about making things from scratch. I do enjoy the process of cooking and baking so, for me, it’s not generally a burden but a pleasure to take my time in the kitchen. But time is not always, in fact very rarely, on my side. So frozen puff pastry for the win. If you would like to make your own puff pastry, I have a post for that. And yes, I am very proud of you.
This recipe starts, appropriately enough, with the curry. If you’ve never made Japanese-style curry before, you should know it starts with a roux, which may seem odd. In Japan, most households use curry cubes, which are essentially cubes of curry-flavored roux. I generally prefer to do this part of the recipe from scratch because I find making a roux to be oddly satisfying but if you would prefer to use the cubes, use the cubes. You are, in fact, being more traditional than I am.
But before we get to the roux, let’s sauté our chicken and vegetables. Most Japanese curries contain onion, carrot, potatoes, and some kind of protein. I added celery and I replaced the potatoes with my favorite root vegetable the rutabaga. I wanted to evoke some elements of the chicken pot pies I grew up with and both celery and rutabaga were always present in them. But if you don’t have celery and you aren’t partial to rutabaga, forget the celery and use potatoes. As with most stews and stew-like dishes, the opportunities for customization are endless.
For the chicken, I went with thighs because I am a dark meat kind of girl. But you could use chicken breast instead or hey, throw in some beef or lamb or make it vegetarian with some tofu. This is a pick-a-protein-any-protein-type scenario. So listen to your heart and make the karé you want to see in the world.
Once your veggies and chicken are in a happy place, get them out of the pot because it’s time to make the roux. Now, usually, when I make a roux, I add equal parts flour and butter. This time I went with a little more flour because I wanted my curry to be a little thicker and more reminiscent of a traditional creamy chicken pot pie filling in terms of body and texture. But I did add my flour at two different points in the recipe. So for now, add equal parts butter and flour, then whisk in chicken broth. I didn’t want to thicken my curry all the way at this point because I wanted to leave enough liquid for the rutabaga to cook in.
Once the stock is in, you can return the chicken and veggies to the pot and walk away. The curry simmers for about 25-30 minutes or until the rutabaga is tender. Now it’s time to add the remaining flour in much the same way you would thicken a gravy. Place the flour in a bowl and ladle in some of the liquid from the curry and whisk to create a thin paste. Make sure the curry is actively simmering and add the flour paste to the pot. This should slightly thicken the curry.
Now, for the less than awesome part. You have to let the curry cool before turning it into a pie. Yes, I know it sucks, but piping hot curry and chilled puff pastry just don’t go together. You want your pastry to puff as much as possible so melting it on top of hot curry is not an option. But once the curry is cool, this meal comes together lickety-split. Just ladle your curry into some small crocks and pop on some puff pastry. Then it’s a quick egg wash and a brief stint in the oven and that’s about it.
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about these Chicken Curry Pot Pies. They may not be exactly “spring friendly” but they are exactly what I need right now and will likely need for the foreseeable future. We have snow in the forecast this week but you can bet your butt I will still consider wearing my cropped jeans every. damn. day.
Chicken Curry Pot Pies
- 6 French onion soup bowls
- 1 heavy bottom pot
- 1 baking sheet
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into cubes
- 3 shallots sliced into half-moons
- 3 carrots peeled and chopped
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger minced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp all-purpose flour divided
- 2½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tbsp curry powder heaping
- ½ rutabaga peeled and diced
- 1 gala apple shredded
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp ketchup heaping
- 3-4 Thai red chilies thinly sliced, optional
- 225g (8oz) puff pastry sheet defrosted
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 cups cooked rice for serving
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- shichimi togarashi for sprinkling
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and a generous sprinkling of salt. Sauté the chicken until browned, don't worry about cooking it all the way through. Take the chicken out of the pot using a slotted spoon and set it aside.2 tbsp neutral oil, 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Place the shallots, carrots, and celery in the pot. Sprinkle with salt and sauté until just softened. Stir in the ginger and sauté until fragrant, about a minute more. Remove the veggies with a slotted spoon and set them aside.3 shallots, 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 2 tbsp fresh ginger
- Add the butter to the pot. Once the butter has melted, whisk in 2 tablespoons of the flour and the curry powder to form a roux. Cook the roux until it turns a deeper shade of brown, about 2-3 minutes.2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp + 2 tsp all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp curry powder
- Slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and return the chicken and veggies to the pot. Add the rutabaga, apple, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer the curry for 25-30 minutes or until the rutabaga is tender. Stir in the red chilies if using.2½ cup chicken stock, ½ rutabaga, 1 gala apple, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp ketchup, 3-4 Thai red chilies
- Place the remaining flour in a small bowl and add a few ladlesful of the curry liquid. Whisk to combine. Add the thin paste to the simmering curry and stir until thickened slightly. Take the curry off of the heat and let cool to room temperature. This should take about an hour or two. **2 tbsp + 2 tsp all-purpose flour
- When your curry has cooled, preheat the oven to 425°F. Divide the curry across six French onion soup bowls and arrange them on a baking sheet. Set them aside.
- Dust your counter with flour and unroll the puff pastry sheet. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges of the pastry sheet and cut it into 6 equally-sized squares.225g (8oz) puff pastry sheet
- In a small bowl, whisk to combine the egg and water. Brush the egg wash around the lip of each bowl and place a puff pastry square on top. Press the pastry to the lip of the bowl and fold the corners down so they are hugging the bowl. Chill the pies until the oven reaches 425°F.1 large egg, 1 tbsp water
- Once the oven is up, retrieve the pies and brush them with the remaining egg wash. Make a small X on top of each pie using a pairing knife. Transfer the pies to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
- Take the pies out of the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve alongside rice, finely chopped scallions, and shichimi togarashi.2 cups cooked rice, 2 scallions, shichimi togarashi