Image: Michael Novak

You can guess what a contemporary Spanish chef might prepare for a main squeeze: deconstructed paella topped with sea urchin foam, perhaps? Or maybe a platter of jamón ibérico. Not the case for Javier Canteras, chef-owner of Urdaneta on NE Alberta Street. In his attempt to woo now-wife and front-of-house manager Jael Canteras back in 2011, he turned to chicken potpie.

Jael grew up near the space that now houses Urdaneta, the oldest of five kids with a busy single mom. For her, that translated to a deep love of bodega comforts, like Cheetos and Banquet microwaveable chicken pies. This resonated with Javier, who spent most of his childhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after his parents immigrated from Bilbao, Spain, in the late 1970s. Blue-collar Midwest staples gussied with Spanish ingredients are his secret arena.

Javier’s recipe is essentially a creamy chicken soup packed with wintry herbs and root vegetables, but with a Spanish infusion from chorizo and sherry. The potpie, sealed in a buttery, flaky crust, was such a success that it won over Jael’s daughter, too, who requests it every year for her birthday. “Javier fell in love with a girl who loves trashy food and won her over with potpie,” says Jael. “Obviously, I had to marry him.”

Chicken Potpie

Makes one, 9-inch pie

  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, small diced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and medium diced
  • 1 medium parsnip, peeled and medium diced
  • 1 cup medium diced celery root
  • ½ cup small diced cured chorizo
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rotisserie chicken meat, skin removed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pie Dough

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Mixture of ¼ cup vodka, ¼ cup water, 
  • and ½ cup ice
  • 1 beaten egg plus 1 tbsp water for brushing

MAKE THE DOUGH In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process 8–10 seconds, or until it resembles coarse meal. Remove the ice from the vodka-water mixture. With the machine running, add vodka-water in a slow, steady stream. Pulse until dough holds together. If needed, add more ice water, 1 tbsp at a time. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Place in the refrigerator.

MAKE THE FILLING Combine milk, cream, chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, and bring to just below a simmer. Place a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, and add olive oil. Add onion, carrot, parsnip, celery root, and chorizo with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add sherry and reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, mixing well, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring often. Remove the thyme and bay leaves from the milk mixture. Whisk milk mixture into vegetables until there are no lumps. Turn heat to low, and add chicken meat, parsley, sage, nutmeg, lemon zest, and peas. Stir to incorporate ingredients, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

BAKE Preheat oven to 375 degrees; place a sheet pan on the bottom rack to catch drippings. Take one disc of dough from the fridge, and roll it out on a floured surface until about ¼-inch thick. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie pan, pressing along the bottom and the sides of the pan. Poke the bottom all over with a fork, and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. While base is baking, remove the other disc from the fridge, and repeat the rolling process. Remove pan from oven and spoon in filling. (It will fit!) Lay the fresh dough over the top, crimp the edges, and cut a few slits on top. Brush top with egg mixture and bake for 35–40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

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