When my brother-in-law, Sonny, and his family were in the Philippines a year and a half ago for a one-month vacation, we celebrated Sonny’s birthday with two parties. The first was an all-family potluck dinner; the second was a catered affair for family and extended family. For the potluck dinner, I brought two trays of a baked chicken and potatoes dish that is very similar to what we had for dinner last night.
In Western cuisine, this would be called a farmer’s pie or a shepherd’s pie. Basically, it is a cooked stew topped with mashed potatoes then baked until the top is lightly browned.
Between Sonny’s birthday and last night’s dinner, I’ve learned a few things to improve this dish. Notably, the addition of grated parmesan cheese to the mashed potatoes — an idea suggested by fellow food blogger Shalimar that she posted as a comment in an older farmer’s pie entry.
There are no rules regarding the stew. You can use beef, pork, duck, turkey, veal, lamb or chicken. If you’re using poultry, it is a good idea to use fillets which can be bought in most supermarkets. Otherwise, you can pre-cook the bird, remove the meat from the bones and cut them into chunks. I used chicken thigh fillets for last night’s pie.
- 400-500 grams of skinless chicken thigh fillets
- 200-300 grams of smoked ham
- 1 large onion
- 1 small pack of mixed frozen vegetables (carrot, corn, peas)
- 1 cup of cream
- 1/4 c. of butter
- salt and pepper
For the mashed potatoes (Note : You will need about 5 cups of mashed potatoes to assemble the pie)
- 3/4 kilo of potatoes or 2-1/4 c. of potato flakes
- 1/4 c. of butter
- 3/4 c. (or more) of full cream milk
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 c. of grated parmesan cheese
- Prepare the mashed potatoes.
- If using fresh potatoes :
- Wash the potatoes and scrub well. Place in a large pan and cover with water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until tender. To test, pierce the thickest part with a sharp knife. If the knife goes all the way through without resistance, the potatoes are done.
- Drain the potatoes. As soon as they can be handled, peel off the skins and mash. Mix in the butter and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the milk slowly, stirring all the time to incorporate the milk into the mixture. Your mashed potato should not be too soft. When you reach the right consistency, stir in the parmesan. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary.
- If using potato flakes :
- Boil about 3 c. of water. Pour the hot water into a glass bowl and melt the butter in it. Add some salt and pepper. Pour in the potato flakes. Stir with a fork just until moistened. Let stand for 30 seconds to allow the flakes to rehydrate. Pour in the milk, stirring to incorporate. Stir in the parmesan. Adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
- (Note : Commercial potato flakes vary in their capacity to absorb liquid. Some do not expand well; others need plenty of water.)
- Set aside the mashed potatoes and allow to cool while you prepare the filling.
- Cut the chicken into 2-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the ham in roughly the same size. Roughly chop the onion.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the chicken and cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Add the smoked ham and chopped onion. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion bits start to turn brown. Add the mixed vegetables. Stir well.
- Pour in the cream and stir to blend. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Lower the heat and cook until the liquid is bubbly.
- Transfer the chicken and vegetables to an 8-inch ovenproof dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top. A little tip: If your dish is as full as mine (see the photo on the previous page), place a large piece of foil, cookie sheet or large baking tray under it before putting it in the oven. The sauce of the chicken mixture will boil and it will seep through the mashed potatoes along the edges of the oven dish. You don’t want the sauce dripping all over the oven floor. I spent 30 minutes cleaning up because I forgot about the aluminum foil.
- Grill or broil (top heat on) in a preheated 180oC oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
- When the top is lightly browned, turn off the heat and take the pie out of the oven. Cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Otherwise, the mashed potatoes will still be too mushy and the sauce of the filling too runny.
- To serve, use a large spoon to dig into the pie so that one scoop will have mashed potatoes, chicken, ham and vegetables. The chicken, ham and potatoes pie goes very well with buttered and toasted French bread.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6