Chicken pot pie is like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer on a blustery day that your mom wraps around you to quiet the chilled air. Chicken pot pie is comforting love, and yet, I can’t recall the last time I personally cooked it. I’ve had enough bad versions in restaurants — the dough wasn’t cooked through or there was a scarcity of filling amid a soupy, flavorless broth –so I knew what I didn’t want it to be. What I did want is to appeal to my husband Russ’ preference for a denser stuffing, and in these days of not being able to do a spur-of-moment run to the grocery store, I had to use what I had available.
Not everyone will have the time or ingredients I have, so as I go, I will share possible substitutions. If you’ve read my cooking blogs, you know I don’t measure, but I made a point of taking notes as I went to give you a close approximation. As always, adjust to your taste.
As I wasn’t sure how much filling I’d end up with, I opted to use a 2-1/4 quart casserole dish versus a 9.5” deep dish pie plate. Next time I think I’d opt for the pie plate to stuff to the brim.
One other note: this is a great dish for sharing duties. For parents looking to occupy offspring, they can select preferred veggies, skin chicken, help roll out dough, taste test… well, you get the idea.
1 whole chicken cut up (or 3 large breasts with skin & bone-in if you decide not to make your own broth)
3 Tbs olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Chicken stock, at least 2 cups (I made mine, so directions are for this process.)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 C. all-purpose flour
2/3 C. milk (plus a couple teaspoons for the egg wash)
5 small red potatoes, diced
1 C. carrots. Sliced thin
2 ribs celery, sliced thin
2 unbaked pie crusts for top and bottom (I made my family recipe for the bottom and used a puffed pastry sheet for the top because I happened to have one in the freezer., which I had thawed. You can easily substitute your favorite pie crust or buy 2 prepared ones).
1 egg wash (an egg beaten lightly with a couple teaspoons of milk)
Fresh parsley, minced
- First thing I do when I want to get into the groove for heavy cooking or baking is put on an oldies radio station.
- Set oven to 350.
- Cut the whole chicken (on a meat cutting board.) Into a soup pot, put the legs, thighs, wings, neck, livers, kosher salt (do not overdo… better to adjust later), at least a dozen peppercorns and put on medium heat. When I make chicken broth/soup, I let it cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours to get the full flavor of the chicken. You can be doing everything else while the broth is cooking. Once it starts boiling, turn down to medium low. (You will want to remove the scum that forms and trash it.)
- Cut the rest of the chicken in half. Place skin-side up. Drizzle some olive oil over the pieces, sprinkle on kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and rub all of it onto the chicken pieces. (Then of course, wash your hands thoroughly.) Place in oven. My chicken pieces were thick, so it took about an hour until no pink was visible when I cut them open to check.
- While the broth and chicken in oven is cooking, make your pie crust and place into the pie plate.
Prep your veggies. I don’t buy peas, but many chicken pot pies do. I thought I would use more carrots and onions, but once I began chopping and slicing, I tried to balance the amount to the other ingredients and didn’t use all I had ready.
- Remove chicken from oven and cool. Remove the skin and chicken from the ribs. Put the skin and bones into the broth. Cut the white chicken meat into large cubes, giving you at least 4 cups.
- Raise oven temperature to 375.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add the chopped onions over medium-low heat until they soften (just a few minutes). Add the diced potatoes, sliced carrots and sliced celery.
- Turn heat down to low. Add 2/3 C. milk and the 1/3 C. flour, stirring until smooth and blended. By this time, the chicken broth should have been cooking at least 1-1/2 hours, so ladle in a couple cups of the broth, and stir until thick. Add in the cubed chicken. Add more chicken broth if it’s too thick or you want it soupier.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Pour into prepared casserole dish or pie plate. Sprinkle the parsley over the filling.
- Cover with your top layer of pie crust, making sure you push down over top side of the dish. Cut visible slits into the top of the crust. Baste egg wash over the top. Place in oven.
- I baked my chicken pot pie for about 25 minutes. When the puffed pastry wasn’t browning quite the way I wanted, I turned the oven to 400. That only took another few minutes to achieve the golden brown color I wanted.
- Remove and cool at least 10-15 minutes before cutting.
BONUS: I didn’t use up all the chicken broth. I removed the legs, thighs and wings and placed them on a pan. Added some herbs and a drizzle of olive oil (or melted butter). Stuck in the still warm oven for about 10 minutes until skin was crisping. While that was roasting, I strained the remaining broth into a bowl and trashed the scraps of bone and skin. When my roasted chicken was done, I cooled it, then deboned and skinned it. I cut it into smaller pieces and added into the remaining broth. Now I have the beginnings of a great chicken soup for another day. Of course, I have also been known to just munch on the flavored chicken and keep the broth separate for another use.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. And please let me know how your dish turns out.
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2019 – 2020 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. Karen@KarenKuzsel.com; www.KarenKuzsel.com; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady. Food photos for this series by Karen Kuzsel.