Nothing says “Comfort Food” to me quite like a chicken pot pie. When I was in high school, I used to beg my mom to buy those little frozen pot pies for me so that I could heat them up for an after school snack. I literally had to beg, too, because my mom was vehemently opposed to any form of frozen or processed food. She was scarred by a few too many TV dinners in the ’60’s. Of course, once I had a real, homemade pot pie, I never bought another one of those little frozen ones again.
Chicken pot pie is one of my “things.” You know the things that people ask you to make for them? The things that you bring to friends & neighbors when they have a life event? The things you make when you are in need of some serious comfort food? Those type of things. Chicken pot pie is one of my things.
But before I go on, I must admit that I will never, ever, ever again think of Chicken Pot Pie without hearing David Cross in my mind.
Way before he was Uncle Ian in Alvin & the Chipmunks, he was a stand up comic & buddy of David Spade. Mr. Cross played Donny, the scheming brother of Elliot the Photographer in David Spade’s ’90’s TV show Just Shoot Me. Donny feigned a head injury that seemingly compromised his intellect, so that his mother would have to take care of him forever–all as a great ruse to avoid having to move out and get a grown-up job. He would randomly bust out with a “Chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot pie!” Classic.
But back to the comfort food chicken pot pie: a creamy, vegetable-studded chicken filling encased in a buttery, flaky crust. Yeah. You know you want some.
I’ve made chicken pot pie from every end of the spectrum. I’ve roasted a whole chicken, then picked it for the meat, and made stock out of the rest. That is a heck of a good pot pie…if you have 7 hours to dedicate to making pot pie. I’ve tried to speed things up by using frozen veggies & cream of something soups for the filling. (Never again.) I’ve made my own crust. Used store bought crust. Single crust. Double crust. No crust, but a biscuit topping. (Say what?! That’s a cobbler!) You name it, I’ve tried it. This recipe is my favorite combination of all good things going into a chicken pot pie.
Preheat the oven to 400º F. Grab an 9 or 10-inch deep dish pie plate, and keep it handy.
You’ll need: 1 Recipe for No Excuses Pie Dough, cooked chicken, chicken stock, milk, butter, onion, carrots, celery, dried thyme, salt, pepper, all purpose flour, and a touch of olive oil.
Bottom line: Chicken pot pie is an excellent application for leftover chicken. In the absence of leftovers, I use a store bought rotisserie chicken is another great alternative. And when I can get two rotisserie chickens at the store for $5, you better believe that I’m going with the easy option!
If you’re like me and take the easy route with a rotisserie chicken, you’re going to have to “pick it.” Just channel your inner Paula Deen and start pickin’ chickens. Remove the skin, and get as much meat from the bones as possible.
I usually get about 4 cups of shredded meat off of a rotisserie chicken. The recipe only calls for 2 cups, so I put the rest in a freezer bag for another time. Place the shredded chicken into a large bowl, and set it aside.
If you are really on top of your menu planning, go ahead and get the chicken ready the night before you plan to make the pot pie. Just seal the chicken in a bag, and refrigerate it until you’re ready to make the pie.
Slice a small onion, root to tip.
Lop off the ends of the onion halves, and remove the outer skin and membrane.
Dice the onion, and set it aside.
Give the carrots a good scrub, and slice them in half lengthwise. Slice the halves widthwise into half moons. Set the with the diced onion to hang out for a bit.
Rinse the celery ribs, and thinly slice them widthwise.
You can also chop the vegetables the night before, and store them in the ‘fridge overnight.
Heat a little olive oil in a Dutch oven or very large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and saute the veggies until they are soft–about 5 minutes. Season the veggies with a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and pepper.
Add the softened vegetables to the bowl o’ chicken.
Toss the butter into the still hot Dutch oven, and let it melt. Once the butter melts, it will foam up a bit. That’s OK.
Once the butter starts foaming, sprinkle in the flour, and stir vigorously. Continue cooking and stirring the flour/butter mixture for one minute. The flour will help thicken the sauce, but cooking it for a minute or so will help get rid of the flour-y taste.
After one minute, pour in the milk, whisking to combine.
Then pour in the chicken stock. Continue to whisk the mixture until it gets nice and smooth–no lumps. Be sure to get all the brown bits o’ goodness off the bottom of the pan. There’s flavor in those little bits!
Once the sauce is smooth, add the dried thyme and another pinch of salt & pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the sauce until it fully thickens…stirring constantly.
Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasonings to taste. The sauce should be creamy, savory, and delicious. No bland fillings allowed!
Pour the sauce over the chicken/vegetable mixture and stir to coat.
Add the peas to the filling mixture and fold them in.
Just look at that creamy goodness! Cover the filling with aluminum foil to keep it warm while you roll out the pie dough.
I highly recommend making your own pie dough–it really isn’t that difficult. But hey, if the thought of making pie pastry gives you the heebees, then by all means, use the store bought stuff. You won’t hurt my feelings at all. Well, you might hurt them a little, but I’ll get over it.
Once the bottom crust is ready, ladle the warm chicken filling into it.
Roll out the top crust, and place it over the filling.
Trim the edges of the dough so that only 1 inch hangs over the pie plate.
Fold the edges of both sheets of dough under, lightly pinching to seal.
The dough really shouldn’t hang over the edge of the pie plate. Now comes the fun part–the edging! There are several ways to put a decorative edge a pie. Bhg.com has a great illustration of seven different decorative pie edges. I typically apply one of the same two edges to my pies: A criss-cross edge, also called a bird-foot edge, or a fluted edge.
For a criss-cross edge, press the edge of the dough with a fork held at a 45º angle pointing toward the left.
Then switch angles by pressing the edge of the dough with a fork held at a 45º angle pointing toward the right. Continue around the edge of the pie.
Kind of looks like a little bird danced on the edge of the pie, eh? It’s a very fast, cute edge, and is certainly functional in that the main purpose of edging a pie is to seal the dough so that the filling doesn’t spill all over the bottom of your oven while it bakes.
You could certainly cut a few slits to vent the pie, pop it in the oven, and be on your merrily-baking-way. OR, you could opt for trying my most-favorite pie edge…the fluted edge.
After rolling out the top crust, cut a couple of 1-inch shapes out of the center with a small cookie cutter, or, if you’ve got mad knife skills, a paring knife. Save the cut-outs for later.
Place the top crust over the filling, and trim the edges to about a 1-inch overhang.
Flip the edges of the dough over forward over the top of the dough, lightly pinching to seal.
Use the index finger of one hand to push on the inner folded-edge of the dough, while at the same time, pressing against the outer edge of the dough with the index finger and thumb of your other hand. Continue around the edge of the pie.
If you are feeling a little fancy-pants, then brush the top of the dough with a little egg wash to make it shine.
Grab the little piece of dough that you cut-out of the center of the top crust, and put them on another part of the pie.
Brush the cut-outs with a little egg wash, so that they will shine, too.
Bake the pie in the preheated 400º F oven for 35-40 minutes or until nicely golden brown.
Let the pie rest for 10 minutes before serving. Then slice it up, and dig in!
Oh, and in the interest of making a long post even longer, here is the clip of David Cross’s Donny character when he gets busted, and the gig is up. It’s worth the minute and a half video. And it explains the inner workings of a vacuum tube, so it’s educational, too!
And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for–the printable:
Chicken Pot Pie
(filling adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s The Best Recipe 1999 edition cookbook)
Makes One 9 or 10-inch, Deep Dish, Double Crust Pie
1 Recipe for No Excuses Pie Dough; see recipe below. (OR use 2 store-bought, refrigerated pie crusts)
1 Tbs. olive oil
½ C. freshly minced onion
1 ¼ C. thinly sliced carrots
½ C. thinly sliced celery stalks (leaves OK)
Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste—I usually use 1 tsp. salt + ½ tsp. pepper to start)
2 C. boneless, skinless chicken, cooked and shredded
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
½ C. all-purpose flour
1 ½ C. milk
2 C. chicken stock
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 C. frozen peas, thawed
Optional: make and egg wash by whipping an egg with 1 tablespoon of water.
- Make No Excuses Pie Dough and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a large Dutch oven or sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, carrots, and celery in the pan until soft, but not brown. (About 5 minutes.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- While the vegetables are softening, shred the cooked chicken. Leftover chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken is excellent in this recipe. Set the shredded chicken aside in a large bowl.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables from the pan, placing them in the bowl with the shredded chicken; set aside.
- Heat the butter in the now empty Dutch (still over medium-high heat.) The butter will foam as it melts. Once the foaming stops, whisk in the flour. Cook the flour/butter for one minute…whisking constantly.
- Pour in the milk and chicken stock. Continue to whisk until smooth.
- Add the thyme.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until sauce fully thickens…stirring constantly. (About 1-2 minutes.)
- Taste sauce and adjust salt & pepper, to taste.
- Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables in the large bowl; stir to combine. (Can be cooled, covered, and reheated overnight. Re-warm filling before filling pie.)
- Stir in the peas. Set filling aside while rolling out pie dough. (If refrigerated, allow pie to to “warm” on the counter for 10 minutes before rolling out.)
- Roll half of the No Excuses Pie Dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle, 12-inches in diameter. (Or use refrigerated, rolled pie crust—you may need to roll it a bit larger.)
- Gently roll the dough/pastry around the rolling pin to transfer to a 10-inch pie plate.
- Check that dough is fully touching the bottom and sides of the pie plate.
- Spoon the warm filling into the pastry lined pie plate.
- Roll the other half of the No Excuses Pie Dough into a 12-inch circle. Roll the circle around the rolling pin, and transfer it to cover the top of the filled pie.
- Trim the edges of the pastry, and then fold & crimp the edges.
- Cut vent slits in the top of the pie. Brush top with egg wash, if desired.
- Bake until crust is fully cooked, top and bottom, and a deep golden brown; about 35-40 minutes. (If edges become too dark, cover with aluminum foil and continue baking until pie is done.)
- Let pie rest for 10 minutes before serving.
No Excuses Pie Dough
Enough for a generous 9-inch Double Crust Pie, a 10-inch double crust pie or two 10-inch tarts
1 ½ C. all-purpose flour
¾ C. (12 Tbs.) unsalted butter
½ tsp. salt
4 Tbs. iced water
- Cut butter into ½ inch cubes and freeze for at least one hour.
- Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times (1 second pulses) to mix.
- Add the frozen butter cubes to the food processor bowl, and toss with a fork to coat. Continue pulsing to work the butter into the flour mixture, until the butter is the size of small peas. (‘About 8-12 pulses, depending on the size of the motor on the food processor.)
- While the food processor is running on high, slowly add the iced water through the feed tube, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together and a stiff dough forms. (This process usually takes 15-20 seconds total in my ‘80’s era food processor.)
- Dump dough onto a clean, floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly shape each half into a ball, and then pat the ball into a ½ inch tall disk. Wrap the disks snugly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes before rolling out.
- Once dough has chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and use in your favorite pie recipe. OR keep the dough disks tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and then place them in a freezer bag. Dough can be frozen for up to a month. Just let dough thaw overnight on the refrigerator before rolling out.