Email

Chicken Pot Pie from Scratch

Apr 8, 2018

It feels like winter.

Of course by that I mean a Southern California winter, not the minus -5℉ my sister was experiencing in southern New Hampshire after another nor’easter hit the area. But temperatures dipped just enough before my walk to allow me to don a sweater and wrap a scarf around my neck. I felt cozy, smiling at the fragrance from a neighbor’s wood fire and the evening chill, a crispness that hinted of ice crystals in the air. If my father were still alive he would’ve stood out on the front porch, sniffed, remembering back to the harsh winters in Connecticut that he and my mother happily abandoned upon retiring to Santa Barbara, and called back to her through the open door—with the usual whimsy in his tone—“It smells like snow, Pat!”

All of this induced me to believe some comfort food should be on our dinner menu. This was enhanced by the fact that my 83-year-old mom was finally (finally!) recovering from an awful case of influenza, about which I was unable to help as I’d been felled by my first case of food poisoning. Because of this, I was stuck on my couch in South Pasadena for three days and unable to travel to Santa Barbara to care for her. She was so weak she could hardly get up out of her rocking chair. By the time I was well enough to drive to SB, she’d been four days without the proper amount of food and water, though thankfully due to a friend she’d been taken to a local clinic where antibiotics and a steroid were prescribed. Nonetheless, Mom looked like hell, and I know she felt worse. Then that evening, January 8, the rains and wicked winds arrived.

 

Montecito mudslide; Google Earth /Ventura County Air Unit/Zumapress.

 

Highway 101, Montecito; Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout.

 

At my mother’s home in Samarkand (on the water side of upper State Street), rocking, tipsy patio furniture and my mom’s metal “peace” sign banging against the house would be as bad as the storm would get. For our neighbors in Montecito, the storm was life altering. The destruction is monumental and the deaths heartbreaking. My mother’s neighbor across the street waited several long days to hear about the fate of a friend; he did not make it, though the man’s son survived. So yes, comfort food was in order.

The idea of chicken pot pie came to mind as the most inviting of comfort foods. Pies, crusts, and baked goods are not my forte, so naturally I Googled. I am not an ardent lover of carrots, celery, or peas, typcial pot pie ingredients, so I searched until I unearthed chicken pot pie recipes that included mushrooms as well—thank you Bon Appetit and Williams Sonoma—and then I doubled the amount of mushrooms listed because in my opinion one can never have enough mushrooms. I found, also, Maria and Josh’s blog Two Peas and Their Pod and their version of chicken pot pie. I opened the recipes in three different windows on my laptop and borrowed from all of them, hoping I wouldn’t cock it up. I’m happy to say, my mom and I were delighted with the result. Here’s hoping my experiment will bring some comfort to you and yours as we enter another potentially tumultous year.

 

 

The evening prior to pot pie night, I barbecued chicken, which I think added to the flavor of this pie. I seasoned four boneless chicken breasts and two boneless thighs (on both sides) with freshly ground black pepper, Lawry’s seasoning salt, and Trader Joe’s Everyday seasoning, then squeezed two lemons over them and let them sit to marinate for twenty minutes. Before grilling, I added olive oil to the marinade and used that as I barbecued, generously basting as the chicken cooked, a total of approximately six minutes. After I removed the chicken from the grill, I covered it for 5 minutes. The remaining marinade I boiled for five minutes to kill any raw chicken bacteria, then poured it over the sitting chicken and the pooling meat juice. What remained after our dinner were two breasts and two thighs, which I picked and put in a container with any remaining juice. I didn’t think to look ahead of time at how much chicken was required in the various pot pie recipes—which runs from three cups to eight cups (good lord!)—so I included the remaining chicken that I had, not even measuring it.

Crust:
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Up to 8 Tbs water
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

 

 

Filling:
7 Tbs butter, unsalted, room temperature
2 Tbs olive oil
5 Tbs flour
(2) 6-ounce boxes of crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup chopped white onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
3 small red potatoes, cut into 1/2” cubes (or thereabouts)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried tarragon
3½ cups chicken broth – or vegetable bouillon*
1½ cups frozen peas
Cooked chicken, shredded; minimum 2 cups
⅓ cup Italian parsley, chopped
⅓ cup whipping cream

 

 

Directions for crust:
The crust recipe I borrowed from Two Peas and Their Pod because I had buttermilk left over from the Christmas holiday that had been bought and never opened (a desire for buttermilk biscuits forgotten). I did not realize—there are a lot of “I did not realize” moments during this pot pie experience, for which I am embarrassed, as well as grateful—the buttermilk was weeks past its expiration date. Not knowing if this would suffice, I ended up using water. And all was well. I had not known a delectable, buttery, flaky crust could be so easily realized.

 

 

Combine flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Add cubed butter and toss to coat. I did this as I went, slicing the butter right into the bowl, then tossing the slices to coat with flour. Once all the butter was in the flour, I used my hands to mix the butter and flour together then added water tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough was bound, but not goopy. Scoop dough out of bowl and place on wooden board or counter. Shockingly, I found that my mother’s well-stocked kitchen did not include a rolling pin, so I used the palms of my hands to meld the butter into the flour. As suggested, I used a bench scraper to gather sticking butter and loose flour to bring back into the fold and continued to incorporate. The final product is very flaky. Return dough to bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill the butter.

From here I proceeded to make the filling…

Directions for filling:
Put five tablespoons of flour and five tablespoons of butter into a small bowl and work together (I used my hands) until thoroughly integrated. Set aside.

Add two tablespoons of butter, as well as the two tablespoons of olive oil, into a pot over medium heat. Once heated, add mushrooms, onion, celery, carrots, and baby red potatoes. Sauté until veggies begin to soften, approximately 10 minutes. Add thyme, tarragon, and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring periodically.

At this point, Bon Appetit instructs to add 1 cup of white wine and cook until it has evaporated. I did not realize I had white wine on hand and I’d even forgotten to double-check on available chicken stock. Luckily, my mother chimed in from her snuggle in her rocking chair, instructing me to check the small drawer in the fridge. I kept seeing beef bouillon and glace, so I pushed those aside and grabbed the one with some yellow on the label, assuming yellow meant chicken*. I didn’t realize until the following day that I’d grabbed Better Than Bouillon vegetable base; not chicken. Luckily, this was another mistake-becomes-success moment.

Mix 3 heaping teaspoons of bouillon with 3½ cups of hot water. Remove 1 cup and pour into the pot of vegetable, boiling it nearly to evaporation, about 5 minutes (this also allows the potatoes time to cook more).

 

Not chicken broth.

 

Add remaining 2½ cups of broth to veggie pot and bring to a simmer. Now, grab the small bowl of 5 tablespoons of butter mixed with 5 tablespoons of flour. Add this mixture to the veggie pot tablespoon by tablespoon, incorporating thoroughly before adding the next. Bon Appetit suggests a whisk, but I used a wooden spoon. I’d never heard of this technique for thickening before, but I’m sold. It worked very, very well. The sauce can boil as you add the butter/flour mixture—just don’t let it burn on the bottom. Once all the flour/butter mix has been added, lower the flame to a simmer and keep stirring frequently. Thickening should take no more than five minutes. Lastly, stir in the picked chicken (with any extra juice), frozen peas, parsley, and cream. Simmer and add salt and pepper if desired (I did not). This filling is good enough to eat on its own!

 

 

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If rolling pin handy, roll out dough to 1/4″ thick. Once again, being rolling pin-less, I used the palm of my hands to flatten and shape the dough; the dough being slightly less than 1/4″. Carefully lift dough and place in pie plate. I used a glass, 9″ Pyrex pie dish.

I used a slotted spoon to transfer the filling into the crust, then spooned some sauce on top. As my pie plate measured 9” rather than 13” (recommended by Bon Appetit), I had leftover filling. I mounded the filling a bit higher and added more sauce, making sure it didn’t become too soupy. Again, not having a rolling pin, we used our hands to flatten the dough for the top layer, probably less than 1/4”, closer to an 1/8”. As may be seen in the picture, it wasn’t pretty! And I used bits of dough to fill in holes, not worrying about seamlessness. I did use a knife to slice 3 slivers into the middle of the crust to allow steam to escape and I beat an egg, brushing it over the top of the crust.

 

 

Two Peas in a Pod said to bake the pie for 45 minutes, or until the crust was golden brown. Our golden brown arrived at the 25 minute mark. So pretty! The crust was cooked through and even crunchy on the bottom, though I could’ve made sure the corners were more uniform in depth to the dough on the bottom of the pie plate.

 

 

Let the pie sit for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Reheated in the oven the next day, the pot pie tasted even better. It can be cooled and frozen too; even by the slice.

Mangiamo!

 

 

 

Links to contributing recipes:
BonAppetit.com/recipe/chicken-pot-pie
Williams-Sonoma.com/recipe/chicken-potpie-with-mushrooms-and-thyme.html
TwoPeasAndTheirPod.com/chicken-pot-pie/

 

 

 

 




Discussion



Fiore

Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena

Search