Classic Chicken Pot Pie for Pi Day

You might not realize it but tomorrow, March 14 (3.14) is officially "Pi Day" and math geeks everywhere will be celebrating with their favorite pie.  I'm planning to buck the trend toward dessert pies and bake a Chicken Pot Pie for my parents.  It's been at least fifteen years since I have baked one, but once upon a time when I was newly married I made pot pies fairly often.  I'd use leftover chicken or turkey or sometimes I'd combine the leftover pot roast, gravy and vegetables from Sunday dinner and make a Beef Pot Pie.  It's the sort of hearty, comforting dish I would take to someone who was sick or just had a baby.

This recipe is updated from one in the Betty Crocker cookbook given to me by my roommate, Julie, at my bridal shower way back in 1981.  (I don't use margarine or shortening anymore and I never did add the celery seed called for in the pastry recipe.)  I still have the book, though the way we eat has evolved over the years and I don't use it much anymore.  My husband doesn't eat pie at all nowadays, but my father, who still likes salami for lunch (gasp!), is sure to enjoy it.

Classic Chicken Pot Pie

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup finely chopped onion (or 1 teaspoon onion powder)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (or several grinds of freshly ground)
1 3/4 cups chicken or turkey broth (homemade or from a base)
2/3 cup milk
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas and carrots (no need to thaw)
1 recipe all-butter pastry for a double-crust pie (see below)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees with a baking stone set on the center rack. 

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Blend in the flour, onion (or powder), salt, and pepper.  Cook until smooth and bubbly, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant rubber scraper.  Remove from heat and whisk in broth and milk until smooth.  Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for one minute.  Add diced chicken and frozen vegetables and stir to combine.  Let stand while you prepare the crust.

Perfect Pastry (from my Perfect Peach Pie post)

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold

6-8 tablespoons ice water

Stir the salt into the flour in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the remaining cold butter into the flour until well-distributed and no large chunks remain. Add 6 tablespoons ice water while tossing the mixture with a fork. Add additional water as necessary and continue tossing gently just until all of the flour is moistened. Do not stir vigorously or the crust will be tough! 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or counter and press together into a disc. Cut in half and set one half aside. Roll out the other half into a circle a couple inches larger than your pie pan. Place in the pan allowing it to hang over the edge. Fill with the chicken mixture.  Using a sharp paring knife, trim the edge of the dough so it comes just past the edge of the pan. Roll out the second disc into another circle about the same size as the first. Place over the filling and trim so it hangs over the edge of the pan by about 1 inch. Now, tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and press to seal well all around the pan. Then you can make a decorative edge with your thumb or by pressing with fork tines. This keeps the sauce (gravy) from bubbling down under the bottom crust and burning.

Cut a small hole, about the size of a Cheerio in the center of the crust to allow steam to escape, then cut slits or a design in the top being careful not to accidentally cut through to the bottom crust.

Place on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake at 425 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.  To be safe, you might want to put a piece of aluminum foil under the pie pan, just in case it bubbles over a bit.  If you don't and it does, see my post here about cleaning a baking stone.

Serve immediately.  About six servings.

(I just tasted the pie and I had forgotten how seriously good it is!  My son is begging me to make it again tomorrow.)

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