A “He Cooks” post from my friend Mike, who goes a little more traditional after sharing his Fried Beer-Battered Pickles and Five Spice Squash Soup recipes.
This is one of my absolute favorite winter meals. The hot chicken and root-vegetable filling is hearty and warming on a snowy day. There are two ways to make this pot pie: from scratch, or with store bought stock, pie crust, and a rotisserie chicken. The latter is certainly faster and easier, but the former tastes better, and leaves you with a few quarts of homemade chicken stock for the freezer.
I made this one from scratch, and it has been a hit every time I’ve served it. Everyone is always amazed that there aren’t any herbs or spices besides the salt and pepper. I think that’s the homemade stock, chicken fat, and rich root vegetables coming through.
If you want to make this from scratch I would recommend either starting early in the day or preparing the filling a day or two ahead and keeping it in the fridge until ready to bake.
Homemade Chicken Pot Pie
For the roast chicken
- 1 Whole chicken, cut into parts, back, neck, and wing tips reserved
- Olive oil
Preheat oven to 375. Cut the breast in half, then into quarters. Separate the legs from the thighs. Pat the chicken pieces dry, rub with about two teaspoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.
Place on a roasting pan, along with any large pieces of fat from the chicken. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes or until the chicken registers 165 on an instant-read thermometer. Remove chicken from the pan onto a plate to cool. Drain, strain, and reserve the fat from the pan.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, pull the meat from the bones, and cut the meat into ¾ inch pieces. Place the chicken meat in the freezer. The skin can be returned to the hot oven for 10-15 minutes to make chicken cracklins, a nice snack for the cook (cooking is hungry work).
For the stock
- Back, neck, and wing tips of the chicken
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly smashed
- 2 fresh or 3 dried bay leaves
- 10 whole peppercorns
- 1 onion, cut in half
- 1 carrot, cut in half
- The top 2 inches and leaves from one bunch of celery
- Bones and cartilage from a roast chicken
About 3 hours before the stock is needed, place all the ingredients except for the bones into a large stock pot, along with a gallon of cold water. Bring to a boil, skim the foam, and reduce to a simmer.
After the chicken is done roasting, add the bones and cartilage to the simmering stock, along with more water if a lot has boiled off. After about three hours of simmering, strain the stock through a colander lined with cheese cloth.
For the filling
- 4 tablespoons reserved chicken fat
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more, to taste
- 3 leeks, cut into 1/4 inch dice and rinsed very well
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4-6 cups chicken stock
- 3/4 lb waxy potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3/4 lb carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3/4 lb parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream
Any of the root vegetables can be substituted for whatever you prefer. Celery root or turnips would be nice in place of the potatoes. I always try to include parsnips for their intense, earthy sweetness, and carrots, for their color, but this is up to you.
Add the chicken fat to a large dutch oven. When hot, add the leeks, salt, and pepper to taste. Sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.
Add the garlic and flour until and stir until the garlic is fragrant and flour smooth and beginning to cook, about 1 minute – 90 seconds. Add the white wine and stir until smooth.
Add 4 cups chicken stock, and the root vegetables (but not the peas).
Simmer until sauce is thickened and vegetables are mostly cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. You do not want to fully cook the vegetables until they are completely tender, as they will continue to cook in the oven. Add more stock if the sauce seems too thick or there is not enough. It should have the consistency of a thick stew or gravy. I ended up using about 4 ½ -5 cups.
Once the vegetables are near done, remove from heat. Add the frozen chicken and stir. Add the frozen peas and stir. Add cream and stir. You want to cool down the filling as much as possible so the fat in the crust does not melt until it begins to crisp. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish, making sure there is at least 3/4 inch between the top of the filling and the lip of the pan. The entire pie can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated up to two days, or until ready to bake.
For the crust
I have made this with a variety of crusts: herbed biscuits, light, crispy herbed pie crust, or my great-aunt’s recipe for a quick and easy pie crust, as I did here. They have all turned out great.
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 3/4 cup shortening or lard (I used shortening, as we didn’t have any lard on hand)
Mix the sifted flour and salt. Remove 1/3 cup of flour mixture, and mix with the water to make a paste. Cut the shortening into the flour until it is in pea size pieces. Use your hands to mix the paste and shortening mixtures into smooth dough. Roll out into a rectangle to cover the 9 x 13 pan. (I used two smaller casseroles instead of the 9 x 13)
To finish the pot pie
Preheat oven to 400. Lay pie crust on top, pressing against the sides of the pan. Cut a few slits into the crust to allow steam to escape. Make a flower or something cute with any extra crust to put on top, or don’t. I rolled it into rough edged shapes and arranged them on top with their sides overlapping and a few holes for steam to escape. This made for lots of crispy edges.
Bake until crust is golden, 35-40 minutes. If your pan is really full, place a foil-lined baking sheet underneath to catch any sauce that drips out. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for five minutes, and serve. I usually serve this on its own, or with some bread to mop any sauce. It is definitely a complete meal in a dish.