Sometimes a rotisserie chicken comes in handy. It’s like money in the bank. On Fridays, Lunds & Byerly’s have Five Buck Clucks: Rotisserie chickens for $4.99 each. I usually buy one to have on hand for the weekend. On this particular weekend, chicken pot pie sounded good.
For some reason, when I make sweet pies, I’m all about the filling. When I make savory pies, I’m all about the crust. My favorite savory pie crust is Julia Child’s Pate Brisee from her book “The Way to Cook.” This tender, flaky crust has never let me down. Just be aware that it has so much butter and shortening in it that it is better suited to a straight-sided tart ring or a rustic application. It won’t hold a crisp and defined fluted edge well.
As for the filling, my recipe for creamed chicken and vegetables has evolved through years of trial, error, and changing tastes. I feel like I’m getting close to my ideal recipe, although that target keeps moving too. My ideal started out as Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pie.
Chicken Pot Pie Filling
To plan ahead for this recipe, the bottom crust is rolled out, chilled, and then parkbaked, before the final pie is assembled. The filling can be made ahead of time or prepared while the bottom crust is chilling and baking. This recipe makes an 8 x 8 pie.
Pastry for a double-crust (Use your favorite crust, a purchased crust, or the recipe that follows)
1 rotisserie chicken
2 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/4″ cubes
2 celery stalks, diced into 1/4″ cubes
1 small onion, finely diced
6 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup half & half
2 cups frozen peas
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
salt to taste
Pull the chicken meat off the bones and cut roughly into bite-sized pieces. Discard the carcass or save for stock.
Melt butter in a large skillet butter over medium heat. Add vegetables and stir to coat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover, cooking for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are barely done. You don’t want them to be crunchy and you don’t want them to be mushy. If the vegetables start to brown, turn the heat down.
When the vegetables are down, turn the heat back up to medium-high. Stir flour into butter/vegetable mixture and keep stirring until the flour has incorporated into the butter and is smooth and bubbly. Slowly pour in chicken stock, stirring constantly until the sauce is smooth and starting to thicken. Bring it back to a low bubble and stir in the half & half. You don’t want it to boil at this point. Turn the heat down if you need to. You just want a few bubbles while you gently cook the mixture until it is nice and thick.
Stir in the chicken, peas, and seasoning. Taste to adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat.
The filling can be made ahead of time but should be reheated before assembling the pie and baking it.
Pate Brisee Fine (A Butter Dough)
Adapted from “The Way to Cook” by Julia Child
This dough comes together very easily with a food processor. The recipe makes two 9-inch tart shells or a 14 by 4 1/2 inch rectangular crust
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled)
1/2 cup plain bleached cake flour
1 tsp salt (or, for dessert tarts, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 Tbs sugar)
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, quartered lengthwise and diced
1/4 cup (2 ounces) chilled vegetable shortening
1/2 cup ice water, plus droplets more, if needed (This is not just cold water; it should be water that’s been allowed to sit chilling with some ice in it)
Have all the ingredients measured out and ready to use, because you want to work quickly to keep everything cold.
Put the flour, salt (or salt and sugar), and diced butter in the container of the processor and pulse (on/off half second clicks) 5 or 6 times to break up the butter roughly.
Next you want to be ready to work fast so you don’t overmix the dough: Add the shortening, turn on the machine, and immediately pour in the 1/2 cup of ice water, then pulse 2 or 3 times. Remove the cover and feel the dough: It should look like a bunch of small lumps, and will just hold together in a mass when you press a handful together. Don’t overmix: it should not mass on the blade of the machine. If it seems too dry, pulse in some more water by droplets. I usually don’t need to add anymore water.
Here’s another place where you’ll want to work quickly to keep the dough cold and manageable. Turn the dough out onto your work surface; press it into a rough mass. You should see some fairly good sized lumps of butter and shortening. Rapidly and roughly, with the heel (not the palm) of your hand, push eggsize clumps of dough out in front of you in a 6 inch smear. This technique is called “fraisage” and it’s really fun to do.
Now form the dough into a cake. I like to make my cake about a 1/2 inch thick. It should be fairly smooth and pliable. Wrap in plastic, slide it into a plastic bag and refrigerate at least 2 hours, allowing the flour particles to absorb the liquid, as well as to firm the butter and relax the gluten.
Assembling the pot pie
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Remove the crust dough from the refrigerator. Cut off about 2/3 of it and replace the remaining dough back in the refridgerator. Roll out the dough to line the inside of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Don’t worry about being really fancy with this. To help ease the dough into a square dish, cut diagonal slits in the corners of the dough and then overlap the edges as you shape the dough. Try not to stretch it at all.
Put the dish in your freezer for about 20 minutes. This will allow the gluten to relax and chill the dough again, helping to minimize shrinkage during baking.
Remove the dish from the freezer and line the dish with a sheet of parchment paper; fill with pie weights or dried beans. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. The edges will be starting to brown. Remove from the oven.
Carefully transfer the parchment containing the pie weights to a bowl to let the pie weights cool. Spoon the chicken filling into the baked shell. You can see below that the edges of the crust aren’t perfect.
Now, roll out the remaining dough to fit over the top. Once again, don’t worry about perfection. Simply lap it over the top of the dish and then push the edges of the dough down into the sides of the dish a little bit. Cut a steam-vent in the top.
Return it to the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the top crust is browned and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Parbaking the bottom crust ensures a nicely browned, crispy bottom crust to go with the top crust, ensuring a proper crust to filling ratio. And if you can nab a corner piece, so much the better.