There is a weird food holiday pretty much every day of the year if you pay attention to those sorts of things. Which, to be honest, I do only about half of the time. There’s a margarita day, a watermelon day, even a day in honor of creamsicles. But, as I believe we established here one year ago, my favorite of these made up holidays, is Pi day. Even if last year we celebrated it with something other than pie.
Ok, point taken, Pi day is not actually about pie. But it’s not like you need much excuse to get excited about pie. Or at least I don’t. So let’s celebrate Pi day the deliciously incorrect way, with pie. If you’ve scanned the recipe archive at all, you can easily see my enthusiasm for all foods that are encased in a crust. But you may also have noticed the glaring omission of traditional chicken pot pie.
I don’t remember ever having pre-made frozen chicken pot pie growing up, but somewhere in my mind is a taste memory of slightly flaky-slightly soggy pie crust with a thick gravy inside, dotted with pieces of not-quite chicken. There were mushy carrots and freezer-burnt peas that never got soft but despite the textual problems, I also remember it being pleasant in a school-lunch kind of way. Savory and filling if not a little cheap and poorly constructed.
That structural problem is something that plagues more double-crusted pies: the soggy bottom. It’s one of the reasons I rarely eat pie that I haven’t made myself. Are there ways to avoid it? Absolutely. You can make sure the butter is super cold at all times, par-bake the bottom crust, decrease the amount of gravy in the pie. I took the easy way out: leave out the bottom crust. Don’t worry; it’s still pi(e).
*Generally the photographs in my posts are taken by me. But the first and last photos in this post were taken by Jeff who played photography assistant for this recipe. If you like them, it’s thanks to him. If you don’t, blame me.
Chicken Pot Pie
There are as many recipes for chicken pot pie as there are people who eat it and the variations are endless. Add more vegetables, or perhaps fewer, or perhaps use only the vegetables you like. I personally would like more peas but Jeff would not, hence the 1/4 cup. I use a lot of frozen vegetables because they’re easy and make this dish much faster and because simmered in a pie the texture isn’t too different. It’s also a good time to use leftover chicken, or even to buy a rotisserie chicken specifically for this purpose.
Another good thing to note: I like a kind of liquid-y gravy which works here partly because there is no bottom crust to get all soggy. If you prefer a thicker gravy, increase the amount of flour used. Bumping it up to 3 tbs will give you something pretty thick; up to a quarter cup is something you can stand a spoon in. Use your best judgment.
Make enough for 6-8 hungry diners
1 recipe flaky pie crust
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch coins
4-5 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 tbs + 2 tbs fat
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 cup stock
1 lb pre-cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup frozen pearl onions
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground pepper
Prepare one recipe of pie crust and keep it cold until needed. Preheat the oven to 350F and get a pie pan out so it’s ready when the filling is done.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, add the carrots and celery and one tablespoon of fat and cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not necessarily cooked through. Then add the extra fat and flour and stir thoroughly so everything is evenly coated and all the flour is dissolved into the fat in the pan. Doing it this way will help prevent lumps when the liquid is added. Let it cook for a few minutes to get rid of the floury taste then turn the heat down to medium low. Add the stock slowly, stirring the entire time. Make sure to get into the edges of the pan so that everything gets into the stock. It may help to use a whisk to get up everything and incorporate it into the stock.
When the flour is all mixed into the stock, add the chicken, frozen vegetables, salt, thyme, pepper. Cook it together for a few minutes and then pour it in into pan.
Roll out the pie crust out in a circle until it’s about 1/4 inch thick (to keep it circular, it helps to give it a 1/8 turn every roll or two) and then drape it over the filling. Tuck in the crusts if you want to or just let it hang over the sides.
Bake the pie for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown to your liking – everything in the filling is cooked except the crust. Serve it hot and bubbly and full of nostalgia. Or keep the leftovers for up to a week in the fridge and have a trip down memory lane for lunch.