I have been hankering for a slice of pot pie for several months. Specifically chicken pot pie, with peas and maybe carrots in a creamy sauce. It just seemed like so much work. You know how I dread pie crust, and then there is the matter of getting the chicken cooked, and matched with the right amount of vegetables in the proper proportions, and it has to be creamy but not too much so, or your crust will be soggy. My brain set me up for failure before I even bought the ingredients.
I sit here today a changed woman, ready to tell the world how wonderful and easy it is to make chicken pot pie at home. I found a crust recipe in First Prize Pies by Allison Kave that is life-changing. I was skeptical at first, since it uses a metric ton of butter and whole milk, soured whole milk if we’re being technical, instead of water. Whaaaaaat? My Nana never put milk in her pie crust. How could this be good? Well, the simple answer is fat. It is good because there is more fat, so it is flaky beyond belief and yet pleasantly crisp, and it tastes nice. Not just like greasy flour, but like you could just eat crust and be happy. I am a newly converted disciple of Kave crust. I followed her recipe (using a food processor) exactly and will tell everyone who will listen that this is the recipe they should be using for pie crust from now on.
Now let’s discuss the filling. I had a very specific idea of what I wanted the filling to taste like, and my primary inspirations were leeks and ramps. I decided to make a spring-inspired, green vegetable filling to compliment the chicken, with sweet spring leeks, peas, celery and ramp leaves. (The bulbs had been pickled for other use, but no need to leave them out if you have some.) As for the chicken, I used a short cut and I couldn’t be happier: a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. I used one full breast and about half of the other, so I still have enough meat for another meal or two, and it was already tender and flavorful. (Pot pie is a great way to use up leftover baked or roasted chicken or turkey. You can bake, roast or grill some to use if you don’t have any pre-cooked.) The creaminess comes from whole milk, no cream, no stock, and my reasoning was this: there’s enough butter in the crust for the richness cream would provide, and enough flavor in the vegetables and chicken to do without broth. Finally, a word about ingredient amounts: pot pies accommodate my a little more of this, a little less of that style of measuring very well. I did weigh my vegetables to give a more precise account of what I used, but don’t get too caught up in exact measurements. If you have more leeks, throw them in. If you like peas, add another 1/2 c., or more. If you have some asparagus, toss in a cup or so. As long as you don’t drastically lessen or increase the amount of vegetables, you’re going to be just fine. Pot pie is forgiving.
My first bite of homemade chicken pot pie satisfied every craving I’ve had for the dish. It is comfort food at it’s best, and I’m so pleased with this fresh-tasting, pretty to look at version. I think I’ll make it again when fresh peas are in season, with green garlic or spring onions if ramp season has passed. I encourage you to give it a try, too!
Spring Chicken Pot Pie (serves 6)
- 1 T. olive oil
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- 5 oz. diced celery (from 6 medium stalks; about 2 c.)
- 4 oz. spring leeks, light green and white parts only, washed well, sliced (from 5 slender leeks; about 2 heavy c.)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black or white pepper
- 2 c. whole milk
- 1 T. cornstarch
- 1 c. fresh or frozen green peas
- 1 oz. ramp leaves, cut into thin strips (about 1/2 c., loosely packed)*
- 2 c. cooked chicken, broken into chunks
- Crust for a double-crust 9″ pie (I recommend the recipe from First Prize Pies)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a Dutch oven or equivalent pot, melt the butter with the olive oil and add the diced celery and sliced leeks. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 mins. The vegetables should soften but not necessarily brown. While the leeks and celery cooks, in a small bowl, mix the cornstarch into the milk and set aside. After the celery and leeks have cooked for 10 mins., stir in the salt and pepper, then add the milk mixture; increase the heat slightly and bring the filling to a low boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce begins to thicken. This takes about 4-5 mins. Remove the thickened filling from the heat and stir in peas and ramp leaves, then gently fold in the chicken so it doesn’t break up into tiny shreds. Set the filling aside to cool slightly while you roll out your pie dough.
Press the bottom crust into a 9″ pie plate, leaving a slight overhang. Pour your still-warm filling in and spread out. Roll out the top crust and place on top of the pie; trim the outside edges slightly and tuck the overhang of the top crust under the overhang of the bottom crust. Crimp the edges with your fingers and add any design you like to the edges: pinch, fork marks, etc. Use a sharp knife to slice several steam vents into the top crust. Bake for 45-50 mins., until the crust is golden brown and flaky. Cool for 10-15 mins. on a hot pad or wire rack before serving. Cool any leftovers and wrap tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap before storing in the refrigerator. Your pot pie should keep, refrigerated, for 3-4 days and tastes so good reheated (or cold) for lunch.
*A few notes about ramps. You can use whole ramps; I would recommend sauteeing the bulbs with the leeks. If ramps are unavailable or out of season, substitute green garlic, scallions, chives or more leeks.