Have you ever been traumatized by eating one of those frozen chicken pot pies with the gelatinous filling, bland flavor, mushy vegetables, and disappointing crust? I have, and since then I have never eaten another one. However, one day a few years ago David asked me to make one, so I turned to my trusty Cooks (who never lets me down) and got to work. Wow. I couldn’t believe what we had just eaten shared the same title as that previously frozen gooey, joke. Let’s just say I am now a convert. This recipe takes a bit of time to prepare (like many satisfying dishes) but the results are well worth it. The savory chicken filling, perfectly cooked vegetables, hints of thyme and sherry, and the best part- the flaky golden brown crust on top, will make you a convert too. This recipe is for a 9 x 13, but you can halve everything (like I did) and bake in an 8 x 8.
adapted from: The Best New Recipe
1 recipe savory pie dough (recipe follows)
1 ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise ¼” thick
2 small celery ribs, cut crosswise ¼” thick
salt and ground pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
½ tsp. dried thyme
3-4 tablespoons medium or dry sherry
¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Savory Pie Dough
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3-4 tablespoons ice water
For the Pie Dough
Mix the flour and salt in a food processor. Scatter the shortening over the flour mixture, and pulse. Add the butter and continue pulsing, until the flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter bits no larger than small peas. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix the water in. Press down with the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more if the dough will not come together. Shape the dough into a ball, then flatten into a 4” wide disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 2 days before rolling.
When the pie filling is ready, roll the dough on a floured surface to a 15 by 11” rectangle. Place the dough over the pie filling, trimming the dough that overhangs to within ½” of the pan lip, or instead of trimming, just tuck the extra dough down into the pie. Tuck the overhanging dough back under itself so the folded edge is flush with the pan lip. (Depending on how deep your pan is, your dough topping might not be right on top of the pan, you can see in the pic at the bottom, my dough is actually lower in the pan, right on top of the filling.) Flute the edges all around, or press with the tines of a fork. Cut at least four 1 inch vent holes in the dough.
OK, back to the pie…
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400. Put the chicken and broth in a small dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Cover, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the chicken is just done, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl, reserving the broth in a measuring cup.
Increase the heat to medium-high and heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a bowl with the chicken, set aside.
Heat the butter over medium heat in the now-empty pan. When the foaming subsides, add the flour; cook about 1 minute. Whisk in the reserved chicken broth, the milk, any accumulated chicken juices, and the thyme. Bring to a simmer, then continue to simmer until the sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the sherry.
Pour the sauce over the chicken mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the peas and parsley. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. (The mixture can be covered and refrigerated overnight; reheat before topping with the pastry.) Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9” baking pan (or shallow baking dish of similar size). Top with the pastry. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Serve hot.