Chicken pot pie
Food'Traditional American cooking at its best'

Chicken pot pie

A tasty way to use leftovers

Chicken pot pie (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Chicken pot pie (Photo by Jessica Grann)

While I typically publish traditional Jewish or lighter Mediterranean-style foods, I grew up on down-home, meat-and-potatoes fare. Homemade chicken pot pie is one of my all-time favorite meals — and it’s also the perfect dish to use up leftover chicken soup.

Many people throw out the last bits of soup, but why do that when you can make an entirely new meal? It takes a little bit of work, but it certainly is worth it because you use ingredients that most of us already have on hand. Whenever I’m able to use leftovers creatively, I pat myself on the back for saving money.

Chicken pot pie is traditional American cooking at its best. I use homemade pastry because I can roll it out large enough to fit nicely into a deep-dish pie plate, but you can use store-bought pie crust if you prefer.

You can make this with soup that is two or three days old, or you can freeze the broth and chicken and make the pie at a more convenient time. This is a perfect Sunday dinner because the leftover Shabbat chicken soup is still fresh, and you may have more time to work with pastry than you would have on a work day.

When it comes to a recipe that I really love, I often double it and freeze half to another time. It’s so nice to have a meal in the freezer to take out when needed.

You can also make this recipe with leftover turkey. I always make soup with a turkey carcass, so you can tuck this recipe away as a fantastic way to use Thanksgiving leftovers.

Serves 6-8

2 pie crusts
3 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken
2 cups chicken soup broth
5 tablespoons vegan butter or margarine, divided
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup of unsweetened oat milk or other pareve milk
1 small onion, diced
⅓ cup chopped celery
2 cups diced potatoes
2 cups diced carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 beaten egg to wash the top pastry crust (optional)

If you have a tried and true pie crust recipe, then you should feel free to use it. The pastry should be rolled out to about 11-inch round crusts to give you enough pastry to fill a deep pie dish and to roll the edges.

If you’d like to take a shortcut, you can buy ready-to-use pie crusts. If you use a frozen pie crust that is already in a baking tin, there will be too much filling for one pie, so buy 4 pie crusts and divide the filling between two pies. You can always bulk up each pie by adding a little more chicken, potatoes and carrots if you feel that it’s needed.

Remove three cups of chicken from your leftover soup chicken. You can also use leftover roast chicken.

Strain the chicken broth so that it’s free of any herbs, vegetables or chicken bones. It’s OK if you cooked noodles or matzah balls in the soup as long as the broth is strained.

Measure out the chicken broth and oat milk separately, then prepare and chop the vegetables as noted and set them aside.

Over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of vegan butter or margarine in a large saucepan. Once melted, slowly add in the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly until all of the flour is incorporated, then cook it for one more minute while whisking the mixture. You will see the mixture thicken to more of a paste-like consistency as it cooks. Don’t step away from the stove because it can quickly scorch.

Keep the heat on medium-low and add a half cup of the chicken broth to the flour mixture. Whisk well.
Allow it to cook until it’s gently simmering and you see some bubbles, then repeat this step, adding a half cup of broth at a time, until all the broth is incorporated into the pot. The broth will expand and thicken as it cooks.

I use oat milk when I need a pareve/vegan milk to cook with. It has a thicker texture that is closer to real milk and it has little taste. If you’re more comfortable using unsweetened soy or almond milk, feel free, but the sauce may be slightly thinner.

Add the cup of plant milk into the pot, raise the temperature to medium and bring it to a very soft boil while stirring the sauce. Once you see soft bubbles, turn the heat off and add the sage, poultry seasoning, salt and black pepper. If you don’t have poultry seasoning or don’t care to use it, adjust the sage measurement to 1½ teaspoons.

Once combined, sample the mixture to taste. Only use a half teaspoon of salt because the chicken broth is already salted. If the mixture is slightly salty, it’s fine to leave it as is. The potatoes and vegetables are not seasoned, and they will soak up the salt. If it tastes a little bland, add more salt, pepper or herbs if you prefer a bolder flavor for your pie.

Preparing chicken pot pie, step-by-step (Photo by Jessica Grann)
While I’m preparing the sauce, I like to sauté the vegetables a bit to soften them so that they cook better inside the pie. Over medium-low heat, add 2 tablespoons of vegan butter into a sauté pan. Add the celery and onions and sauté for 5 minutes, then add the potatoes and carrots and sauté for 8-10 minutes longer. Turn off the heat. Stir in the shredded chicken and frozen peas and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 F and place the wire rack in the middle. Place a baking tray underneath the pies to avoid messes if there is any spillover.

Line your deep dish pie plate with one rolled pastry crust, allowing any extra to fold over the edges of the pie plate. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Pour about a cup of the creamy broth mixture into the pie plate.

Add the vegetable and chicken mixture, then pour the remaining creamy broth mixture over the chicken and vegetables. The mixture may be taller than the side of the pie plate and that’s fine. It’s easier to mound it higher in the middle of the pie and a little bit away from the sides of the plate so there’s a little more ease in sealing the dough.

Seal the top pastry to the bottom pastry in the best way that works for you. Pie crust can be a struggle for me. It takes practice and patience to learn how to flute or roll pastry edges. Don’t allow this final step to keep you from making pies — simply use the tines of a dinner fork to seal the pastry layers together before baking.

For a nice finish, lightly brush the top layer of the pie with the beaten egg. This will give your pie a beautiful golden color. If you’re avoiding eggs, you can omit this step.

Bake it for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. The pie may bubble over a bit, which is why I recommend baking it with a baking tray underneath.

Allow the pie to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

I have a few side notes to help you. If you’re using frozen pastry crust, thaw it out before you add the chicken filling to the pastry tin. There won’t be enough pastry to flute the edges, so you will need to use fork tines to seal the layers. These are also smaller pies than my homemade version.
I mentioned that you can add in some extra chicken or vegetables to bulk up the pie. Because the pies are smaller, you may need to reduce baking time; just keep an eye on them. Also, if you’re making one to bake and one to freeze, wrap the uncooked pie (without egg wash) well in plastic wrap before freezing.

Remove the pie from the freezer and put it into the refrigerator to thaw overnight before baking. It will keep in the refrigerator until dinner time. Brush it with egg wash immediately before baking.

If the middle is still frozen and you really need to get it into the oven, add some baking time. If the crust looks like it’s getting very brown but the pie needs more time, cover it with foil to keep the crust from burning. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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