Back in the 40s, when meat was scarce, my mother often made Chicken Pot Pie. My father would get in the act, too, sometimes bringing home a live chicken from Eastern Market. Then he’d do all the disgusting things necessary to get poultry ready for the pot.
I’ve looked all over for Mama’s recipe, that is, until it dawned on me, she didn’t use one. Nor did she go for the store-bought variety. When Swanson came out with frozen pot pies in the 50s, she’d have nothing to do with the assembly line creation. Nobody at our kitchen table ever complained about her preference for serving homemade meals.
The Comfort of Chicken Pot Pie
There are times when I yearn for that old-fashioned Chicken Pot pie with the chunky carrots, potatoes, and onions swimming around in a thick broth. Best of all was the flaky, bronze-colored crust that held it all together. I can see my mother now, pulling the dish from the oven, the smell wafting through the house and out the door. (Neighbors always knew what you were having for dinner.)
When I get the urge to replicate such a dish, I often have second thoughts. You have to chop the vegetables, roll out the pastry, cook the chicken. It’s easier to settle for Marie Callender or even a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup.
Could there be a way to capture the old-time flavor without the old-time fuss?
A Search for Flavor without the Fuss
I scoured the Internet for a pot pie that had the ingredients and look I remembered. I came close with one I found at spicysouthernkitchen.com. The recipe made two concessions to the 21st century: a cooked, well-seasoned rotisserie bird and a refrigerator-case pie crust. Frankly, I’m willing to make those concessions to put Chicken Pot Pie on the table more frequently. (Sorry, Mama.)
The evening I made the recipe my overnight guest didn’t arrive until nearly 11 p.m. The smell still lingered and floated down the hall of my condo to the elevator. Though it was bedtime, we both sat down and had a small helping along with a glass of milk. Such a wonderful bedtime treat makes for sweet dreams.
The following recipe is adapted to fit my memory of Mama’s delicious pot pie. I think she would’ve been pleased with the outcome. I know I was.
Chicken Pot Pie—Like Mama Used to Make
1 cup peeled and diced potato
¾ cup sliced carrot
½ cup butter
⅔ cup diced onion (I use 1 cup celery and onions combined)
1¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
3 cups shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken
1 cup peas
2 refrigerated pie crusts
1 egg beaten together with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place potatoes and carrots in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil for 5-8 minutes to soften. Drain.
Melt ½ cup butter in a large sauté pan. Add onions and celery and sauté for several minutes.
Add salt, pepper, thyme, and poultry seasoning. Sprinkle flour on top and cook for 1 minute, stirring to evenly cook the flour.
Gradually whisk in chicken broth and then milk. Add potatoes and carrots and let simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
Stir in chicken and peas. Turn heat off.
Fit 1 pie crust into the bottom of a deep-dish pie plate. Pour in filling.
Place second pie crust on top and trim excess. Press the two pie crusts together to seal and crimp edges, using your fingers.
Brush egg white on top of the pot pie and use a knife to cut 4 slits to let steam escape.
Put on a baking sheet and place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.
*Note: Some like their pot pie to have a tight, hold-its-shape look when sliced. Others prefer more sauciness, which can be had by adding extra milk or broth. This pot pie can be sliced easily. Even so, I will use slightly less flour next time, since the pot pie has a tendency to tighten up the second day. To maintain the flaky crust when re-heating, don’t microwave. Re-warm in oven without wrap or cover.