Cooking

TT Culinary Institute: Chicken Potpie

Behold comfort food at its finest
Photos: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table
Chicken Pot Pie

Baby, it’s cold outside, so why not warm things up, starting with our favorite winter dish? Chicken potpie. Let’s break down why this is the perfect weeknight meal. First, it’s the definition of comfort. Second—now that you’ve practiced for Thanksgiving—your piecrust skills are on point. And, third, it’s guaranteed to warm things up on these cold winter nights.

This recipe has a flaky crust studded with herbs and garlic, which lend an extra kick of flavor to the best part of the pie. Encased in this crust is a rich filling of chicken and vegetables cooked in a creamy sauce spiked with a splash of sherry. It’s an entire meal packed into one nine-inch pan (see the recipe).

“It’s like eating a hug,” Sarah Curtis-Fawley, potpie expert and owner of Pacific Pie in Portland, Oregon, tells us. We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re spreading the love and teaching you how to make the perfect potpie.

Passion of the Crust

You probably know by now to use cold ingredients, like chilled butter and shortening, but Curtis-Fawley also recommends popping your flour mixture into the freezer to make sure it stays cold, thus  preventing the fat from melting into the dough.

Resting the dough is also key. First, it lets the butter and shortening firm up after softening from the heat of your hands. Second, this is when the dough hydrates, making for a crust that rolls out in one piece without crumbling. This is crucial in a dough like ours, which has chunks of garlic and herbs, and could tear if not properly hydrated.

Keep It Classic

“Every time we try to 'fancy up' our chicken pie with tarragon or other herbs, our customers rebel!” Curtis-Fawley explains. So even though we get a little fancy with our crust, we keep the filling traditional.

Our only tweak here is that instead of simmering the vegetables with the chicken, we caramelize them first to add an extra boost of flavor and just a hint of sweetness. To finish the dish, we add a splash of sherry and lemon to brighten things up.

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Chill Out

You need the filling to be completely cooled before assembling to prevent the butter in the dough from melting. For this reason, this is the perfect dish to prepare a day ahead. Make the dough and filling, and keep them in the fridge overnight. Then the next day, assemble the pie and bake.

You can also halve the dough recipe and assemble the whole thing in a skillet. Just throw the filling in an 10-inch ovenproof skillet, cover with one layer of dough and bake until golden. Anyway you slice it, this pie will keep you going all winter long.

  • Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven. This is not only going to serve as the base to cook your vegetables but will be used to make the roux when you add flour.

  • Unlike a traditional chicken potpie, caramelize the vegetables for extra flavor.

  • After you make your roux, slowly add the milk and stock until incorporated into a smooth sauce that you can simmer the chicken in.

  • Make sure you check for seasoning at the end, and then again once the filling has cooled before assembling the pie.

  • You want to add the frozen peas last to make sure they retain their bright-green color.

  • Using a pastry blender or your fingers, begin to work the butter and shortening into the dough.

  • Work the butter into the dough until you have pea-size crumbles—you want these chunks to make a flaky crust.

  • Add the chilled water and vodka to the flour mixture to bring it together into a dough.

  • Using your hands, carefully knead the dough until it comes together.

  • Transfer to a clean work surface and knead until smooth.

  • Divide the dough into 2 even disks and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

  • On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 disk of dough into a 12-inch circle and use it to line a 9-inch pie tin.

  • Add the filling and brush the edges with an egg wash.

  • Add the top crust and press firmly to seal, squeezing out any air pockets that may have formed.

  • Trim the dough,  leaving ½ inch of overhang that gets folded over onto itself to make the outer crust.

  • Crimp the piecrust with a fork to seal.

  • Brush the pie liberally with an egg wash, then make a series of slits to release any steam as it bakes.

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