Richard and I love the roasted chickens from Costco. They’re juicy, fragrant, properly seasoned, and cheap. I mean, when you can buy a whole roasted chicken for the same price, or cheaper, than a whole raw chicken, there’s no debate. We buy them often, and use every bit of the chicken, even the drippings in the bottom of the container. Follow me, and let’s see how the leftovers are magically transformed into a hearty, comforting chicken pot pie!
Pot pies are perfect for a variety of reasons. First, they’re absolutely delicious; the perfect comfort food. Second, it’s easier to get picky young eaters to devour dreaded healthy vegetables when they’re smothered in a creamy sauce encased in a baked flaky, buttery crust. And lastly, it’s a good way to use up leftovers. I frequently have vegetable odds and ends wrapped in the fridge eager to become part of something fabulous. Use phyllo dough, puff pastry or your own homemade pastry crust for a crunchy topping.
After we’d devoured the meaty portions of our lovely chicken, I decided to make chicken stock. Into the stock pot went the back, wings, and the oh so flavor packed drippings. I usually break the back into two pieces, add one-half large onion quartered, one medium carrot cut into strips, two celery stalks cut into strips, two whole cloves of garlic, peppercorns, and a couple of whole cloves. You can add a bay leaf, if you like that. I add just enough chicken stock/water to cover the vegetables and chicken. Importantly, I don’t add salt. Store bought stock, even the low-sodium brands, are too salty for me. So, I adjust the seasoning when the stock is finished.
Bring the pot ingredients to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook uncovered for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the chicken is falling from the bones. Line a strainer with fluted coffee filters, paper toweling, or cheesecloth. Put the strainer over a large bowl, and pour your homemade goodness through.
Allow the chicken meat to cool enough to handle, and pick off all the meat into a separate bowl. Set aside.
While the stock is cooking, prepare the vegetables for the pot pie. Traditionally, pot pie vegetables include onions, carrots, celery, peas, and potatoes. But feel free to mix it up a bit. I wouldn’t hesitate to add diced sweet potatoes, parsnips, or turnips. Ellie Krieger, who was the inspiration for this dish, suggests chopped leeks and green beans chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, along with the rest of the traditional veggies.
As the chicken meat is cooling and the vegetables are prepared, it’s time to cook the filling. I like cooking the vegetables in layers, gently browning them to strengthen their flavors, even the potatoes. Leave the peas for last – you can scatter them throughout the filling just before you’re ready to bake.
I used the same pot I used earlier to make the stock – didn’t even wash it out – wiped off the outside and back onto the stove. Add 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil, or half oil and half butter to the pot, and begin to brown starting with the onions and ending with the potatoes. Season with 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper – I use coarse ground pepper that I love for casseroles, chili, and dishes like this. Stir it all, and let it brown for a bit longer.
In a little custard dish or small bowl, mix together 3 Tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoonful salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Mix it around, and sprinkle over the top of the browned vegetables in the pot. Stir the flour until you can no longer see white, and continue to brown for a minute or two longer.
Now, it’s time to add the liquids – milk and your homemade chicken stock. In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine two cups of chicken stock and one cup of milk – half & half, whole, 2% or skim – it’s your preference. I used whole milk. Add the liquid slowly, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula. Turn down the heat to medium low, and continue to stir until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.
Once the sauce is thickened, add the chicken. Stir to combine. If you’re adding peas, now’s the time. One-half cup or so. (I didn’t have any frozen peas on hand – ooops!) Turn down the heat, just the keep the mixture warm while you put the crusts together.
I had phyllo thawed in the refrigerator. I put it on my cutting board to bring to room temperature. Cut the wrapper, and unroll the sheets. Once they’re exposed to air, phyllo dries out quickly, so cover your supply with a damp paper towel, while you work the layers. Phyllo is delicate, but don’t be afraid of it. Gently lift the sheets, and gently brush with butter. If it tears apart like you see above, it’s no big deal.
For the bottom crust, I used two sheets. So, remove one sheet at a time, and lightly brush with melted butter. Fold into quarters, and place in the bottom of the casserole. I decided to use 18oz. oven-proof bowls to make individual servings.
Once the bottom crusts are formed, add the filling, equally divided between the two bowls. I used three phyllo sheets to form the top crust – remove one at a time, brush with melted butter, fold in quarters, and place on the top. All you have to do is tuck the phyllo around the inside of the bowl. Brush the tops with melted butter. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown and delicious.
Set the pot pies on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes before serving. Right out of the oven, they’re pretty hot!
I was very pleased with the crunchy, buttery consistency of the phyllo. But I’ve used biscuit dough and pastry crust for the topping, too, with great success.
- 12 oz cooked and diced chicken breast
- ½ cup onion, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 2 small russet potatoes, diced
- ½ cup peas
- 2 cups chicken stock, homemade or packaged
- 1 cup whole milk, or use half & half, 2%, skim - your preference
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, or half oil and half butter
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- dash of cayenne pepper
- ½ package phyllo sheets, at room temperature.
- ¼ cup melted butter
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven.
- Add the onion. Brown for 5 minutes. Add carrot and celery. Brown for 5 minutes.
- Add potatoes, sprinkle with black pepper. Stir and brown for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, ground pepper, paprika, thyme, and cayenne pepper. Stir together.
- Add the flour mixture to the browned vegetables, and stir until you can no longer see the flour. Continue to cook for a minute or two. Reduce heat to medium low.
- In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine the chicken stock and milk.
- Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, slowly add the liquid to the vegetables, stirring constantly until thoroughly combined. Continue to stir until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.
- Reduce heat to low. Add the chicken, stir to combine. Add the peas, frozen or thawed, stir to combine.
- Remove the chicken filling from the heat, or keep it warm on the stove.
- Spray the insides of two 16-18oz. individual serving bowls or casseroles with vegetable spray.
- Remove the phyllo from the wrapper. Unroll the sheets, and keep covered with a damp paper towel.
- Use two phyllo sheets for the bottom of each serving dish. Remove one sheet to a clean surface. Lightly brush with melted butter. Stack the second sheet on top. Lightly brush with melted butter. Fold the sheets into a quarter. Place inside the bowl or casserole. Repeat for the second bowl.
- Divide the chicken filling equally between the bowls.
- To prepare the top crust, use 3 phyllo sheets for each serving. Stack and brush with melted butter as for the bottom crust. Fold into quarters, and place on top of the filling.
- Gently tuck the top crust around the filling. Brush with melted butter. Place the bowls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
- Allow the pot pies to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
This dish may be prepared in a 9" x 13" casserole dish. Rather than folding the phyllo in quarters, lay the sheets inside the casserole. You may want to use more phyllo for the layers.