IT CAME! IT CAME! I couldn’t be MORE excited about my very first cookbook! And already, just by looking at the cover, I’m already “smitten” (okay, I’m done, I promise) with what’s in store for me once I start to get into it and start cooking my way through it! Just from the introduction, this is a perfect cookbook for me, geared towards the home cook on a budget that is respected, who simply wants to be able to make good food for her family, no matter that it takes more than thirty minutes, or an hour. I spend most of my money on food because that’s where I spend a lot of my time at home, where I can express my passion for making flavors sing and giving people a reason to do their happy dance as they eat my food. Where I make the meal that takes Frankie and I out of the length of our day when we’re sitting on the couch, having a beer, sharing some wine, and gives us that self-satisfactory moment of being in a good moment with each other.
There’s also something incredibly satisfying to grow and evolve into my kitchen just a little more, a personal accomplishment. And speaking of accomplishments, today’s recipe is my own, an ode to my past and to my favorite comfort food—especially since I have been suffering a nasty cough for over a week and needed
something simply joyful in my belly—and it’s one I’ve been perfecting and altering for over 10 years. Chicken Pot Pie. Yes, iconic and not the most complicated concept, but by no means short on flavor and variations due to its incredibly versatility. The story behind it for me starts in high school, Island School, which also happened to be part of the English (British) School Foundation, where I was lucky enough to be part of the Food Technology department during my freshman and sophomore year, and spent two full years working on year long projects surrounding food chemistry, techniques, and approaches. Mind you, it was not intensive like it might be at culinary school, where you also learn about flavor profiles and how to correctly cut an onion or filet a fish. No, this was culinary school at its most elementary level with a tight budget to boot.
While I can’t remember for the life of me what my project was my freshman year (probably something not very tasty otherwise I would remember it), the project I worked on my sophomore year was a healthy, after school snack. Now, you may not think a pot pie would be any school goers go-to snack once that back pack hit the floor, but we had made little empanada style pocket fillers the week before when we were learning about dough, the correct ratio of foundation ingredients, and what happens when you alter whole wheat and white flour content (because we were trying to be healthy about it), and I couldn’t help it. In my mind, it was so obvious to make mini pot pies that you could pop in the microwave and eat six minutes later (very much like what Marie Callender was already doing in the frozen food market). So I defended it, all year, working my butt off on trying crust variation after crust variation, feeding them to my friends at lunch to find out which ratio was the tastiest, ensuring it still upheld the healthy requirements. I altered the gravy—would there be milk, would there not be milk, and if there was milk what kind—I altered the meat—for the record, pork and beef did not make good pot pies, at least from my experience, but if anyone has a good recipe for me to try, please share and prove me wrong!—and I altered the spices I included to complicate the flavor profile of the gravy. If it could be adjusted, I adjusted it, and I tested combinations of alterations every week until I had something that was pretty darn near perfect (and obviously got the A it deserved).
But that was it for a while. The last two years of high school were spent fulfilling my basic requirements for an American university, and then I didn’t have the opportunity to really cook or experiment in college, so it wasn’t until six years ago when I moved to Chicago and started to live on my own that I started to cook again. But you better believe one of the first things I made was Chicken Pot Pie. But something was wrong. It wasn’t that I had switched crusts (from handmade to Pillsbury boxed dough, mostly because I was a lazy grad student who needed every minute she had to read and write and plan lessons), but rather it just didn’t have the same taste as I remembered it. It was boring, it was plain. So I started to mess around with it, changing something every time I made it. One time I tried to add turmeric (which I had used a lot in high school because the spice was very good for you, despite the fact it turned EVERYTHING yellow), then another time I tried adding cream instead of milk, I tried biscuits instead of crust, and eventually it started to get better and better and better, not like how I remember it, but rather how my own evolution into adulthood required the recipe to do the same.
And so, without further delay, I present The Real Cooking Maggie’s Chicken Pot Pie (this recipe may be subject to further change as I continue to cook it, but for right now, this is the real deal)! If you try this recipe and altered it in anyway, let me know! I’d love to hear how other folks are putting their own spin to this classic!
Oh, and before I forget, I will be adding a note at a later time regarding my revival of the crust experiment using my late grandmother’s pastry crust recipe as a starting off point (since my own original recipe got lost somewhere in one of the various moves my family made around Hong Kong before officially relocating back to the States). I will not include that recipe here as I have not had time with it on my own, which I need to do for myself as much as for my quest for further culinary growth, and no doubt that will be a fairly emotional moment when I get to it since my grandmother was always in the kitchen cooking. So naturally, some time needs to be taken so it can be done right, but be sure to keep an eye out for it!
The Real Cooking Maggie’s Chicken Pot Pie
- 1 Box Pillsbury Pie Crust or Homemade Crust (future recipe to follow)
- 2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
- ¼ cup white wine (drinking quality wine)
- 1/3 chopped onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½-1 cup diced red potatoes (roughly 2 small red potatoes, not peeled, cubed)
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk
- 1 ¾ cup Chicken Broth/Stock
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried parsley (or 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped)
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- ¼ tsp kosher sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1-2 cups of frozen veggies
Note: Seasoning can be adjusted to taste (and I like my gravy to be a little on the herbaceous side to enhance all the other wonderful ingredients in this dish), but these are the amounts I would start with.
- Heat oven to 425°F. If using boxed pie dough, unroll one of the doughs and place in a 9-inch glass pie pan. If using Grandma Sullivan’s crust, follow directions below. Store bottom layer in fridge while preparing filling so it stays cool.
- Heat a little oil in a pan, and cook chicken until golden brown on the outside. Set aside.
- In the same pan, add ¼ cup white wine* to deglaze the pan, scraping up all those good crusty bits. Add onions and garlic, stirring for about 2 minutes, then add potatoes, stirring often to prevent sticking for about 5 minutes, just to get the cooking process going. You can add some more white wine (or a little bit of oil) if you need a little more moisture in the pan. Take off the heat after those five minutes and set aside.
- In 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring till smooth. Then add the onions, garlic, potatoes, and spices, and let simmer, stirring occasionally so potatoes don’t stick to the sides of the pot, and cook till thickened (it’s okay if the potatoes aren’t cooked all the way through in the pot, they will be cooked perfectly in the oven).
- When potatoes are about ¾ done (tasting as you go or checking with a fork, but I prefer to taste), stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. If filling is not thick enough, add a little more flour to the mixtures. Remove from heat. Spoon chicken mixture into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.
- Bake 20 minutes till lightly golden brown on the top.**
- Let sit and cool for 5-7 minutes before cutting into.
*You should only be cooking with white wine (or any wine/liquor) that you would drink too. Not only does that make the actual meal taste better, but the wine you use could make a great wine pairing.
**I know some people like to put foil over the edges of their pie, but since the inside is basically already done cooking, this makes cooking the crust simple enough that burning should never be an issue.