There are so many ways to do chicken pot pies. One of the great comfort food dishes, this version bumps it up to another level with some very simple tweaks. By adding some good quality Herbes de Provence to our white sauce, we get an additional level of flavor. Topping off the crust with some finely grated Parmesan turns something already delicious into something exquisite.
You can either use store-bought shredded chicken, buy a roasted chicken and pull of the meat, or poach chicken breasts and cut into cubes or shred it. Personally, I prefer bites of well poached chicken over the shredded chicken, but that’s your call.
Be sure when poaching the chicken to cook it well. If you just cook it until it’s done, and then add to the filling, it’s going to continue to cook in the oven, but may reach only the tough stage, and not get the additional cooking it needs to again become tender. That’s why I like to fully poach it for a good 20 to 30 minutes, and then either chop it up into cubes or shred it.
I’m using the classic mix of onions, carrots, celery and potatoes here, but you can also vary this dish by using some celery root, peas, roasted bell pepper, or something else. Or you can use a bag of frozen peas and carrots to reduce prep time. Mix it up however you like!
Be sure to properly dock your puff pastry – this means punching holes in it to prevent the puff pastry from rising on top of your pot pie. Just use the tines of a fork and be sure to dock it all the way through from top to bottom in several places, and this will give you a flaky crust without it popping up unnecessarily.
Take away number one in this recipe is making a white sauce, originally known as a bechamel sauce. This is a sauce created by using flour as a thickener, and then adding milk. It’s important to cook your butter and flour together so that it just turns golden-while longer cooking ensure a deeper, more toasty flavor, it also means the flour can’t absorb too much fat, and is more likely to split or break during the second cooking in the oven. This would leave you with fat on top and milk and flour on the bottom, exactly what we don’t want. You also want to make sure your sauce boils briefly to cook out the flour taste before removing it from the pan and placing it in the ramekins.
The second take away in this recipe is poaching chicken. Poached chicken, either shredded or cubed, can be a huge timesaver to have on hand for preparing many dishes. On my Sunday cook days, poaching some chicken is one of my usual tasks so that I can have it on hand for the week ahead. Poached chicken first cooks once, then begins to get tough. To ensure it’s tender, let it continue to poach on a simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, until it becomes noticeably tender.
You can infuse your chicken with extra flavor by adding salt and herbs of choice (think thyme, oregano, garlic, or tarragon) to the water. And keep that poaching stock when you’re done! It’s delicious to use for soups or sauces-just freeze it if you can’t use it right away.
I use store-bought puff pastry, which there is no shame in using. Puff pastry takes a long time to make, and the only way to add that amazing touch to this dish and make it reasonable is to buy it premade.
Be sure to keep your scraps of puff pastry after you cut out rounds for the tops of your pot pies, and fold them up gently without mashing them together. I’ll show you how to use them in an upcoming post.
- One package Pepperidge Farm or other brand puff pastry
- 1 cup finely diced onions
- 1/2 cup finely diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced carrots
- 1/2 cup finely diced red potatoes cooked
- 1 1/2 cup cubed or shredded chicken tightly packed
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon herbs de provence
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- In butter, sauté over low heat the onions, carrots and celery until the onions and celery are soft and translucent 10-15 minutes. If using frozen peas and carrots, just heat until soft, then continue with next step.
- Add flour, sprinkling it all over vegetables.
- On low heat, stir to combine flour and butter well with vegetables and cook until barely golden.
- Adding cold milk all at once, continue to stir well to combine, over medium heat.
- Turn up heat and continue to cook and bring to a boil, add salt and pepper to taste. After a gentle Boil for 1-2 minutes, turn off heat.
- Mixture should begin to slightly thick enough and should be able to coat a spoon but should not be so thick it won't run, add additional milk if too thick.
- Add cubed or shredded chicken.
- Add mustard and herbes de provence and a 1/2 the grated grated Parmesan, stir well to combine.
- Remove from heat and place mixture in four serving size ramekins.
- Using a round dish slightly larger than the top of your ramekins as a guide, cut circles for the crust tops.
- Dock pastry circles with tines of a fork, making holes all the way through.
- Place pastry circles on top of the ramekins and stretch edges slightly over the edge of each ramekin.
- Sprinkle remaining grated Parmesan cheese on top of each dish.
- Bake at 400° for 20 to 30 minutes until deeply golden on top.
- Top with freshly chopped chives to garnish and serve.