Chicken potpie is one of those comfort foods we all know and love. However, I was not aware until recently how few people actually make them from scratch anymore. From talking to different people, I’ve realized most think that this classic is difficult or time consuming. But it does not have to be. We all have those go-to recipes, and this is one of mine. Potpie is especially great for last minute meals because the amounts of, and even the ingredients themselves, are very versatile. Only have one potato and a few carrots? No big deal. Half an onion? No problem. I’ve seen countless recipes for potpie that call for exact measurements, but I have never measured a thing when making one. And I frequently get requests to make one when friends come over. I also make these for my husband when he goes on hunting trips, and this last year I heard “all the guys loved the potpie. They talked about it for three days!” If you’ve never made a potpie, I encourage you to try it. You will be surprised at how easy it is, and how delicious it turns out! I’m not going to write the recipe in the standard format, since it is so flexible and forgiving. The point here is to let your ingredients guide you. But in case you need a guide, here is roughly what you will need:
Chicken (or turkey)
Pie Crust (or biscuit dough)
Salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs
Chicken broth and milk, or one or the other
Enough about that. Let’s talk about how to make one and why you should. First, you need vegetables. About 3-5 cups. This recipe is very forgiving. My go-to’s are typically onion, garlic, potatoes, carrots, celery, and peas. The amounts of each depend on what I have on hand. Last night, for example, my celery didn’t look great. So I used the one stalk that looked good and added more carrots, because I had lots of those. I also realized after I’d started that I was completely out of peas, so I added two extra potatoes. Sometimes I use fresh garlic, other times I use garlic powder. The goal here is just to use what you have. I have also used green beans when I have them in the summer, mushrooms, whatever is sitting around and needs to be used up.
Next, you need chicken. Or turkey. But that’s about as precise as it needs to be. Breasts or thighs. Cooked, leftover chicken works great. Raw chicken can be added as well, it just changes the order in which you add everything. I’ll go over both ways. About a pound if you’re using raw, cut into bite size pieces. About 2-3 cups if you’re using cooked. But more or less will work. Shredded or cubed.
Lastly, you need a pie crust. Or some biscuit dough. I do either and my family loves both options. Again, the key here is flexibility. We’re trying to get a delicious, wholesome dinner on the table, so forget the hard-and-fast rules.
Ok lets get started. Cut up your vegetables into bite-sized pieces and preheat a deep skillet or Dutch oven. I have a cast iron braising pan that I always use. Add about 4T butter (salted or unsalted, if you use salted, just use less salt when it comes time to season). Sauté the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic until soft. If you’re using raw chicken, now is the time to add it. Add it and stir it in and give it a few minutes to cook through. If you’re using cooked chicken, hold off on adding it and put the potatoes in instead. If you’re using raw chicken, cook it first and then add the potatoes. Let the potatoes cook for a few minutes. If you have cooked chicken, add it at this point, along with the peas if you’re using them. Add about 4T more butter, let it melt, and then add about 4T of flour, enough to coat everything and start to look lumpy. Add about 1 c of chicken broth, or enough to make a gravy that doesn’t quite cover everything. If you don’t have chicken broth, milk will work. It will have a richer feel to it, but that’s ok. I often use both chicken broth and milk. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Herbs aren’t necessary, but I will say they add that little something extra.
At this point, preheat your oven to 425. Add your filling to your pie dish. I don’t use a bottom crust. I find it unnecessary and nobody has ever complained. Top the pie with your crust, homemade or store-bought (but I hope you try to make that too!), and bake until it is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. I always let my son help me with the crust, so every pie looks different. Remove, let cool, and listen to your family rant and rave!