Introduction: Chicken Pot Pi(e), 3.14 Ways
I'm not into math, but I am into food. So if it means pie, I can get on board with math.
There are almost as many different ways to make chicken pot pie as there are numbers after the decimal point in pi. I'm going to share a few different variations depending on the time and interest you may have in creating this delicious meal on March 14th or any day of the year.
Also, don't let this be your only pie. Pie for dinner. Pie for dessert. (Pro tip: Dessert pies can also be used as breakfast pies. You're welcome.) You can check out my lemon meringue pie here.
Step 1: Easy As Pi(e)
I suppose the easiest way to make chicken pot pie would be to order it at a restaurant or to buy and bake a frozen one at the store. But if you're actually looking for a dinner you can take credit for making this would likely be the easiest pot pie available. You could have it baking in the oven in 3.14 minutes flat. Or round.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place two frozen pie crusts in the oven as it preheats. Open and drain a can of chicken and a can of mixed vegetables. Dump the chicken in a bowl and shred it, then mix in veggies. Add a can of cream of chicken soup. Remove the pie crusts from the oven. Pour chicken and veggie mixture in one crust then place the other crust on top. Return to oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove top pie plate and allow the top crust to brown to your desired consistency. And enjoy!
Also, if you use the same ingredients I did, all your ingredients will be various size circles. Feel free to do some calculations with these circles and cylinders. Or not. I didn't and I don't think it affects the taste either way.
This is the chicken pot pie I make when I need to pull together a quick, easy dinner. But may I present to you a version of pot pie for a day with more time and space for an especially delicious dinner...
Step 2: Ingredients
Feel free to skip this section unless you have a high tolerance for poor math puns and/or you generally do not live your life with exact measurements...
3 - Chicken breasts. Actually, you can use rotisserie chicken, or turkey, or beef or any other meat of your choice.
1 - bag of mixed frozen vegetables. You can also use fresh or canned vegetables. Any vegetables of your choice. This particular pie used carrots, peas, corn and green beans. But I was thinking this would be particularly yummy with broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Or sweet potatoes (with turkey). The possibilities could go on and on.
4 - stalks of celery, diced. And only if you want.
1 - bag of chopped frozen onions. You probably won't use the whole bag, but I'm trying to make the numbers on the ingredient list match pi. Also, you could use one fresh onion. I personally don't know why you would ever go to the trouble of chopping or dicing a fresh onion when you can buy this bag of frozen for a dollar and save your tears. But I won't judge.
5 - sprigs of rosemary. Again, only if you want.
9 - dashes of salt and pepper, separated throughout. Unlike pi, this isn't exact.
2 - servings of this pie crust. You can also use a refrigerated pie crust. Or, if you aren't trying to win an Amazon gift card with a traditional or no-bake pie crust, you could also omit this ingredient all together and sub crushed Ritz crackers or other toppings I will tell you about later.
6 - units of measurement to represent other spices you will use. I use Adobo seasoning, but you could use a House seasoning or your other seasonings of choice.
5 - ounces of heavy cream
3 - additional ounces of heavy cream. Or more or less depending on your taste. Could also use half and half or milk. Or omit altogether, especially with a beef pie.
5 - teaspoons of better than bouillon chicken stock base. Or more or less.
9 - or more ounces of water. Can substitute chicken stock or chicken broth (homemade or from the store) in place of water and bouillon.
Is this ingredient list frustrating to you? It is to me and I'm the one writing it. Just be thankful the google search I did for pi only went 11 digits past the decimal point. I think it will be clearer in the rest of the recipe. And eating pie always helps me feel less frustrated. So you can try that too. Dessert pie usually works better for frustration.
Step 3: A Note About the Crust
This recipe assumes you have a crust prepared and waiting. Mastering the art of a good pie crust is on my to-do list. And, thankfully, I'm making progress. Feel free to use the pie crust recipe of your choice, or you're welcome to use the one I work from.
Although this does not positively impact the outcome of the crust, in honor of pi day, I employed the help of a 3.14 year old in making it. (He's actually 3.36 years old, but I figure pi doesn't always have to be exact, right? I totally get math.)
Unless you have a really great pie crust recipe that you love, or you just want the challenge of making one from scratch in the name of circle equations, a refrigerated or frozen crust would work well for this recipe and save you (and potentially your small children) a lot of work.
This is the point when you should decide if you want to make this entire meal in one oven-safe pan (which equals no bottom crust), or if you would like to double the dirty pans (two total, easy multiplication) for a pie fully encased in crust. Preheat your oven according to your plans.
You could also choose to omit the traditional crust from this recipe and use any or all of the following:
Crushed Ritz (or similar) crackers.
A thin layer of mashed potatoes.
Feel free to use all of those crust options as toppings with or without a traditional crust.
Also, bacon crumbles.
Step 4: Mo' Buttah, Mo' Bettah
That's what my husband tells me one of his chef professors would always say in class. My husband is a computer programmer. You would NEVER know he spent a year at a prestigious cooking school except for a few little anecdotes like this and some quite pretentious cooking opinions for someone who does so very little in the kitchen.
Anyway... I discovered brown butter a couple years ago, and I wanted to share it with you in case you are still living in darkness.
I used a 12 inch cast iron skillet for this, but any skillet would do. (And, actually, a lighter-colored pan will help you appreciate the brown butter better. But I'm for fewer dishes and best taste.)
Melt 2 (or more, if you'd like) tablespoons of butter over medium heat. It looks white at first but soon the bits in the skillet will turn brown. This is your goal.
At this point I added a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. It sizzles and smells delicious and is an easy way to infuse great flavor into your dish. I'm all for small tasks with big pay offs.
After the rosemary leaves have browned, remove the sprigs from the pan.
Step 5: Chicken
Prepare the meat of your choice however you prefer.
I think the tastiest option would be to roast a whole chicken and shred the meat for the pot pie. (And also use the bones to make a delicious stock to also use in your pot pie.)
My next favorite (and much less time consuming) is to cube (yes, cubed meat is okay on pi day) some chicken breasts and sear them in the pan.
I sprinkled on some salt and pepper and Adobo seasoning.
Once you are satisfied with how they look (they don't have to be cooked through), remove them from the pan and save them to add back in later.
You can also used canned chicken or boiled chicken. Or any kind of meat cooked a variety of ways.
Step 6: Now You're Cooking
I watched a chef on a Netflix cooking documentary the other day who said that sauteing onions in a pan is one of the fastest, easiest ways to feel like you're really cooking very quickly. How profoundly true. Five minutes work and your skillet looks beautiful and your house smells delicious.
I added about a cup of frozen chopped onions and about four stalks of fresh diced celery and a clove of minced garlic (I would have added another one if I had it) to the hot skillet. I hadn't meant for them to blacken but taking pictures of the process while also assisting a 3.36 year old with potty training can derail some plans. And thankfully, this dish is forgiving and flexible.
A completely unnecessary superfluous note neither chicken pot pie nor pi related: I hate peeling/chopping/dicing large quantities of fresh produce and usually go for frozen, but there is something about spending a few minutes with a knife and cutting board that brings me pleasure. That's why I chose some fresh celery for this recipe. And I included the picture of the toddler hand stealing it because even though he's a good eater I always celebrate when he voluntarily eats his veggies.
Step 7: Add the Chicken and Veggies and Seasonings
Return the chicken to the pan with the celery and onions and add the vegetables of your choice. I used about 3/4ths of a 32 ounce bag of frozen green beans, corn, carrots and peas. The recipe and the skillet could have handled the full bag, but the vegetables aren't why we eat the chicken pot pie in this house, so I stopped. Follow your heart in this matter.
I added about two cups of water and about two and a half tablespoons of "Better than Bouillon" chicken stock base flavoring. It may look a little dry, but we'll take care of that later. Err on the side of less water than you think is needed.
Homemade chicken stock would probably taste the very best, but this chicken stock flavoring is pretty good on its own and doesn't require a pot simmering in your kitchen for 24+ hours.
Simmer these ingredients together as long as you'd like, but at least until the vegetables darken, or about 15 minutes.
Taste test a bit of the broth at this point to make sure you like the flavor. Add more of whatever you think it needs.
Step 8: If You Are Including a Bottom Crust...
(While the pot pie filling is simmering...)
Add about a tablespoon of olive or other oil to coat the bottom of a second oven-safe pan. I used another 12 inch cast iron skillet.
Heat the skillet in the pre-heated oven or on the stove. Then add the pie crust and enjoy the sizzle.
I used parchment paper to transfer the crust. Also, I wasn't going for a perfect circle. I'm more "rustic" even on pi day.
Because I like a crispy crust for my pot pie, I also baked this crust before filling it.
Step 9: Finish the Filling
Just before you are ready to transfer the filling (or, if omitting the bottom crust, just before adding the crust and/or toppings), add approximately one cup of heavy cream and one third of a cup (or more) of shredded cheese.
If you are scared by or have a conscious against heavy cream, substitute this ingredient as needed. But I'm telling you, it is wonderful.
I just used a bit of leftover shredded cheese I found in our fridge but I was really wishing for a block of local cheese to grate into this. If you love cheese, spring for the tastiest version.
Stir together. The result should look a little thin or watery. Feel free to add more liquid of choice to get it to the consistency you desire. It will thicken in the oven, so I like to give it plenty to swim in.
I also decided to add a thin layer (about another third of a cup) of shredded cheese to the top before adding the crust.
Step 10: Top Your Pie.
Add a second (or first) crust on top of the pot pie. Or just stick with shredded cheese or mashed potatoes or crushed crackers or crumbled bacon or all of the above.
I added some circle cutouts to commemorate the festive occasion. I like having some holes in the top crust to allow the filling to bubble through. And I brushed some egg on top to help with the beautiful browning in the oven. Both of those steps are optional.
Bake for half an hour in a 400 degree oven.
Step 11: Enjoy!
It is as delicious as it is beautiful.
And please, admire that beautiful bottom crust. I usually go for something flakier, but for this hearty meat pie, this is exactly what I wanted. The extra effort will feel worth it in that moment.
Also, in honor of pi day, don't stop here. Have pie for dessert. The possibilities are endless but I'll plug my lemon meringue instructable one more time.
Happy eating and happy calculating!
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