NO Fail Crust and Filling for an Unbeatable Comfort Food!

A favorite winter meal around here is beef or chicken pot pie. This is a favorite way to create a good-for-you meal on a budget because leftovers work so well here. And I've dabbled in all sorts of approaches.

I've gone the traditional pie crust route, creating a pot pie similar to those you find in the freezer case in your grocery store (think Marie Callendar®). I've made individual pot pies-we really like those best. And when I'm lazy, I'll make one large pot pie meant for slicing.

I've found one thing out for sure: With this traditional approach, the pie crust is king and will make or break the entire meal. When it comes to pot pie, you must have a foolproof pie crust or you can forget the whole thing.

Knowing this, I have a tried and true pie crust recipe I always turn to when putting this dinner together. I've shared it before, but in case you're interested in trying your hand at pot pies, I share it again. It's from the cookbook Everyday Gourmet, that my co-author Jeanne Wolfley and I put out a couple years ago. It's Jeanne's recipe and THIS is the recipe you want (put it in Cook'n now, if you haven't already):

JEANNE'S NO-FAIL PIE CRUST (yield: crust for 1 or 2 pies)

4 cups flour

1 ¾ cups butter-flavored shortening

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 egg

½ cup ice water

In a large bowl and using a pastry blender or fork, mix flour, shortening, sugar, and salt until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, egg, and water; mix well. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and blend quickly. Be careful not to overwork the dough; mix just until liquid is absorbed by the flour mixture. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling (but an hour is best). This dough can be divided into individual crust portions, wrapped, and frozen for later use. Thaw in the refrigerator.

While not as crucial as the crust, pot pie fillings need to be delicious, too, of course. But they're not as difficult to get right as the crust. But that said, I have found some recipes were better than others. To save you from my hit-or-miss experimenting, here's my favorite from-scratch pot pie filling, courtesy of Ina Garten of the Food Network:


3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

Yes, there's nothing like some serious from-scratch recipes when you've got the time to linger longer in the kitchen. But what about those days when you either don't have time, or don't have the energy (or both)?

That's when I like to turn to Aunt Annie's time-honored, hallowed fast and easy chicken pot pie recipe. She probably found this on the back of her Bisquick® box many years ago. I have no doubt, either, that she tweaked the recipe to make it truly her own. I love this recipe, not only because it's fast and easy, but because it calls for 6 ingredients I almost always have on hand-cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, frozen veggies, milk, eggs, and just-add-water biscuit mix.

And when I didn't have cooked chicken around, I substituted leftover cooked pot roast and traded the cream of chicken soup for cream of mushroom and added a dash of Worcestershire Sauce. It couldn't be beat!

So whether you go the traditional route, or the fast and easy route, do try making pot pies this winter. This hearty and delicious meal does a terrific job of offering a little comfort on a cold and stormy night. It's unbeatable comfort food!


1 2/3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

1 1/3 cups diced cooked chicken

1 can (10 ¾ ounce) condensed cream of chicken soup

1 cup just-add-water biscuit mix (Bisquick®, etc.)

½ cup milk

1 egg

Heat oven to 400°F. In ungreased 9-inch pie plate, stir vegetables, chicken and soup. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients until blended. Pour into pie plate. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes or until crust golden brown.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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