Recipe: Chicken Pot Pies
- For the dough
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter
- 3 eggs
- For the filling
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 chicken stock cube or 1-1/2 tablespoons concentrated chicken bouillon
- 2-1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 cups cold cooked chicken, diced
- 1 cup cold cooked ham, diced (or 3 cups chicken alone if not using ham)
Put the flour into a bowl — a shallow tray of some kind might be best — and add the butter diced into cubes. Give a shake gently, then put into the freezer for 10 minutes. It’s this that makes the dough pliable as you roll it and melting as you eat it, so don’t miss out on this stage. At the same time, beat 2 of the eggs with a tablespoon of iced water and stick in the fridge.
Tip the chilled flour and butter into a food processor, and then pulse the mixture until it resembles fine, dry rubble. Feed the chilled beaten eggs down the chute of the processor while it is running, adding a little time until it begins to form a ball. You want to stop just as the ball is beginning to cohere and the dough clumps around the blades; don’t carry on beyond that point, but be prepared to add some iced water down the chute if you need more liquid to bring this about. When making the dough, a free-standing mixer fitted with the flat paddle will do the job just as well, only slightly more slowly. And I find you need less liquid when using the processor rather than the mixer.
Tip out on to the work surface and form into four discs, making two slightly bigger than the remaining two. (These will make the base and top of the pies.) Wrap each dough disc in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge while you make the pie filling.
Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan over low heat, then whisk in the flour and crumbled bouillon cube; if you’re using the liquid bouillon concentrate you can add it after the milk. Off the heat, add the milk a little at a time, whisking to a smooth paste as you go. When all the milk is incorporated, put back on the heat, turn up to medium high — but don’t let it actually boil fiercely — and stir or whisk constantly for a few minutes to get rid of the starch in the flour and to make a really thick sauce. Do not stop stirring at any time. You may want to turn down the heat, though. Pour the thick white sauce into a bowl and cover with dampened parchment paper or press on plastic wrap to stop a skin from forming, if you aren’t proceeding to assemble the pies straightaway.
When you’re about ready to get baking, slip a baking sheet in the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Put the peas into a sieve, and pour a kettleful of freshly boiled water over them, shaking off the excess water. Or you can sit the peas in warm water while you make the sauce, it all depends on your timetable. Dice or shred the chicken or chicken and ham and mix the thawed peas (corn, if using), chicken and ham into the cooled white sauce. I always make the sauce, like the dough, in advance, which is why it’s always cooled for me, but if you want to go straight through in one run, the sauce will still be warm, obviously.
It’s easiest to do two pies at a time. Roll out one of the bigger discs of dour on a floured surface to a size big enough to line the bases and side of two oval pie dishes (capacity about 1-1/4 cups; 5-1/2-inches at their longest point, 1/2-inch deep). Leave a generous lip of dough hanging over the edge of each one.
Spoon half the filling into each of the dough-lined pie dishes, and roll out one of the smaller discs of dough for the two lids. Dampen the dough edges of the pies with some water and lay the lids on top. Trim the excess dough from around the sides with a knife, and seal the edges with the prongs of a fork. Decorate with the leftover dough.
Cut out any shapes you like for the top: I most often use little letter cutters either to spell out my children’s names or to let them write what they want, within reason. Just dampen the underside of each letter or cut-out and sit it, pressing firmly but gently, on the top of the pie. Beat the remaining eggs for the glaze, and paint each pie with a dough brush, and finally — to let out air — cut a tiny cross with the point of a small, sharp knife in the middle of each one, or make little diagonal slashes with the point of a small, sharp knife.
Put the little pies on to the heated baking sheet already in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes till golden and inviting. When the pies are ready, deftly turn them upside down using an oven mitt and slip them out of their pans. It’s much easier than it sounds.
You can replace the peas with drained, canned sweet corn, or use half and half. The corn won’t need the hot water treatment.