My first taste of chicken pot pie spoiled me. It was a frozen TV dinner type of pot pie that came in a cute little aluminum pie tin. The filling, complete with perfect cubes of chicken, was more than flavorful to my kid palate, but I was all about the crust, and this pot pie had plenty of it. Hot from the oven, I broke through the flaky top crust and dug right down to the jackpot below—the buttery bottom crust that was both crisp and moist from soaking up the gravy.
I've seen plenty of pot pies in my day, but unfortunately most restaurant or scratch versions never perform the full monty. Whether it's a lazy man's puff pastry lid, crumble topping, or even a pie dough top, I long for crust at the bottom. I know, it's easier to just slap a lid on it, but I finally decided to make one from scratch, and it was all or nothing.
Obviously the crust is really important to me, so I went for broke with an all-butter crust. A bit of sugar lends it the sweet edge that I remember, and instead of water I drizzled in whole milk to ensure that it was extra rich and tender.
The chicken filling requires a few steps, but it's straightforward enough. First, simmer boneless chicken (I used a combo of both white and dark meat) in chicken broth (for flavor), and then shred into bite sized chunks. Second, sauté a mixture of vegetables (leeks, celery, and carrots) until just about soft. Third, whisk up a quick roux in the pot, to which everything is then combined into a thick and hearty filling with peas, thyme, and parsley.
Instead of plowing ahead and filling the pie, I stopped and cooled the filling down first. Why? Because in my experience, a hot and steamy filling gives you nothin' but a soggy crust. A chilled filling keeps the crust crisp and allows it extra time to bake before the center becomes too hot and overcooked (it's also a great make-ahead step, by the way). To further ensure a well-done bottom crust, I baked the dish on a preheated pizza stone, and in the lower third of the oven.
In my deep-sided souffle dish, the pot pie took about 75 minutes to heat through to the center, but it was worth the wait. Cracking through the rich buttery top not only revealed piping hot, moist, herbed chicken and veggies in a luscious gravy, but a perfect interior crust that will please any crust fanatic.
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About the author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com. Follow Yvonne on Twitter.