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What is your definition of a good chicken pot pie?

As a fundraiser for our school, we have a bake sale that has really become a "frozen dinner for tired working parents" sale. My chicken pot pies always sell out but I'd like to rethink them this year. In the past, it has been a top crust only, all butter pie crust dough filled with large chunks of chicken breast, peas, and carrots in gravy. I make everything from scratch.

So what do you think makes a perfect chicken pot pie?

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  1. Not to say that this is the perfect chicken pot pie, but if you want to throw a wrinkle into things, how about a cornbread topping crust?

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Well, yours certainly sounds good. How likely is your audience to go for more exotic options? Chicken and mushroom pie is an English staple, as is chicken and leek pie. And Moroccan chicken pie is essentially a pot pie with ingredients like cinnamon and raisins. Maybe something with curry? Google will give you recipes.

    2. Chicken pot pie is what it is.Yours sounds excellent
      minor offerings,biscuits make a great top and maybe a starch in,?potatoes,parsnips or butternut squash

      1. What a great idea, and pre-made chicken pot pies sound like a tasty option for a quick dinner you don't have time to prepare. To me, a buttery, flaky crust and moist chicken are most important. I like to use rotisserie chicken when I make it - less fuss, and you get a nice mix of dark and white meat. I prefer a double crust, but a top-only pot pie is more health conscious and probably bakes more consistently.

        Mmm, I think chicken pot pies are on the menu in the coming week now! :)

        1. Butter crust, both top and bottom if time and calories are available. Sauteed carrots, onions, and celery. Corn is particularly good in it. If there are peas, they have to be tender and sweet. I sometimes just leave them out. Homemade stock for the sauce. Fresh thyme.

          6 Replies
          1. re: sandylc

            I agree - I love corn in a chicken pot pie.

              1. re: Uncle Bob

                That's interesting - I've read other folks stating unequivocally that peas are the ONLY vegetable in a proper chicken pie. I won't go that far, but I don't care for corn in there, either.

                I've also read (from one of my favorite restaurant critics) that including dark meat is just cheap and nasty, and in fact our area's big chicken-pie restaurant charges extra for white-meat-only pies. I asked the waitress one day what they'd charge for DARK-only; she laughed and said they don't do that, but she wished they would! So I am not alone …

                1. re: Will Owen

                  with you Will Owen, I don't want corn in my CCP either and do expect peas in there. my preference for the chicken in there is mixed but I'm sure that's not the norm, most probably prefer white meat but the flavor to me is in the dark meat, so 1/2&1/2 is perfect. also my personal preference for the gravy is a thick white milk gravy, chicken broth included to make a subtle marriage to the chicken and vegs in the CCP

                  now that I stumbled on to this thread again, I know what I'm making for dinner tonight...CCP.

              2. re: sandylc

                Yes, needs top and bottom crust, for me. I always feel a little cheated when there's no bottom crust.

                1. re: pine time

                  bingo pine time...............me too

              3. My filling includes white breast meat, peas, carrots, potatoes a cream of chicken gravy. I make a lattice crust top. No bottom. Occasionally I add pearl onions. I like ground black pepper in my gravy. If I was going to go out on a limb and guild the lily for a school group I might consider adding sweet pototoe cubes in place of the Idaho.

                1. I agree with Icool. Yours already sounds near perfect. Maybe consider using both breast and leg meat for more of a chicken flavor. Also, you could consider using a bottom crust in addition to the top crust.

                  My perfect chicken pot pie is pretty much what yours is - nothing fancy, nothing that's trying to break new ground, no weird ingredients that don't belong in a typical American chicken pot pie. Pepper is the only spice I use and no herbs. I'd go with what you've been doing just making sure that everything is cut small enough to easily be bite-sized (which you probably already do) and I'd make sure the crust is super flaky and a little shiny (from egg wash). That, to me, is a great American pot pie.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: 1POINT21GW

                    Interesting comment on bite size. I've been going from bite size to good sized chunks for years now. A popular place near us uses pieces more than 2x2.

                    1. re: JudiAU

                      2 inches by 2 inches by 2 inches? Dang. That's big.

                      If yours are "good sized" and you like them, I wouldn't change a thing. I'd keep doing what you're doing.

                      I was just saying that I like pieces chicken no bigger than 3/4" cubed because I like to get more things in my mouth at once. But, I can certainly see why others like the bigger pieces.

                  2. Oh, and both dark and white meat should always be included.

                    1. Yours sounds great. I leave peas out of mine though, just personal preference.

                      1. One if my favorite versions of homemade chicken pot pie , I change up the gravy into more if an Alfredo , savory version.
                        I add poultry seasoning and sage liberally . Before I pour into crust add in 3/4 cup cream and 1/2 cup fresh grated parm.
                        My hubby's favorite!

                        1. Puff pastry also makes a nice topping...

                          1. Puff pastry does make a nice topping but for a school fundraiser kinda pricey.
                            I never add dark meat because I don't like the greasy mouth feel in pot pie it brings.
                            How many do you plan to make for the fundraiser? If your recipe is already popular with the school crowd and it fits the budget and time-I say go for it and stick with a winner.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: HillJ

                              They charge upwards of $40 for a nine inch pie so pretty much anything meets the budget.

                              1. re: JudiAU

                                God bless that your school would pay that much for a chicken pot pie fundraiser. My hats off to you. Also a good reason to then make as much profit on each as you can. I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to offer a delicious pot pie at a great profit.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  They do a few traditional bake sale items on the day of but most sales are pre-orders from parents. Pure profit to the school.

                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    That's awesome, JudiAU. How many pies do you personally bake?

                                      1. re: JudiAU

                                        Okay, that's a beautiful, doable #. You've gotten some great tips here. Have a blast!

                            2. I love chicken pot pie. I have been using a recipe from Cooking Light for many years. One good ingredient in this recipe is Poultry Seasoning which I always use in my chicken pot pie. Sometimes I use puff pastry for the top or a pie crust. I also like to use leeks in my pie.

                              1. Well, what you've described is the platonic ideal, the classic CPP, and it happens to be my favorite version. Things of major importance are:
                                1. The crust. It must be handmade, preferably half shortening and half butter, IMO making for the best-possible tasting & textured crust. Said crust should be golden brown and tender, to the extent that it almost shatters when it is cut, but not quite. When biting into it, it should separate into hundreds of buttery-tasting, flaky layers. The rim should be a little browner and deeper-flavored. It should provide the perfect mop for:
                                2. The gravy, which should be completely smooth, medium-thick, and made with an excellent chicken stock made from the carcass of the chicken roasted to provide the meat for the CPP. While tasting mostly and deeply of chicken and whatever spices are used to flavor it, there should be undertones of carrot, celery and onion, a hint of lemon for clarity and brightness, and a good taste of pepper. At home, we enrich with cream and reduce - it mellows everything and makes it just perfect.
                                3. The chicken: chunks of both white and dark meat chicken cut to roughly the same size, cut off a juicy roast chicken and added to the sauce just before the cream is added. IMO, the easiest way to make sure it doesn't go stringy.
                                One variation I've made that was well-received was a curried chicken pot pie - I added best quality pre-blended curry powder (I know, I know, I'm ashamed...) to the sauce, and besides chicken I used peas, potatoes, apple chunks, pearl onions and sliced celery. I considered adding raisins and didn't. Not too far from the original, but far enough that it was different enough to be noticed but not so different that they didn't care for it. :) I served it with sauteed greens w/ paneer and garlic, chutney of some type, and I think some kind of raita but I'm not sure.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: mamachef

                                  Hum. Interesting. I never roasted the chickens for the pot pie. Always boiled.

                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    I poached for years but then began roasting. Roasting is better.

                                    1. re: JudiAU

                                      Oh, roasting takes the whole thing to another level! Roast on the bone.

                                      1. re: smtucker

                                        So I made a large put of chicken stock for the base last night and I think I will roast the chicken meat this year for the first time. And bump up the fresh herbs. Mr. JudiAU and I are still debating the inclusion of peas.

                                        1. re: JudiAU

                                          Consider Mr. SMT's compromise. I only prepare the peas for one meal at a time. If you have cooked the stew in a crust, place the peas on the plate and then serve the stew ontop. I serve my chicken stew [no crust] in a pasta bowl and sprinkle the peas over the top. As much as I like a crust, I like biscuits even more.

                                    2. re: mamachef

                                      I fell in love with pot pies all over again with your description.

                                      1. re: mamachef

                                        I love the idea of using a curry in the pie.

                                        1. re: Ruthie789

                                          There's a vietnamese diner here in LA that makes a craveworthy curry chicken pot pie.

                                          The owner was kind enough to share the recipe with the NY Times:

                                          http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/08/din...

                                          1. re: bg90027

                                            I am going to try it it looks good. I might use regular pie crust as I am avoiding milk, but love the base.

                                            1. re: bg90027

                                              jeepers, that's a lot of fish sauce - !!!!!!!

                                          2. I'm not a fan of potatoes in chicken pot pie. They just don't seem to belong with chicken.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: sandylc

                                              Couldn't disagree more but it's interesting that you think that cubed potatoes don't belong. We adore potatoes in our pot pies! Several versions of pot pie even include mashed potatoes as the crust in lieu of a pastry. Potatoes are included in most beef pot pies. The ingredient I wouldn't want in a chicken pot pie is cheese, but plenty of folks add that too.

                                            2. How about changing the top crust to potato and the protein to ground lamb or beef and the white sauce to brown and you'll end up with a pot pie that's now shepherds pie! Just a thought for a change.

                                              1. there is a beautiful new chard , pancetta and bean pot pie on smitten kitchen now. It can also be made vegetarian which would be a nice thing for the sale to snare vegetarian families.

                                                I don't like bottom crust on pot pies, too much imo.

                                                1. Don't change it. Crust on top stays flaky the bottom crust just turns soggy with re-heat.

                                                  When I make them for other people go with common vegetables (carrots, onions, peas, celery) I don't deviate since it's a safety comfort food to many. I had many a food demo bomb because the general population is apprehensive with leeks, squash, or even kale.

                                                  Now for myself, mushrooms, butternut squash, and leeks are usually added.

                                                  1. What a great idea!

                                                    Maybe not this year, but you might want to ask if there is interest in a wheat free pie-crusted Chicken Pot Pie. If there's someone out there looking for one, you might get a huge order from them. Your pies sound delicious.

                                                    1. I use a chicken pot pie as a one dish meal, so I use a wider variety of vegetables. I only use a top crust. My cream gravy is made from homemade stock seasoned with pepper, thyme, marjoram and a little sage. I change the vegetable with the season. I always use onion, carrots, a little finely chopped celery, and a small amount of garlic infused in the gravy. Frequent additions are mushrooms, corn, potato, edamame or limas. Seasonal variations include summer squash, asparagus, roasted winter squash, parsnips, turnip, rutabaga.I don't care for peas so I never use them. (Watery vegetables have been roasted first.)

                                                      1. Use rotisserie chickens to streamline the process: shred, do not dice, the meat (shredded white meat doesn't become as rubbery as diced white meat).

                                                        Vegetables should be diced to about the size of corn kernels, and should not be so numerous, flavorful and distinctive as to obscure the chicken flavor. Herbs and spices ditto.

                                                        1. Crust could be phyllo layers or sweet potato biscuit dough. Tops only.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: sr44

                                                            Well now you've got my wheels turning, sr44. Loving the sweet potato biscuit dough: that would be perfect for a beef stew pot pie w/ winter veg. But what about a ham pot pie, wouldn't that be good? Or a sausage pot pie......
                                                            ticktickticktickticktick......I think my clients will be well-pleased with some plays on these....

                                                          2. I'd say yours sounds pretty close to perfect. You could add a bottom crust to soak up some of the gravy.

                                                            For me the key is a light flaky crust, lots of chicken and a flavorful gravy. Bake Sale Betty does a pretty good example of that, although I like more gravy.

                                                            Where is your school? I'd like to come buy some of your pies!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                              Yep to Bakesale Betty. That's where I pick one up when my inner lazy wench becomes my outer lazy wench and we decide we're not cooking that night but waaaaannnnttttttt it anyyyyyyywaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy. That and a couple of lemon bars? Dinner. Done.

                                                            2. Another way to go: Make your filling a bit thicker than usual, then chill it. Stack 4 sheets of phyllo, brushing each layer with melted butter or bacon grease, or spray with butter-flavored baking spray. You can also use a combination, like butter on one and Pam on the others, to speed things and save money. Cut the stacks lengthwise into long strips - you'll get 3 or 4 per stack. Put a couple of tbsps of filling at the corner of a stack, then make a triangular fold. Keep flipfolding to the end, adding extra melted butter to tack the final end in place and glaze the top. Bake seam side down at 375 (if memory serves) until golden brown.

                                                              This way, people can buy as many as they want, and quickly reheat them in the oven. It also makes it easy for you to vary the filling - some curry, some with cheese, potatoes or not, etc. I particularly like making these with a filling of ground lamb cooked with garlic, onion, spinach, tomato paste, pepper, and a little cream cheese as a creamy binder.

                                                              1. A good chicken pie has only white meat, minimal filling and a double crust. Actually, all pies should have minimal filling and double crusts. It's all about the carbs!

                                                                1. ARGHHHHH

                                                                  I am now in the process of making said pies. All butter pie dough done. Rich stock done. $50 worth of organic chicken breasts roasted and shredded.

                                                                  Assembly comes the next day and my refrigerator is not really very cold. Within a few hours refrigerator is not cold at all.

                                                                  Starting all over again. *Fingers crossed I can save the pie dough*

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. I am making 4.5" chicken pies with double crust. Mostly meat and gravy and a bit of peas and carrots. Nice flaky crust. Don't know what to charge, any suggestions?

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: carol1

                                                                      Sounds nice. I've decided I like quite a lot of parsley at the end and no peas in the pie. I serve them on the side when the pie is baked. If you don't already add it, try a bit of lemon juice or white wine. A bit of acidity really brightens the whole thing.

                                                                      1. re: carol1

                                                                        Corn is excellent in chicken pot pie. Sautéed sweet onions and celery, too.

                                                                      2. i hate peas..
                                                                        I like bottom and top crust
                                                                        I love mushrooms and parsnips
                                                                        love creamy sauce
                                                                        green beans
                                                                        onions fried before going in

                                                                        1. Maybe add some sliced sauted mushrooms and a small bit of dry Sherry to the sauce.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: robt5265

                                                                            Yeppers!!! I like a flaky double crust, gravy with cream, thyme, and a little Sherry, big not overcooked chunks of chicken, halved criminis, sliced leeks and carrots, peas (sorry), and, after baking and plating, plenty of ground pepper.

                                                                          2. Start with the most perfectly roasted chickenhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgU-WycA54I
                                                                            This is exactly how I roast any foul. Perfection every time.

                                                                            1. if our DS#2 answered this he'd say Hamburger Hamlets version. prominent flavor chicken&garlic.

                                                                              1. The chicken pot pie I made using Cook's Illustrated's recipe was really enjoyable. I don't know how well it would freeze.

                                                                                1. So, it's almost a year since your post but I have to say, your pie sounds perfect! CPP is one of my all-time favorite foods. The best I ever ate was homemade at the cafe owned by Bob Ringwald in a court building in Van Nuys, California.

                                                                                  1. I have never made chicken pot pie but your description is making me crave it! How do you make the gravy?

                                                                                    1. Your's sound yummy! When making them for home, I use a bottom crust, chunks of both breast and thigh meat, peas carrots, corn, and cut green beans in a creamy chicken gravy (just enough that everything is moist but not runny) I use a mashed potato topping, instead of a top crust. I pre cook the veggies and drain them well so as not to water down the gravy.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Hopefulone

                                                                                        I'm making CPP tonight using turkey instead. Puff pastry top only. Small onions, diced carrots, fresh thyme, Two T dried chanterelles (they will reconstitute in the boiling milk.)
                                                                                        'Escoffier' béchamel. S&P.

                                                                                      2. Your chicken pot pie is basically perfect in my eyes, except I greatly prefer a crust on the bottom. I just love the eat the top and the insides, then look forward to scraping up the bottom as I finish the whole thing.

                                                                                        1. To me the gravy is all-important. It must be intensely chicken-y. I make my stock ahead of time, double-strength and de-fatted, make the gravy with that, and add chicken (all breast meat) cooked separately, carrots, and peas, then a short crust. Heavy on the gravy.