I have been disappointed with the chicken pot pies I’ve eaten ever since the Miller and Rhoads Tea Room in Richmond Virginia began its slow slide into oblivion in the 1980’s. By then, my grandmother (whose father was president of Miller and Rhoads!) had stopped making her chicken pot pies too, meaning all was lost…
Until now, when I decided to put my time, energy and recipe developing experience to work trying to recreate the pot pies that were the gold standard of deliciousness for my childhood palate.
Like all true professionals (ahem!), I started with Google. There, I found THE recipe for M&R’s Turkey Pot Pies. Only the ingredients and instructions were for single servings. Two tablespoons of steamed this, two tablespoons of cooked that, all topped with [your] “favorite pastry. ” Who in the world makes just one pot pie?
I was able to extract one essential bit of information from the recipe, that the filling was moistened with a rich, buttery velouté sauce. Not, as I’d tried in the past, a gravy-like concoction or a starch-thickened broth. (No wonder mine never tasted right!) From there, I was able to work up my own version, which makes eight puffy-crusted, creamy-centered, pea-dotted beauties. The flavor takes me straight back to my childhood, even if I’ve fancied things up a bit and added far more meat to the filling. Because, that’s what revisiting a recipe is for: To make it even better than you remember.
Chicken Pot Pie (à la Miller and Rhoads and Grandmother Chappell)
The length of this recipe is misleading—it’s not really hard to make at all, though it does take some time to cook the chicken. The pot pies freeze well and are wonderful to pull out and reheat on a chilly night when you need comfort food—or in my case, a serious dose of nostalgia.
2 lb. bone-in, skin on chicken, such as split chicken breasts or chicken thighs
¼ onion, peeled
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 sprig fresh or dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 slice fresh ginger, optional
1 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
2 large celery ribs, diced (1 cup)
2 carrots, diced (1 cup)
1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced (1 cup)
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped, optional
½ cup frozen peas
1 stick (8 Tbs.) butter
½ cup (8 Tbs.) all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 sheets frozen, thawed puff pastry
To make the Chicken: Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour, or until the chicken is very tender. Drain off the stock, discard the vegetables, and shred the chicken once it is cool enough to handle. Reserve 4 cups of broth (1 quart) for the Filling.
To make the Vegetables: Heat the oil or butter in a large (10-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots, season with salt, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion and celery are translucent. Add the potato and ¼ cup water, cover, and simmer 5 minutes. Set aside.
To make the Velouté Sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan (it can be the same one you used for the chicken) over medium heat. Stir in the flour, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, or until the flour is smooth and bubbling and just beginning to brown. Stir in the 4 cups of reserved chicken stock, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and just begins to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the vegetables, chicken, hard-boiled eggs (if using), and frozen peas. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.
Preheat the oven to 425˚F, and place eight 12-oz. ramekins or pot pie pans on baking sheets.
Place the puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured work surface, and gently roll them out until they are large enough to make 8 circles that will completely cover the ramekins or pot pie pans. Cut out the eight circles, place them on a plate or baking sheet, and place in freezer until ready to use. (This will keep them from shrinking too much when baked.)
Ladle a generous 1 to 1 ¼ cups of the Filling into each ramekin or pot pie pan.
Beat the egg with 2 Tbs. water and a pinch of salt. Place chilled puff pastry rounds atop each pot pie. Brush each with the egg mixture (egg wash). Score the puff pastry top several times with a knife, and crimp the edges with fork tines.
Bake the pot pies 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown and the filling is hot and bubbly. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 pot pies.