I don’t know about you, but there is something incredibly comforting to me about a nice pot pie. Each bite brings a flash of nostalgia- I remember begging my mom for chicken pot pie at the grocery store. And I remember her frustration that I tended to only want to eat the crust. My tastes, fortunately, have matured over the years. I love all of it- the flaky crust, warm, rich filling loaded with veggies and tender chunks of chicken. But the grocery store options are kind of sparse- you can have the $6 per pie Marie Callender experience, or you can have the total let down of the $0.99 each generic pot pies of disappointment. And I happen to be one of those sorts of people who love to cook. But pie crust was always intimidating to me. Everyone always makes it out to be so hard to get right.
I’m here to tell you, it’s NOT hard. It is, in fact, very easy to make the perfect, flaky, tender and flavorful pie crust. What’s better is that this crust can be made to use with pot pie, fruit pie, or hand pies. It’s crazy versatile.
You will need:
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons of chilled butter cubed (frozen is best)
3/4 cup of shortening cubed. Chilled is better, but my shortening is never cold and it works fine
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup liquid. More on this later, but I prefer to use 1/4 cup of cold vodka and make up the remainder with ice water
To assemble: simply put the flour, salt, butter and shortening in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a couple of times, then stream in the cold vodka. Then pulse and stream in enough of the ice water til the dough just starts to come together. I use a little less than 1/4 cup of ice water. It will look kind of like big chunks of sand. That’s it.
Remove from food processor, press together and divide in half. Flatten into a disk and wrap in cling wrap, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Once the crust is made, you can assemble your filling. I’ll give a couple of examples
Traditional Chicken Pot Pie (adapted from Food.com, but the changes I made are noted)
1.5 cups diced potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped (I omitted it)
1 16 oz bag frozen mixed veggies (I used 2 bags, but my bags were smaller- I used one bag of peas and one of California mix)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth plus 2 teaspoons of chicken base
1 cup half and half (I used whole milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
4 cups cooked chicken, chopped (I cooked mine in a crockpot with some seasoning blend)
thyme to taste (thyme is what really brings out the chicken flavor)
Saute potatoes in butter for 5 minutes in a dutch oven. Add onion, celery and veggies. Saute for 10 minutes. Gradually add flour and stir constantly for one minute. Add chicken broth, chicken base, and milk gradually and stir. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Add salt, pepper and thyme. Add chopped chicken.
Preheat oven to 400*.
Roll out bottom pie crust. You can use just about any pan. I prefer to make this in a #10 cast iron skillet, which is about 12 inches across. I have also used a 9×13 pan with good effect. If you go with a smaller diameter pan, you’ll want it deep. Place bottom crust in pan and add filling. Roll out top crust, and if you like, cut some pretty vents. Lay the top crust over pie, and pinch the 2 crusts together and roll or flute according to preference. You may brush the top with melted butter or with egg white to help browning.
bake for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
This same filling can be used for “hand pies” or what the British call pasties. Simply roll out the dough, and cut circles of your desired size. I did about 7″ circles, using a plate or bowl for a guide. Add a spoonful of filling, fold over pie and press edges to seal, then crimp with a fork. Bake at 400* for 20 minutes or until crust is brown.
Spinach and Feta Pie (adapted from Allrecipes)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped (I used shallots since that’s what I had)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs spinach, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used cottage cheese since that’s what I had)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions, green onions until soft, then add garlic and saute til soft. Stir in spinach and parsley and saute til spinach is limp, about 2 more minutes. Set aside
In a large bowl, mix eggs, ricotta, and feta cheese. Stir in spinach mixture.
roll out the dough and cut circles as above. Add a spoonful of filling, being careful to not overfill. Press edges and crimp with a fork. Bake at 400* for 20 minutes or until crust is golden.
With my leftover dough, I made a couple of small circles and put in 1 tsp of sour cream, 1 tsp of sugar and about 7 blueberries then pinched the edges. These were a tasty and fresh summer dessert after our savory pie meal!