What does a Google software specialist do in his spare time when he is working from home close Palo Alto, California, during the pandemic? Well, this Google employee creates and cooks. My nephew, Nathan, has been making pot pies in his kitchen as his group of Google employees continue their jobs from home. He baked the pies in mini-muffin tins so that the pot pies could easily be frozen and reheated as a single serving snack. I liked the idea and found a unique mini-pie tin which made twelve very small chicken pot pies. I made slightly larger individual pot pies, too, which were perfect for a dinner. And I loved the idea of freezing the pot pies; they made a tasty and quick homemade meal when I was was too busy to cook. Now I’m hooked on pot pies!
My nephew sent me recipes for several types of pot pies with the main one being chicken pot pies. So this summer and fall, I’ve enjoyed making lots of types of pot pies. I made chicken pot pies and steak pot pies. Nathan made lamb pot pies. You would that think I might have a freezer full of pot pies, but we eat them up too quickly. And I have searched high and low trying to find a pie pan that was just right. Here’s sort of a picture tutorial showing what I did making a variety of pot pies.
I purchased this unique Chicago Metallic Professional Mini-Pie Pan for the first bite-sized chicken pot pies. It looks very similar to a mini-muffin pie tin but is really designed for dessert pies. The chicken pot pies were delicious but result was a one-bite pie. The set came with a cutting tool which made just the correct sized bottom crust and also a miniature top crust.
Here are fancy individual 5-inch tart pans which I located on Amazon and purchased, too. These ceramic dishes each hold 1-1/2 cup of chicken and vegetable filling. They are just right for an entree-sized serving. (I ran out of pie dough and just made a crust for the center of each pie.)
My last effort was making steak pot pies using leftover skirt steak (the meat used for fajitas). With all my ceramic tart pans in the freezer, I quickly headed to the store for some disposable pie tins which are also 5″ in diameter. Probably should have tried these first!
Making Chicken Pot Pies
Making chicken pot pies (or steak, lamb pot pies) involves two steps. The first step is to decide on the pot pie pan and then make a pie crust which fits the pan. The second step is to make the filling.
Both my nephew and I made pie crusts from scratch — not a store purchased crust. I used a food processor to mix the dough and found that it is really easy to make a crust by this method. I think that Nathan used a pastry cutter to blend in the shortening (I used butter which gives a flavorful crust). In any case, make sure to use ice water when making the crust and lots of flour on a pastry board so the dough does not stick. NOTE: Pie crust dough can be made ahead and frozen, so you can do this step at an earlier time. And, I froze the leftover dough scraps for later use.
The Chicago cutlery dessert (muffin) pie tin came with a tool specifically made for cutting out the crust. With the larger pot pie tins, I found a 5 ” diameter bowl and used it for cutting out the crust. And I made only a top crust for the larger pot pies — I found that both a bottom and top crust was just too much crust for me.
The filling consists of whatever meat or poultry you want plus an assortment of vegetables — usually peas, carrots, celery and onions and optionally mushrooms and/or potatoes. I found that flavorful cuts of poultry such as chicken thighs and meat such as skirt steak made great pot pies. For seasonings, the recipe called for thyme, celery seed, salt and pepper. Nathan discovered that the poaching liquid from cooking the chicken pieces made flavorful broth, so I omitted the chicken bouillon and skipped commercial chicken broth.
To make the filling, sear one pound of seasoned chicken pieces (either boneless chicken breast or thighs) to seal in the juices, then poach the poultry to cook it, adding the vegetables to cook them, too. This made a savory chicken broth to use in the white sauce. Then separate out the chicken, broth and vegetables and shredded the cooked chicken pieces. Set all of them aside while making the white sauce.
NOTE: For steak pot pies, cut skirt steak (or substitute top round steak or stew meat) into bite size pieces, toss the small cubes in seasoned flour and sear them. Then braise the meat in water until tender, adding the vegetables and cook 10 minutes longer. No need to make a white sauce for the steak pot pies, the flour used to coat the steak cubes was enough to thicken the broth.
For the chicken pot pies, make a white sauce and added this to the filling. After sautéing onions in butter (or margarine), blend in flour and then milk and reserved chicken broth. The 5-inch diameter tart pans and aluminum pie pans both accommodated 1-1/2 cup filling, so the recipe is enough to make six pies.
After filling the pie pans, add the top crusts and bake the pies in a hot oven until heated through and bubbly with the top crust browned.
These made delicious pot pies. I’ve enjoyed making several batches this summer and fall. Enjoy!
Thanks to my nephew, Nathan, for sharing the recipe idea which resulted in a journey of making lots of chicken and steak pot pies. I am glad to see the younger generation of family members take an interest in cooking. In addition to providing meals for us to eat; cooking is a creative outlet. I confess that I got a little carried away with the photos for this post, I spent an evening uploading them while listening to some relaxing hammered dulcimer music.
In my opinion, these homemade pot pies are much better than any commercial frozen ones that you might purchase. I am glad I made extra to freeze to savor over the next few months. They make great meals when I’m too busy to cook but still want a homemade supper. Enjoy making some yourself!
Nathan's Individual Chicken Pot Pies
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, (about 3 thighs or 2 large breasts to make 2 cup shredded, cooked chicken meat)
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3 cups frozen mixed peas and carrots
- 2 cups small diced Gold Yukon potatoes
- 1 stalk celery, (about 1/4 cup finely chopped)
- 1 small can drained, sliced mushrooms (optional)
- 1 tsp celery seed
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 3 Tbsp margarine
- 1/2 large onion, (1 cup finely chopped)
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1-1/2 cups broth, (reserved from poaching chicken and vegetables)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 recipe pie crust
Method and Steps:
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees for ceramic tart pans, or 425 degrees for metal pie pans. Oil 6 five-inch diameter pie pans.
- Clean boneless chicken thighs or breasts, removing excess fat and any gristle. Wash and pat dry. Season chicken pieces with 1/2 tsp salt and a small amount of pepper.
- Heat oil in large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces. Sear on first side. When slightly brown and cooked, turn over and sear on second side.
- Add 2 cups water. Bring to boil. Cover tightly and reduce heat to simmer and cook 5 minutes.
- Add peas and carrots, diced potatoes and celery, and drained mushrooms (optional).
- Sprinkle on celery seed, thyme and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to boil again, then turn heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Check to make sure chicken is cooked through. If pink in center, cook additional 5 minutes.
- Remove skillet from heat and remove chicken to bowl. Shred chicken finely. Set aside.
- Strain broth from vegetables into a bowl. Reserve the broth. Place vegetables in large bowl and aside.
- In medium-sized sauce pan, melt margarine over medium heat. Add onion; stir and cook until onion is translucent.
- Remove from heat. Stir in flour.
- Gradually pour in about 1/2 cup reserved broth into margarine/onion mixture and stir to loosen flour, breaking any flour clumps by pressing them with back of wooden spoon against edge of pot.. Gradually pour in remainder of broth, stirring constantly. Add the milk.
- Return pot to stove. Increase the temperature of the stove to medium-high. Stir constantly until mixture bubbles and makes a thick sauce, about 5 minutes.. Remove from stove.
- Add the sauce to the vegetables along with the reserved, shredded chicken. Stir gently to combine.
- Scoop about 1-1/2 cup chicken filling into each pie pan, dividing evenly between the six oiled pans.
- Top with pie dough crust. If completely covering crust, make several slashes in top of pie dough with a knife to release heat. Alternately, cover center top of pie with circle pie dough.
- Place chicken pot pies on a large baking sheet.
- Bake in center and bottom rack of oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees (ceramic pie pans) or 425 degrees for (metal pie pans) until pies are bubbly and top pie crust is browned.
NOTE: For 12 mini-chicken pies, use 2 boneless chicken thighs (3/4 cup cooked, shredded meat), 1/2 cup peas and carrots, 1/2 cup finely diced potatoes, 1 stalk finely diced celery, 1/4 cup minced onion, 1 Tbsp margarine, 1 Tbsp flour, 1/3 cup broth and 1/3 cup milk.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour to flour pastry board
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter or shortening
- 1/2 cup ice water plus more if needed
Method and Steps:
- Add flour and salt to large bowl of food processor. Pulse several times to combine. Alternately, add flour and salt to large bowl toss to combine by hand.
- Cut butter into chunks, add to shute of food processor and pulse until finely blended up. Alternately, cut butter into flour with two forks.
- With food processor running, add 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water through shute and process until dough begins to cling together in a ball. Alternately, stir in ice water by hand.. Remove from food processor and shape into a flattened ball.
- Transfer pie dough to well floured pastry board. Roll out until very thin — about 1/8″ thickness. Cut out 5 circles which fit on top of pie tins. Repeat with remaining dough. Gather up any leftover scraps to use for additional tops as needed. Alternately, cut dough into 1/2″ strips to form lattice tops on chicken pies. Or, cut circles slightly smaller than chicken pies to cover only center of pies.