Great American Pie Month-Chicken Pot Pie with Herbed Pie Crust
February is Great American Pie month, and we love to bake up pies throughout the year featuring the tastiest in-season fruits we have. Spring and early summer feature strawberry and rhubarb pies, sometimes as a pair and sometimes starring on their own. Peak summer bring currant and raspberry pies and maybe even fresh blueberry if we get our hands on some at the farmers market. By fall we transition to apple and pumpkin (but we use cooked winter squash like butternut or kabocha for our "pumpkin pie"...don't tell anyone, but it is always sweeter and smoother textured than many pie pumpkins!). Once we get into mid-winter though, we usually tend towards savory pies like Shepherd's Pie or Chicken Pot Pie with Herbed Crust. Comfort food at its best.
When it comes to pie crust, we are old school and like our crusts made with lard or a half and half mix of lard and butter. In the fall we get a quarter of an organic pastured pig from some of our farming friends, and we always ask for the lard. You do have to render it yourself, but once it is rendered, we have enough lovely lard to get us through a whole year of pie making. I personally am an awful all-butter pie crust maker. The lard makes the crust much easier to work with and is always flaky and so tender. Lard is often available from local butcher shops or at natural food co-ops. Ask for organic lard, preferably from a pastured animal. It will have much better flavor and less toxins. You may have to render it yourself before being able to use, but I assure you that it is worth it and there is lots of good information available on-line to walk you through the process. If you don't have access to organic lard, then an all-butter crust is certainly not a terrible thing at all and perhaps you have better pastry fingers than I.
To celebrate the end of our farming season several years ago, we invited all of our employees and work shares out for a "pie party". Everyone made their favorite pie, in whatever variation they choose, and we all feasted. I remember the spanakopita as being one of the best pies, along with an apple pecan galette (galettes are French free-form pies with more butter in the crust; always a plus!). Happy Pie Month!!
Herbed Pie Crust:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for rolling out dough
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dried oregano
8 Tbsp butter or lard (I did half butter and half lard for an exceptionally flaky crust)
6-8 Tbsp ice water
- Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and dried herbs in a medium bowl. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter or lard into the flour mixture until it is crumbly. Add the ice water gradually, mixing quickly with a fork until the dough is just moist enough to hold together. Be careful not to add too much water, you may not need the full 6 tablespoons.
- Shape the dough into a ball, then place on a floured surface and roll out to a rectangle at least 9×13 inches.
For the filling:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 small stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, scraped and finely chopped
1 large onion, sliced into thin wedges
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup fresh or thawed whole corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas or broccoli
3 cups cooked chicken or turkey, shredded
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh
2 Tbsp dry sherry (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400`F
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, nonreactive saucepan, then saute the celery, carrots, and onions over medium-high heat until they are crisp tender, approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove to a large bowl, and keep warm. Add the salt, pepper, corn, peas, and shredded chicken or turkey to the vegetables, and stir gently until well combined.
- Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in the saucepan. Turn off the heat, add the flour, and stir in quickly. The mixture will be pasty. Over medium heat, stir in the broth, milk, half-and-half, and thyme. Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring occasionally; lower the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thick and rich. Stir in the sherry.
- Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables, and mix gently. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Pour the entire contents of the bowl into a 13-x-9-inch baking pan, and top with the herbed pie crust. Fold down and crimp overlapping edges so that the crust fits inside the pan. Pierce the top several times with a sharp knife, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.