With winter weather upon us, you need something filling and hearty to warm you up and keep you that way. Pot pie is just the ticket to warm you up and keep you going. What I love is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
If you peruse the frozen food aisle (which is a great place to pick up ideas but not necessarily food due to the sodium content) you’ll find all kinds of variations including “dessert pot pie” (you know, it’s what the rest of us call… pie).
There’s only two parts to making a pot pie, the filling and the crust. There are so many possibilities it’s astounding. Truly you could make one for dinner every week for dinner and never eat the same thing twice.
The filling is always something stew-like… meat, veggies and gravy/sauce. Whatever it is, you want it to be thick so it’ll hold up when you cut into it, just like a dessert pie.
What kind of meat? So many choices…
- Beef/Lamb/Venison – Leftover roast, stew meat, ground beef, even crumbled up extra hamburgers from the cookout if they’re not burnt (also great for chili – that’s why Wendy’s first put chili on their menu).
- Chicken/Turkey – Canned chicken, leftover roasted chicken, marked down rotisserie chicken, thanksgiving leftovers, etc.
- Tuna – I’m not a fan of tuna but if you are, it’s no different than working with canned chicken.
- Gravy – Make it from stock, use the leftovers from your meal or even from a jar or can if you choose.
- Cheese Sauce – Ragu has a couple good options in both cheddar cheese and Alfredo varieties if you want to make it quick and easy, or make your own. Especially good for vegetarian options!
- Cream of “something” soup – Mushroom, celery, onion, asparagus, chicken… any of them will work great!
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cranberries (not a veggie, I know, but still an option)
- Whatever you can find or think up!
Then there’s the crust.
First, there’s the option for one crust or two (top & bottom). Then there’s the option of what to make the crust out of. A traditional pot pie uses pie crust. Remember when I said you could make this as simple or complex as you want to? I wasn’t kidding.
Here’s some of your options for pot pie crust…
- Homemade pie crust
- Pie crust from the refrigerator section.
- Open the package
- Lay it in the pan
- Add the filling
- Lay another crust on top
- Crimp the edges & cut a slit for the steam to vent (That’s it, you’re done.)
- Pie crust from the freezer section (but wait, that only has one crust…)
- Get one regular frozen crust and one deep dish crust.
- Fill the deep dish crust
- Cover with the regular crust like a lid and take off the pan it’s in (save it for crafts or whatever)
- Cut a slit in the top for the steam to vent and you guessed it… that’s it.
- Canned biscuits – just take them one by one and cover the top (the giant flaky kind are best because you can actually separate them in half if you need more coverage.
- Canned crescent roll dough (that’s what I used in the picture)
- Frozen puff pastry
- Mashed potatoes (actually this makes it a “shepherd’s pie” but I won’t tell if you don’t)
- Corn Bread batter
I”m going to give you the easiest recipe first. This is absolutely perfect for getting the kids started cooking! Even the pickiest eaters will eat their own cooking!
Easy Peasy Pot Pie
- 1 – 10 oz can of chicken, drained
- 1 large or 2 small – jar/cans of chicken gravy
- 1 large can of VegAll, drained
- 1 tube of crescent rolls
- Mix first three ingredients together, season to taste (easy on the salt, remember that canned food already have a lot of salt in them)
- Spoon them into a pie pan or cake pan
- Unroll the crescent roll dough and place on top.
- Bake according to package directions for crescent rolls, when they’re browned it’s done!
I wasn’t kidding when I said that it was easy! A 3 or 4 year old can make this (with your assistance and supervision of course). Oh wait, I forgot the most important part…. Take a picture of your child with the dinner they made and post it on facebook for friends and grandparents to fawn over!
Okay, so now on to the one I made in the picture. I actually roasted the chicken a few days ago. Bestie was working late and since it was just the two of us, Handy Husband decided to pick up a pizza so we didn’t have to cook. I just put the chicken in the fridge for later.
I put a couple of potatoes in the microwave to bake and then stuck them in the fridge to chill them while I was doing other things. I do this 1) to make sure that they are cooked all the way through and 2) to make sure they don’t turn to mush while I’m trying to cook everything else.
I separated the chicken. One bowl for the meat, one big pot on the stove for the bones, skin and bits of “stuff”. The meat I divided in half, put half in the fridge until I was ready for it and the other half went in the freezer for another day.
I heated the bones and skin with a little olive oil and browned what was in there to develop the flavor. To that I added the tops and bottoms of my celery along with the ends and peels from my carrots and onions and a couple of peppercorns and a few bay leaves. I let it simmer on the stove for about an hour and a half (till the whole house smelled like chicken soup).
While that was on the stove, I diced up the rest of the celery. I set some aside for my pot pie and put the rest in the freezer so that I can use it as needed. I sliced up the carrots that I had peeled and trimmed and set them aside and diced the onion (put about 2/3rds of it in the fridge for salads, omelettes and such).
By the time that the stock was done cooking, it had reduced by about one-third. I strained it and put the stock in a pitcher so I could refrigerate it. I didn’t take a picture because frankly it looks like compost and is not that appetizing. Be sure to add it to your compost pile for your garden!
Whatever I don’t use of the stock in the next few days will go into ice cube trays and into the freezer for later. (Check out my post on prepping and freezing foods for other ideas.) I used about 3 cups for this dish and have about a quart left.
Just like cooked meats can be frozen for later use, and so can stock ingredients. Keep a couple of big freezer bags going; one for chicken scraps, one for beef scraps and another with your veggie trimmings. When the bag is full, make a couple of gallons of stock. Why buy it for $1-$4 a quart when you can make it with stuff you were going to throw away! It only takes a few minutes to brown the bones and fat and the stove does the rest! Freeze or can the stock when you’re done.
Using the same pot that I made the stock in, I added a little olive oil along with the carrots and celery. I sauteed them over medium heat until they started to soften (5 minutes?) before adding the onion. As I was waiting for the onions I started seasoning… tarragon, thyme, marjoram, ground savory, garlic and a splash of soy sauce. I also took the potatoes that were fully cooked out of the fridge, diced them up and had them sitting off to the side.
Once the onions were soft, I added a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease from my jar in the fridge (must have!) Once the bacon grease melted I added a few heaping tablespoons of flour to make my roux. (Pronounced “roo”, it’s used to thicken the the stock to make gravy). I let it cook for a few minutes until it started to brown. This added color, flavor and kept it from having a “flour” taste to it.
I added my chicken and a few ladles of the stock. Once it came back up to a simmer, the stock thickened into a gravy. I shut it off, took it off the burner tossed in my diced potatoes and gave it a quick stir. I gave a quick spray of oil to a 13″x9″ glass baking dish, poured in my mixture then topped it off with the crescent roll dough. In my other baking dish I put a can of biscuits and put both in the oven at 375°F for 15 minutes till it was browned. I gave them both a quick brush with some melted butter and dinner was done!
Instead of packaging the other chicken meat and veggies, I could have easily made enough for two and then froze the second one for later. Which is what I did last time I made pot pie.
The fun of pot pie is that it’s all up to you and your imagination…
- Chicken with gravy and veggies with pie crust…
- Beef stew topped with biscuits…
- Turkey with sweet potatoes and dried cranberries topped with stuffing!
- Chili with cubes of cheddar cheese stuck in it then topped with cornbread!
- Meatballs or sliced Italian Sausage with peppers, onions & mushrooms topped with canned pizza dough and brushed with garlic butter!
- Corned beef and cabbage topped with mashed potatoes!
If you want to be really adventurous, any of these combinations can be put in between two pieces of crescent roll or pizza dough to make homemade hot pockets. Just bake and freeze!
Be sure to tell me what combinations are your favorite!