Vermont Inspired Chicken Pot Pie
I have always been a huge fan of Chicken Pot Pies. As a child it was the only thing I would order when my family went out to dinner at Marie Callender’s. There’s nothing better on a cold weekend than the aroma of chicken, vegetables and herbs simmering in savory gravy. When I traveled to Vermont a few years ago I enjoyed several versions of this down home comfort food along with copious amounts of apple cider and Vermont cheddar cheese. But, those are stories yet untold.
Unable to decide on which version I liked the best I fiddled around with recipes, incorporating parts of each into a recipe that is now a favorite at our home. The main difference in my version versus those I’ve had in the past is the consistency. I love hearty winter dishes that are chock full of root vegetables in a thick sauce or gravy. And, this one has it all…veggies, herbs, and gravy, topped with a flakey pie crust. The only challenge is… I haven’t figured out how to assemble the pie so there is enough crust to top every bite of the filling. And let’s be honest – pot pie is all about the crust to filling ratio. Isn’t it?
The recipe is versatile, too. Any combination of roots from turnips to parsnips to potatoes along with the standard carrots, onions, mushrooms, peas and celery will work. It’s also a great way to use up leftover chicken. It’s amazing how much meat you can get from a carcass when it’s simmered down. And, the broth you get is nothing like anything you ever tasted. Each batch will be different because it takes on the flavors of the baked or roasted chicken.
Pot pies are also a great way to use the occasional stewing hen after her egg production years are over. That may sound gross or sad, but we are homesteaders after all, and everything on the farm has a use. And, what better use than a savory cold weather meal to take the chill off a hungry family.
Here’s how I make my own version of the Vermont Chicken Pot Pie.
First, simmer down the carcass of a roasted or baked chicken, for about an hour (you want the flavors to concentrated). Remove carcass from pot and place on a cutting board to cool. Strain broth, through a sieve or colander and reserve the liquid. When the carcass has cooled a bit, pull meat from the bones. This is a hands-on job. Once you’ve picked off all the meat, return bones, skin and all other bits to a pan and cover with water. Simmer this pot until it’s reduced by half or more. This will make a really good broth that can be frozen and used later in soups, stews, or gravies.
What you ultimately want is about 3 cups of meat.
Now — slice 2 carrots, about ¼”, 1 rib of celery, ¼”, and dice 2 to 4 mushrooms (depending on size). Peel 2 to 3 potatoes, and cut into small cubes. You’ll also need about 1 cup of peas. I used frozen and let them thaw.
Set all the veggies aside while you make the gravy.
To make the gravy — melt ¼ cup butter in a skillet. Add 1 shallot that has been diced small and 1 Tbsp fresh Thyme. Cook until shallots are very limp, but not browned. Then add ½ cup flour and stir to combine well. This will resemble a rue. Now add ½ cup of white wine, ½ cup of half & half or cream and 4 cups of the reserved broth from the simmered chicken. Whisk constantly until the gravy reaches the consistency you want. I like thick gravy, so I let it cook longer. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
When the gravy reaches the right consistency, remove it from the stove; add the veggies; the meat and stir until it is all well combined. Pour into a dish large enough to hold everything and top with a pie crust. There’s no shame in using store bought either.
When I topped my pot pie with the pie crust, I had left over dough that I used to make leaf cut outs to decorate the top, then I made a few slits in the dough so steam could escape.
Put the dish on a cookie sheet to catch any spills and pop it into a 400 oven for about an hour or until the crust is golden brown and the pot pie is bubbling.
There you have it. It’s that simple to make your own Colonial favorite.