Like many of us, we have cooked alot during this quarantine. Fortunately, I love to cook for hungry, interested eaters. (Though the number of dishes we have washed has been overwhelming.) One of my greatest joys is cooking with people who enjoy cooking and eating. Of my three kids, my 16 year old has been the least interested in cooking to date. Until the Pandemic that is. And then all of sudden her interest emerged. I was excited to see what she would want to learn to cook. My mom always encourages parents to “let your kids in the kitchen to cook when they are more of a burden than a help, as it will pay off”. The things that she was interested in cooking included: cinnamon churros, homemade bread, chicken pot pie and Oreo cheese cake bites. Some of these sounded like a “burden” but I said, “okay, go for it”!
When I ask her what clicked about learning to cook, here is what is she said:
Me: So, Lainey! Welcome to the kitchen! What changed, to spark your interest in trying out cooking?
Lainey: I love food, and I have always seen how happy cooking makes people, and thought I should try it for myself!
Me: Why now?
Lainey: I have never really had time for cooking, and have felt limited in my ability to learn the craft, but now that I have time to practice it, why not!? Because once I learn now, I’ll know how.
Me: Do you think that part of your hesitation is that you didn’t want to cook just simple basic things, because from what you have been trying in the kitchen these past months of quarantine, you have ambitious cooking pursuits!
Lainey: I would say, I like to do complicated things, but I have learned that cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be flavorful and delicious. That small things like the “mirepoix” and “béchamel” from the chicken pot pie can make a dish.
(I got to teach Lainey a little lesson on mirepoix and béchamel while making this pot pie.)
I decided if she wanted to learn to make Chicken Pot Pie, we should start with the classic version from Joy of Cooking. We used a pie crust from Trader Joes, but the rest was fresh, from scratch. It was delicious and provided lots of teachable moments.
Now (virtual) school is taking a lot out of her and our cooking classes have subsided. Nevertheless, the interest is piqued and I have hope for clearer days ahead with more opportunities to create in the kitchen together.
Chicken Pot Pie has many varieties and many opportunities to take short cuts. I think, depending on what is most important to you, you can prioritize things you will prepare from scratch and things you will buy prepared. I think making the cream sauce is far superior to cream of chicken soup and sautéing veggies are essential. I think using a rotisserie chicken, bought broth and a frozen pie crust are good short cuts. I think the pie crust is the most intimidating/time consuming part of the process. (Unless you have some that you made and froze from a previous pie crust adventure). Here are some recipes if you want inspiration: my sister’s favorite pie crust; one that seems fairly simple and classic from Sallie Swor; and Joy the Baker’s tutorial on How to Make a Pie Crust. You can always top with biscuits instead, which is a faster method.
Bought frozen pie crust or your choice of hand made crust.
Grease a 13 X 9 inch (or equivalent) baking dish.
Position rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400˚.
Poaching the Chicken:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or bone in chicken
1 carrot, cut into chunks
2 celery ribs, cut into chunks
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 medium onion, quartered
2 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
Place all ingredients in a Dutch oven or large pot.
Add water to cover the pieces by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat so the liquid barely bubbles. Partially cover and cook until the meat releases clear juices when pierced with a fork- 20-25 minutes for bone-in chicken; 10 minutes for boneless. The breast meat should reach an internal temperature of 165˚. Remove the meat and let cool. Chop meat into bite sized pieces.
Skim the fat off of the broth, remove vegetables.
Sautéing the Vegetables (Making the mirepoix)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, sliced
2 small celery ribs, sliced
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add vegetables and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes:
Making the Cream Sauce (Béchamel)
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups of broth (reserved from poaching chicken, if not, use packaged
1 ½ cups whole milk
Squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat melt butter. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat and add chicken broth.
Whisk in milk. Place the pan back on the heat, increase the heat, and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly. Scrape the inside of the pan and whisk vigorously to break up any lumps. Let simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the cooked chicken, bring to a simmer, and cook for 1 minute more. Take off the heat and season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Bringing it all together:
¾ cup frozen peas
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
Stir the vegetables into the creamed chicken along with peas and parsley. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish.Cover with pie crust and tuck edges down in against the sides of the dish. Brush the top with 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tsp. water.
Bake at 400˚ until sauce is warm and bubbly and the crust is golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Comfort and Joy!