When I heard it was going to be “Pi Day”, I had to celebrate. The date 3/14/15 only comes around every 1000 years and I don’t think I’ll be around in March of 3015 (I’m just guessing). And although I have not one but THREE cans of blueberry pie filling with extra berries in my baking cupboard, I had to go with a meat pie to celebrate the once in a century occasion.
I had a whole lot of roasted chicken due to having roasted 2 chickens recently. My P.S. (Poultry Supplier/hubby) brought two chubby chickens home and I roasted them up one evening. I removed all the meat from the bones and put it in a container. Then I put all of the remains in a soup pot and made a nice batch of chicken stock. The broth was really flavorful this time as they were organic chickens.
With a “pi day” to celebrate, making chicken pot pies was my first choice. Not just an ordinary chicken pot pie, but a lovely one made with puff pastry. I’d use chunks of chicken, diced carrots and spinach with rich chicken gravy made from some of the stock. Pie extraordinaire!
I started with a basic mirepoix: diced onions, carrots and celery. A traditional mix is two parts onion to one part celery and carrots. I stuck to those proportions and used one cup onion to ½ cup each of carrots and celery. I let them sauté in a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until the onion was translucent.
Halfway through the sauté I added ½ cup chopped sweet bell pepper, which is part of what the southerners call the “holy trinity” (onions, celery and bell pepper). I pretty much had all of the traditional bases covered in making this extra special pie! I stirred in some minced garlic and a touch of sage for seasoning. I also added ½ teaspoon of black pepper and a teaspoon of salt. I’d check for seasoning later.
Vegetables done, I added ¼ cup of butter and let it melt before adding ¼ cup flour and stirring it well. I cooked it a few minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste, then added two cups of the heated chicken broth, stirring to let it thicken.
I taste tested and added more salt and was pleased with the flavors.
The chicken and spinach went in next, just to heat through. I stirred it a few times to make sure it heated evenly, taste tested it again and added just a touch more salt.
I’d pulled two large sheets of puff pastry from their box and thawed them on a piece of parchment paper earlier. They only needed an hour to thaw and were ready to use. I cut each sheet into fourths, and had 8 4” square pieces for my hand pies. Oops, my pot pies were going to be rectangle hand pies. Would they still technically be pot pies? I checked with Wikipedia, my unofficial official source and found a pot pie is a “type of meat pie with a top crust”. Swanson’s frozen pot pies also have a bottom crust so there! Mine was a pot pie as well!
Back to the crust. I put a portion of my chicken mixture down the center of each puff pastry square. I brush a beaten egg was around the outsides of the squares, then folded the sides of each on over the top until they overlapped and pressed them gently together.
I rolled the pies over so their seam side was down then pressed the ends together with my fingers. I brushed the tops with egg wash, slit each one twice with a paring knife to prevent them from bursting, and they were ready to bake.
I’d preheated the oven to 425°F. I slid the baking sheet into the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. I peeked when the timer went off and let them bake another 5 minutes, when they were just the right golden brown color. I was happy that they hadn’t bubbled out the holes much or gone all messy. If one wants to make extraordinary celebratory pies for Pi Day, they should look perfect, should they not? Mostly?
They were truly lovely looking pies. They were crispy on the outsides and full of chicken and vegetable creamy goodness on the inside. Being hand pies, we held them in our hands to eat them but used forks to scoop up the bits that fell apart and onto our plates. Puff pastry isn’t the ideal crust for a hand pie, but it was delicious anyway.
As we munched away we agreed every savory morsel of our pies tasted as good as they looked. Orange, green and red bits of vegetables together with tender chunks of chicken in creamy gravy was a tiny bit of heaven on the day that only occurs every 1,000 years. Extraordinary pi(e)!
Chicken Pot Pi(e)
1 cup onion; diced (1 medium onion)
½ cup celery; diced
½ cup carrots; diced
½ cup sweet bell pepper; diced (I used a red one)
2 tablespoons olive oil (I just drizzle the pan, I never measure)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups diced roasted chicken
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth; heated
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large sheets puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farms)
1 egg; beaten
Coarse salt for tops (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Lay puff pastry out on parchment paper to thaw about an hour before using.
Sauté onions, celery and carrots in a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick skillet at medium high for several minutes, stirring occasionally. After 2 or 3 minutes add dice pepper and continue to cook until onion is translucent. Add sage, garlic, salt and pepper and stir well.
Add butter and when melted, stir in flour, coating all vegetables. Cook a minute or two to cook the raw flour flavor out. Add broth slowly, stirring to prevent lumps. When incorporated and smooth, add chicken and chopped spinach. Allow spinach to wilt and chicken to cook through. Taste test for seasoning adding salt and pepper as desired. Remove from heat and cool.
Open parchment sheets and cut into fourths, placing on parchment paper. Place approx 3 tablespoons of filling down the center of each parchment piece.
Brush egg around all sides of each sheet of parchment. Fold two sides together, overlapping lightly, and press to seal. Press ends to seal using fingers or a fork. Turn over so each seam is on the bottom. Brush top and sides of pies with egg mixture and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt (optional). Make two or three slits on the top to allow them to vent and prevent bursting.
Bake for 20-25 minutes on a parchment covered baking sheet or until golden brown.
Cool for a few minutes for easier handling. They are best eaten with a fork, however, since they are so very flaky.