Nothing Says Happy Winter Birthday Like Potpie

My mother’s 86th birthday is coming up at the end of January and I always have her and my dad for dinner on their birthdays. Of course, they are invited for dinner at several other times during the year as well, but birthdays are extra-special. For this birthday, I want to make one of the dishes that they always seem to love: Individual Chicken Potpies!!

Now, if truth be told, Mom and Dad always seem to like what I make for them. However, when I make those individual potpies, they go a little crazy and make mmmmm noises as they eat. They are like little kids enjoying their food. I can’t blame them, because they are right. Those crazy chicken potpies are to die for! Truly.

I have made large potpies that you cut into wedges, and they are quite good, BUT a potpie that you don’t have to share with anyone else is HEAVENLY. First, you break through the flaky crust on top, and then you get into the silky, saucy chicken and veggie concoction on the bottom. You can use any combo of vegetables that you like, but my favorite combination is what is in season at the moment.

In this version of my birthday, chicken potpies, I will use poached chicken, mixed with cubed and roasted butternut squash, fennel, green beans, onions and garlic. It’s a killer combination. When everyone at the table is moaning over the food, because it is so yummy and comforting, especially during this COLDEST of Winters, you know you have a winner and a keeper of a recipe.

I build my potpies in ovenproof soup bowls or coquettes. They are pretty deep, and larger than just a ramekin, and they give everyone a really, generous portion.

Once you have made the filling, you start building the pies. First, place some filling into each of the heatproof, containers (whatever you decide to use), then brush some egg wash all along the edges of the containers. The egg will help the dough to adhere to the containers or bowls. Then roll out some circles of flaky pie dough, or even some store bought puff pastry or my Puff Pastry in a Hurry recipe. Make sure the dough circles are large enough to completely cover each container of filling, and be sure to have a large enough circle so that the dough can be pushed down over the sides a bit as well.

At this point, you will want to make some steam holes, and they can be simple or you can get creative. A simple, unadorned steam hole can be made by taking a paring knife and making about 2-3 slits across the top of the pies. To serve as a fancier steam hole, I love to carve my guest’s names or initials into the dough. I do this with a paring knife. The baked potpie looks very personalized when you serve it, and your guests will know that you created that little pie JUST FOR THEM. Now eggwash the entire top of the pie and bake until golden brown and the slits are bubbling up with the filling.

A super quick way to create a potpie is to take a stew, like beef or lentil, or any thick soup that you have made, or purchased, and add things to it. For example, you can add some store bought, roasted, shredded chicken, or roast pork, ham or turkey to the soup or stew for an easy filling. Then you can just purchase a pre-made pie crust, and you’ve got the makings of a great, “thinking ouside the box” meal.

I will let you know how those chicken potpies come out, and how the birthday girl, and the rest of the family, enjoyed them. Until then…

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail