Yield: 8 servings
Chicken pie is one of my favorite traditions. I knew all about chicken pot pie (ugh), was introduced to (just) chicken pie a few years ago when I began attending Christmas Eve dinner at my brother’s girlfriend’s family’s house (lots of possessives there). Her family is from North Carolina, where immigrants from Moravia settled and introduced the area to some delicious culinary traditions, like this one. Her mom doesn’t use a recipe, and I knew I needed a jumping-off point to try to recreate this when I stumbled upon a similar recipe in The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook. This cuts out all those unnecessary vegetables in chicken pot pie, and just combines chicken, gravy and crust…could anything be better than that?!
This is a somewhat time-intensive recipe, so I recommend preparing the dough the day before you want to use it, so the recipe seems slightly more manageable. Or charge a price of admission by making your friends or family help if they want to eat it. Of course, you can substitute a store-bought double pie crust and/or all white meat chicken; I’ll leave that one up to you.
FOR THE CRUST:
1/2 cup sour cream, chilled
1 large egg
2-1/2 cup (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
Small cup of ice water, prepared right before beginning to make dough
1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1.5 pounds)
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 2.5 pounds)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons drippings
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups cooking liquid (reserve all cooking strained cooking liquid)
To make the crust: Combine the sour cream and egg in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add flour and salt to a food processor and pulse for about 3 seconds. Add the butter and pulse until a coarse meal forms, about 10-15 pulses. Add half of the sour cream mixture and pulse until combined, about 5-10 pulses. Add the remaining sour cream mixture and pulse until dough begins to form, about 10. Add one to two tablespoons of ice water until dough just comes together.
Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly until dough comes together in a smooth ball. Divide dough in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes to make it easier to work with. Right before beginning to roll out dough, take second dough disk out of refrigerator. Lightly flour a surface and rolling pin, roll into an approximately 12-inch round and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Make sure to leave a 1/2-inch overhang of dough to seal crust two crusts together. Repeat process with second dough disk and transfer this rolled dough to prepared baking sheet. Cover both dough rounds with plastic wrap (or foil if you’re like me and never have success with plastic wrap) and refrigerate while you prepare chicken.
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sear until browned, about 6 minutes per side. You may have to cook your chicken in two batches. Pour the fat off and reserve for the gravy. You should have about three to four tablespoons, but you can supplement with butter if you don’t have enough drippings, or you can render some of the skin you’re about to take off to have more of the delicious chicken fat (also called schmaltz); preheat oven to 425° and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until fat is rendered and chicken skin is crispy. These crispy chicken skins also make an unreal treat for the cook! When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin.
Add the broth, chicken, bay leaf and thyme to the Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the broth boils, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until thickest part of breasts registers 160° and thighs register 175°, 16 to 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and allow to cool. When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces; you should have between 4 to 5 cups of shredded chicken for your filling. Pour the broth through a mesh strainer into a large measuring cup or bowl and reserve for gravy. This should yield about 6 cups of broth.
Adjust your oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 450°. Heat the butter and reserved chicken fat in the Dutch oven over medium heat and melted. Add the flour and cook, whisking vigorously to remove all lumps, for about 2 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Whisk in 4 cups of reserved broth, slowly at first to combine and then you can dump it all in. Continue to whisk vigorously to remove all lumps of flour. Add the cream and milk and simmer gravy until thicken, about 7 to 9 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, tasting as you go to get the flavor right. This will take more salt than you think is reasonable. Combine 3/4 cup of the gravy with the shredded chicken.
Remove the pie plate filled with dough from the refrigerator and place the chicken mixture inside, spreading into an even layer. Top with the second dough, leaving at least a 1/2-inch overhang all around. Fold the dough under and press two layer together to seal. You can do something decorative, like pressing together with the tines of a fork or pinching the dough with your thumb and forefinger to flute edges. Cut four 1-inch slits in the top of the dough and brush with egg wash.
Place pie directly on the lowest rack (do not bake on a cookie sheet; this will prevent the bottom crust from setting). Bake pie until top is light brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375° and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is a deep golden brown. Let pie cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes. Seriously…wait! If you slice this to early, the filling will run everywhere and you will regret your impatience (it’s still delicious though).
When ready to serve the pie, bring the remaining gravy up to a simmer over medium heat with about 1 cup of the remaining reserved broth. Your gravy will look lumpy before you do this, but will smooth out when you add the remaining broth and whisk vigorously. You should taste your gravy and see if you need to adjust the seasonings before serving. Heat until the gravy is at a comfortable temperature to eat. Slice the pie and top with the gravy.
Inspiration: Moravian Chicken Pie, The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen