My Grandmother’s Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

My grandmother would frequently make this dish whenever we went over for dinner (I think it tended to be the days when it was just my dad and I for dinner; my dad isn’t really a culinary genius). At some point, my grandmother served this to my wife (I think it might have been before we were married) who proceeded to love it.

The thing about this is that it’s not really a chicken pot pie. It’s definitely related but it’s closer to a chicken noodle soup. It’s chicken, noodles, potatoes, and a few vegetables in a small amount of broth. I don’t know how it got its name, but it was always simply referred to as chicken pot pie (to the best of my knowledge my grandmother never has made a traditional chicken pot pie). I also have no idea of the providence of this recipe beyond my grandmother.

When I permanently moved away from home after college, I asked my grandmother to write down a recipe for her tomato sauce (partially for curiosity, mainly to placate her). She also wrote down the recipe for the chicken pot pie on the same piece of paper (if I remember correctly, it was because Angela liked it a lot).

CRW_9563My grandmother is not entirely there any more (well, really ever) and it shows when you tried and read the recipe. At least for the tomato sauce, there were a number of things missing the first time I asked her about it that she added later on. It’s also written in very disjointed sentences.

So, today, I got out my Sherlock Holmes hat (if only I really had one), and set out to decode the recipe. I’m not really sure how much the result really resembles my grandmother’s techniques and I doubt that the dish would be better following her techniques more closely (she has insisted for a number of years that there’s an oil sack in a leg of lamb that you have to make the butcher take out). If you haven’t figured it out by now, my grandmother is a bit crazy (and really always has been).

CRW_9564As to the recipe itself, you basically cook the chicken in simmering water while making a stock. You then cook potatoes and noodles in the stock and add the cooked chicken back in. Not a particularly complicated process if you’ve made stock before (and really, even if you haven’t). Because I had some corn in the fridge that needed to be eaten (I bought it almost a week ago; I’m a master of buying vegetables and then not using them for a long period of time), I added that to the pot pie and I think it added some nice texture and flavor. The homemade noodles were where I fell flat. Now, I’ve made homemade pasta lots of times. I understand how to make pasta. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I know how to make noodles. The directions that my grandmother included were a little less than comprehensive. I’m not even sure what style of noodles these are (they have flour, shortening, and water in them). What really went wrong was that I simply undercooked them; they became a bit too rubbery and chewy.

I’m a bit proud of myself as I had to guess and improvise quite a bit about how the dish goes together (not really my strong point; I tend to cook from recipes unless it’s particularly simple or I understand the dish well). I made the prefect amount of stock to go along with the chicken (I was afraid I’d have way too much but it was just perfect). I also guessed that the starch from the potatoes and noodles would thicken the broth up to the right point. The only part that didn’t come out as well as I would have liked (and I understand why) was the noodles (they were still good, just not quite perfect). It’s also nice to finally get to put up an original recipe up here (while it’s originally my grandmother’s, the recipe she gave me is more like a sign pointing me in the right direction).

My Grandmother’s Chicken Pot Pie

2 lbs chicken pieces, skin on and bone in (preferably chicken thighs)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp of sherry
3 stalks of celery
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
a bouquet garni made up of 4 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs Italian parsley, and a bay leaf
3 cups of all purpose flour
4 tbsp of shortening
1 lbs potatoes
2 cups of corn, preferably fresh (about 3 ears of corn)

  1. Dry the chicken pieces thoroughly. Season them on both sides with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter in a skillet, then brown the chicken pieces on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.
  2. Pour the fat out of the skillet and discard. Off heat, deglaze the skillet with the sherry. Over high heat, boil the sherry for a minute, then turn off the heat and add 1 cup of water.
  3. Place the chicken in a dutch oven. Pour the contents of the skillet into the dutch oven then add cold water to cover the chicken completely. Bring the contents to a simmer over medium heat, do not allow to boil. Skim the surface of the stock until there is no remaining “scum” accumulating (while I’m sure there are better culinary definitions of “scum” on a stock, I remove anything that doesn’t look particularly appetizing).
  4. Cut the carrot and one stalk of celery into 3 inch long pieces. Peel the onion and quarter it. After the “scum” stops accumulating on the surface of the stock, add the carrot, celery, onion, and bouquet garni. Simmer slowly for one hour.
  5. While the stock is cooking, make the noodles. I made my noodles via the well method. You may be more comfortable mixing them in a bowl which should turn out fine (I made them this way because I make pasta via the well method). On a large flat surface (e.g. a cutting board, a sheet of parchment, a baking mat), place the flour. Make a well in the center and add the shortening and 2 tsp of salt. Cut the shortening into the flour. Once the shortening is incorporated into the flour (it won’t be completely incorporated but will be well distributed), make another well in the flour and add 3/4 of a cup of water. Mix the water with the flour. You may need to add up to another 1/4 cup of water to make the dough come together. Knead the dough briefly to make sure it’s come together. Roll out the noodle dough until it’s 1/4″ thick. Cut the dough into strips 1/2″ wide by 2″ long. Set the dough aside.
  6. Peel the potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Cut the remaining two stalks of celery of celery into 1/8″ wide pieces. If using fresh corn, cut it off the cob.
  7. After one hour of simmering, remove the chicken, the vegetables and the bouquet garni from the stock. Retain the chicken and discard the vegetables and bouquet garni.
  8. Boil the stock for 10 minutes until slightly reduced. Return the stock to a simmer. Season the stock with salt and pepper to taste (really taste it; it needs salt and it’s hard for me to tell how much).
  9. Add the potatoes and celery to the stock and cook for 5 minutes.
  10. Add the noodles and corn and cook for another 5 minutes.
  11. Remove the skin and bone from the cooked chicken. Shred the chicken into bite sizes pieces. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste (it’s not raw now; you can taste it without getting sick!). Add the cooked chicken to the stock and cook for 5 more minutes.
  12. Remove from heat and check the seasoning.

Serves 8 (this is really just a guess; there are only two of us and it made a large amount; I believe I know what I’m taking to work for lunch the rest of the week)

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