Test Kitchen: Freezing chicken pot pie is a breeze


Q: When freezing chicken pot pie, should you make and freeze or make, bake and freeze?

— Catherine McQuade,

Canton, Mich.

A: Chicken pot pie is one of those true comfort foods. The flaky crust paired with the creamy chicken and vegetable filling is one hearty meal. And most people I know agree: When it comes to pot pie, the crust is the best part.

If you want to make your own chicken pot pie, there are several ways to make and freeze so you don’t end up with a soggy crust or too thin a filling.

When you want to make it and freeze, think of it like lasagna. You can make, bake, cool and freeze. Or you can make, assemble and freeze. Either way when you’re ready to cook, there’s no need to thaw; just add a good 15-20 minutes of extra baking time.

Another way is to just make the filling, cool it and store in freezer-quality bags. This way, you can make several batches of filling and place the bags flat in the freezer. And if you make your own dough for the crust, you can make it, shape it into a disk and freeze it, too. Thaw the filling and dough overnight. You can roll out the dough for the bottom crust, add the filling and then the top crust in the time it takes to preheat the oven.

To freeze an unbaked pot pie, assemble it in a pie plate or dish. Place it in the freezer, dish and all. Once frozen, pop it out of the pie plate, wrap in foil and then in freezer-quality plastic wrap. Freeze up to 3 months. When ready to bake, brush the top with an egg wash. Place the pie in a 375-degree oven. For unbaked pot pie, allow at least 50 minutes to fully cook it. If the edges brown too much, cover with strips of foil.

To freeze an already baked chicken pot pie, cool it completely after baking. This might take a good 30 minutes or more; after that you can refrigerate it to chill it more. Once cool, follow the same instructions as above for freezing. To reheat, no need to thaw, reheat in 375-degree oven for about 35 minutes.

Pot pies or sometimes referred to as meat pies because they can be made with any kind of meat or poultry, have a long history, dating back to the 18th century. One thing for certain, according to www.foodtimeline.org, is while a pot pie always has a top crust, it doesn’t always have a bottom crust. And the crust isn’t always a traditional pie dough crust either.

Which brings me to today’s recipes. One is a favorite of mine that uses a puff pastry crust. You can make individual pies or make one in a larger casserole dish. You can also make the pie using a traditional crust. The other recipe for individual chicken hand pies can be made as one 9-inch pie. Use your favorite pie crust recipe or store-bought or the one provided.

Chicken Pot Pie

Makes: 6 individual pot pies

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

2 to 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth or stock

1 cup 1 percent milk

2 cups frozen peas and carrots

2 cups cubed or shredded seasoned rotisserie chicken

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. Morton Nature’s Seasons seasoning blend

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place 6 individual ramekins (6- to 8-ounce size) on a baking sheet. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until it is just turning golden. Sprinkle in the 2 tablespoons of flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the broth and milk. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture has thickened. Add the peas and carrots, chicken, thyme, seasoning blend, salt and black pepper to taste. Cook about 5 minutes. If mixture is too thin, scoop out some of the liquid into a small bowl and mix in the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour. Stir the flour mixture back into the saucepan and heat a few more minutes to thicken.

Divide the mixture into the ramekins. Cut out puff pastry rounds to just fit over the filling. Brush the top with egg wash.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until pastry round is puffed and golden brown, and the filling is bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

415 calories (48 percent from fat), 22 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 32 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 464 mg sodium, 52 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber.

Savory Chicken Pocket Pies

Makes: 10

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (not all active time)

1 heaping cup of shredded chicken from 1 chicken (3 pounds); freeze remainder for other recipes

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped carrot (1 carrot)

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups chicken broth (from the reduced poaching liquid)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 recipe (2 disks) Cream Cheese Pastry (recipe below)

1 large egg, for egg wash

Place the chicken in a pot and add water to barely cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 50 minutes. Skim and discard any foam as it rises to the surface. Remove the chicken to cool. Continue to boil the broth to reduce to about 1 quart. Remove the meat from the chicken and shred.

To make the filling, in a medium hot skillet, melt the butter and add the onion, celery and carrot. Sauté over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the salt and flour and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken broth and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 heaping cup shredded chicken and the Parmesan cheese. Cool in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter or line a baking sheet.

To form the pocket pies, work with half of a disk of dough at a time, rolling it out on a floured surface to about 12 inches in diameter. Using an overturned bowl (about 5 inches across), cut out about 3 circles from each piece of dough. After cutting out all your circles, gather all dough scraps, reroll, and cut out a final time. Place 1/4 cup filling on one side of a dough circle. Wet the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough over to form a half-circle. Pinch the edges of the dough together. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat the process until all the filling is used. The pocket pies can be frozen at this point.

Place the pocket pies on the prepared baking sheet and chill for a few minutes. Prick each pie on top twice with a fork. When ready to bake, beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over each pocket pie. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The pies can be cooled and frozen to reheat in the microwave.

From “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys: Recipes, Strategies & Survival Techniques” by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Artisan, $27.95). Not tested by the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis per 1 pocket.

257 calories (63 percent from fat), 18 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 15 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 235 mg sodium, 61 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber.

Cream Cheese Pastry

Makes: Enough for 10 pocket pies / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 25 minutes

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

In a food processor or using an electric mixer or by hand, process the butter, cream cheese and heavy whipping cream.

Add the flour and salt; process just until combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and divide in 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling out.

Rub flour all over a rolling pin. Working with one disk at a time, place the disk on a clean, well-floured surface. Roll gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk, and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Reflour the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over and continue to roll the dough from the center out to the edges. Turn over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 12 inches in diameter, thin but not transparent.

From “Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys: Recipes, Strategies & Survival Techniques” by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Artisan, $27.95). Not tested by the Free Press Test Kitchen.

186 calories (68 percent from fat), 14 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 12 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 155 mg sodium, 41 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber.


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