Another Two-for-One Meal: Chicken in a Crock-Pot and Chicken Pot Pie

img_3940We are more than halfway through August, and what a lovely month it has been. The excessive rain has stopped, and while some crops have been harmed by all the moisture, others are doing just fine. When I called Lakeside Orchards in Manchester to get a progress report on their apples—specifically their organic macs—I was told that if things continue as they are, then there will be a bumper crop of organic macs along with conventionally grown apples, and the organic macs will be available mid-September. Good news! Lakeside’s organic macs are usually very affordable. I don’t know what the price will be this year, but generally they have gone for about 99 cents a pound.

With all the rain, Clif and I fell behind in our bike riding, and it looks as though we won’t be going on any long bike rides this season. Ah, well! Most nights we are putting in 10 miles, and in a week or so, we have planned a ride from Hallowell to Richmond, about a 20-mile ride trip. Maybe next year we will go on a 50-mile bike ride.

But rain or shine, any time is a good time for a Crock-Pot meal, and I want yet again to thank Shari Burke of Craftivist in the Kitchen for giving me so many great ideas for the Crock-Pot. One meal that I have been making regularly is with chicken thighs, potatoes, and carrots. After everything has cooked, there is a lovely broth left behind, and I have mixed it with rice and chicken to make a burrito filling. Then I started thinking, what if I cooked extra potatoes and carrots, mixed them in the broth, added some leftover chicken, and put everything in a pie shell for a chicken pot pie? How would that work?

Last week, I decided to see how this would indeed work. I was so confident of the results that I promised half the pie to our friends Steve and Margy. Steve recently had knee surgery, and it seemed to me that chicken pie would be just the thing to perk him up. At the same time, a part of me was worried. What if the pie did not come out as well as I thought it would? What if it didn’t come out well at all?

I pushed those nagging little thoughts aside and commenced with the process. On the night before I made the pie, we had meal number one—chicken, potatoes, and carrots. But, following Shari’s model, I cooked extra—10 potatoes, sliced small; 1 1/2 cups of carrots cut in rounds; 7 chicken thighs with the skin on; 2 cloves of garlic, chopped; 3/4 teaspoon of dried thyme; 3/4 teaspoon of dried sage; as well as salt, pepper, and olive oil sprinkled on top. The potatoes and carrots went on the bottom, and the chicken thighs went on top in one layer. I sprinkled the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil on top of the chicken. I always like to bring the food to a boil on high and then let it simmer on low until everything is done, about 7 hours from start to finish. (A family of four would probably have to use 2 Crock-Pots and double the ingredients. My Crock-Pot is 6 quarts.)

Clif and I ate and enjoyed the chicken, potatoes, and carrots. After we were finished, I used a slotted spoon to scoop the leftover carrots and potatoes into a dish. Discarding the skins, I took the leftover chicken off the bone and put the meat into a separate dish.  Into yet another dish, I poured the chicken drippings.

The next day, the fat had risen to the top of the drippings, and I skimmed off this fat. I always feel bad about doing this. Chicken fat is pretty tasty, but enough is enough. We would be having pie, after all. In a big bowl, I combined the vegetables and the chicken. In a small pan, I heated the chicken drippings—they had congealed—until they were runny and warm. I added the drippings to the vegetables and chicken.

Next came the crust. Now, I like making pie crust, and I seldom buy store-bought ones, but there are some good ready-made crusts at the supermarket that could be used.

I made a pie crust, filled the pie, crimped the edges, and put foil strips around the edges so that the thin edges would not burn before the thicker middle was done. I preheated the oven to 425 and set the timer for 25 minutes, at which point I took out the pie, removed the foil strips, and returned the pie to the oven to cook for another 15 minutes or so until the whole top was nicely browned.

The results? Here is what Clif said: “It couldn’t be any better.” High, high praise coming from my Yankee husband, and I have to admit the pie was pretty tasty.

With a light heart, I delivered the pie to Margy and Steve, and I already have plans to make another chicken pie again soon. I do want to note that the filling is very stiff, which I like. It makes it easier to slice the pie. However, for those who like the filling to be a little softer, milk or cream could be added to the potato and chicken mixture.

I’ve been thinking that the chicken mixture could also be put into a pan and topped with biscuit dough. But that is an idea for another post.