Freezer Chicken Pot Pies
1 1/2 lb chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
2 T vegetable oil
5 1/2 c stock
2 T unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 c flour
1/4 c milk
2 tsp thyme (fresh), minced
2 T lemon juice
1 15-oz boxes Pillsbury Ready to Roll Pie Crust
1 1/2 c peas, frozen
** Note -- Feel free to vary the ingredients and their proportions in this recipe. The worst you can do is put too much stuff in for the amount of liquid that complements it. Big deal. For the version pictured below, I added some mushrooms, and I probably quadrupled the amount of celery -- I just add as much as I have on hand, and as much as I would like to eat.
Heat 1 T oil in large pot over high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken until well browned, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Transfer chicken to large plate and strain broth into bowl.
Melt butter with remaining 1 T oil in now-empty pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, carrots, celery and 1/4 tsp salt until lightly browned and softened, 8-10 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium, add flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in reserved broth, milk and thyme and simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using 2 forks, shred chicken into bite-sized pices.
Be sure to set some aside for the dog.
Off heat, add chicken and lemon juice to sauce and season with salt and pepper. Transfer filling to medium bowl and cool until just warm. Cover with plastic wrap and fridge until well chilled, about 1 hour. (NOTE: I often make this pot pie over a course of several days. I may make the filling one day and leave it in the fridge until I have the time to prepare the completed pot pies. The chicken is cooked, so you're fine to do this for a few days.)
Unwrap and unroll pie crusts onto lightly floured counter. (NOTE: As you probably know by now, I am not a fan of using store-bought products. I make an exception for this pot pie. I have made it with homemade crust, and it definitely is far better! But, this is going to get frozen, and I say just use the stuff in a box. Anything baked from the freezer is not as good as made right then-and-there, so were you to use home-made crust, it would just be sacrificed anyway for having been frozen. Go ahead and use the stuff in the box. My experience so far shows that the Pillsbury brand is the best for this purpose. I could not find any, and am using another brand in the below pictures. You can see the various folds, etc, just from rolling it out straight from the box.)
If you were going to bake this pot pie the day you made it, I'd say take the extra steps to make a homemade crust. If you're freezing it, then use store-bought.
Use a disposable aluminum pan (personal sized) turned upside down to cut out pastry toppings to fit your pan. I have typically used the bread-loaf sized pan, but couldn't find any this time. I was forced to use the mini-loaf pans, which I'm actually kind of excited about -- it should yield personal pot pies, although the final reheating time may need to be reduced.
Repeat with remaining pie crusts. Place 1 piece of pastry over the filling in each pan and use a fork to seal the edges.
Stir frozen peas into cold filling.
Divide mixture among disposable aluminum loaf pans.
Top with pastry and use fork to seal edges.
Using paring knife, make 3 steam vents in each crust. Tightly wrap each loaf pan in 2 layers of plastic wrap and 1 layer of foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.
To serve: Preheat oven to 400. Unwrap frozen pot pie and arrange rimmed baking sheet. Cover with foil, and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until crusts are golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let pot pies rest 10 minutes before serving.