Like everyone, my schedule can get a bit busy. And I find myself in that all-too-familiar situation of being tired from work, uninspired to cook anything, but too hungry to wait for food to be delivered.
This is the time to remember that I have individual meals waiting for me in the freezer. And, one of the best ones -- especially in wintertime -- are these individual chicken pot pies.
While I am lucky enough to have individual casseroles by Staub that makes these dishes both convenient and cute, you can make the same in any small casserole, or, by using those smaller loaf tins (disposible or not), you'll have enough for 2-3 servings in each pot pie.
Also, since these are going into the freezer, I tend to cheat and just use boxed pie dough as my crust. Homemade crust is obviously better, but it does lose some of its charm from having been in the freezer.
While this recipe comes from Cook's Country, I have often found that it produces a watery roux that I'm not pleased with. So, use some common sense when assembling this and add flour as necessary to get a thick enough consistency; basically, you are aiming for the consistency you would want if you were eating it -- the consistency won't change much from stovetop to placemat, so aim for what it is you'd want to be enjoying.
Freezer Chicken Pot Pies
From Cook's Country
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
4 ribs celery, chopped (original recipe calls for 1 stalk, but I really like celery and tend to use a whole bunch)
1/2 c flour (as mentioned above, be prepared to use more)
1/4 c milk
2 tsp thyme, fresh, minced
1 1/2 c peas, frozen
2 15-oz boxes Pillsbury Pie Crust
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 T oil in a large pot over high until 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 until cooked through, 6-12 minutes, depending on thickness. Use a thermometer to ensure that the thickest part gets to 165 degrees.
Transfer chicken to a large plate and let cool. Leave stock on burner over low.
Melt butter with remaining 1 T oil in a large pot over medium 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.
Sieve the broth from the first pot into the new pot, separating out and discarding the solids.
Add milk and thyme. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. (Again, feel free to add some more flour if necesasry - I usually add about 1/4 c more.)
Meanwhile, cube chicken into small bite-sized pieces. Add chicken and frozen peas. Season all with salt and pepper.
Let cool until just warm.
Unwrap and unroll the prepared pie dough. Invert your freezer containers on top of the dough and cut out pieces that are about 1/2" wider than the dish itself. The scraps can be wadded together and re-rolled once to make another piece, if necessary.
Prepare your freezer tins with cooking spray (only necessary if using pans without a nonstick surface).
Spoon cooled pot pie filling into the containers. Layer dough on top, and crimp to seal. Poke holes on top to let steam out when they are eventually baked.
Tightly wrap each pan with two layers of plastic wrap, and one layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.
To serve, preheat oven to 400. Unwrap pie and place on a baking sheet. I place mine on a cast iron skillet. Cover top with foil and bake 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 35 minutes, until crusts are golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.