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Before chicken pot pie defined Carla Hall's time on Top Chef (and won her an appearance with Jimmy Fallon, and launched her career in television), it was a dish she grew up loving to make.
The recipe, as Carla describes it, is "a friend—a longtime friend" that's stuck with her from her childhood in Nashville, to her start in the food world in the 1980s, to today (when, in addition to co-hosting The Chew on ABC, she runs a catering company and a chicken restaurant. No big deal).
Why chicken pot pie? "It’s because of my love of peas, my love of crust, and my love of chicken in gravy."
Carla remembers that Julia Child's pot pie was one of the first dishes she made on her own, and it took her three days—poaching the chicken, cooking the vegetables, making the pie dough, assembling it all.
Throughout her career, she's returned to pot pie whenever she is feeling homesick. "Whenever I am feeling uncomfortable, I look to food to make the connection to home. When I would travel, and I was living in France, this is what I would make for people to tell them about where I came from. At the time, I couldn't find celery in France so I used leeks instead—and that's how I realized those were a different thing."
Fast-forward twenty years, to Top Chef, when Carla's pot pie secured her a win in an elimination challenge (and made her dance). The recipe, which she published in her first cookbook Cooking with Love: Comfort Food That Hugs You, is forgiving—it will take you a few hours rather than a few days—and capitalizes on all of the tricks she's picked up during her thirty-plus years in food.
For starters, Carla makes her pie dough—which our test kitchen chef Allison Buford has declared her new go-to—in a stand mixer (so you don't have to worry about cutting in the butter by hand). And instead of tucking the dough into a pie dish, filling it with the gravy, and then covering it with another layer of dough, Carla bakes the dough rounds all on their own. She then breaks each one in two, using half as the floor for the chicken stew and half for a jaunty hat. That means a perfect layer of flaky, shattering pastry—no mushy bottom or gooey under-crust.
This pot pie might end up as your lifelong friend, too.
For the flaky butter crust:
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
For the pot pies:
- Flaky butter crust (from above)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
- 4 medium yellow onions, diced
- 1 pound carrots, cut in half lengthwise then into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons
- 6 celery ribs, cut in half lengthwise then into 1/2-inch-thick slices at an angle
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 quarts chicken stock or store-bought unsalted chicken broth
- Two 2 1/2-pound chickens, each cut into 8 pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 breasts, 2 thighs)
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- One 10-ounce package frozen baby peas (2 cups)
What's the first dish you cooked all on your own? Tell us in the comments below.