I first came across "Aunt Cleo's Chicken Pie" while digging through my fiancé's tattered purple recipe folder, filled to the brim with handwritten index cards that his mother, Tina, had originally sent with him to college. We were only in the beginning phases of dating when I rummaged through the file, but I figured out pretty early that he was a sucker for his mom's home cooking.
The very Southern recipe was inherited from Tina's childhood nanny, the beloved "Aunt Cleo." It was a dump-in-the-pot-and-stir dish if there ever was one (canned cream of soup, canned veggies, hardboiled eggs), but dang if it didn't make my fiancé swoon.
The part about this particular chicken pot pie that made me swoon, however, wasn't the creamy (i.e. store bought) filling, but its golden, fluffy biscuit topping. It was like the best part of a crème brûlée, that irresistible crunch you can't wait to tap, tap, tap with a spoon. After just one bite, I knew the puff-pastry pot pie crusts of my past were for the birds.
I've since turned good ol' Aunt Cleo's original recipe on its head, leaving only the biscuit topping (and the hard boiled eggs) the same. My new-and-improved "chicken pie" bathes poached chicken and fresh vegetables in a rich, flavorful sauce. It's pure, delicious comfort food in its best form. This chicken pot pie is perfect for a cold winter night, whether it's for your family or all of your closest friends. I think, no, I know, Cleo would approve!
Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuit Topping
For the filling
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, chopped
1 cup chopped onions, small dice
1 cup chopped carrots, small dice
1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups hot chicken stock, preferably reserved from cooked chicken
1 cup whole milk, warmed
2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (see note)
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the topping
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
Preheat oven to 425°F.
For the filling, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot on medium heat. Add the leeks, onions, and carrots and sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the green beans in a pot of salted boiling water until tender and bright green, about 5-7 minutes (see note). Drain the beans and set aside.Transfer the sautéed vegetables to the same bowl as the green beans, season with salt, and set aside.
Melt the butter in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the flour and cook until a thick paste forms. Continue stirring for a minute or so. Add the chicken stock and milk and cook, whisking constantly until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the sherry, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the vegetables and cooked chicken into the cream sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Seriously, don't go light on the salt here, but taste as you go.) Pour the filling into a 2- to 3-quart greased casserole dish. Arrange the boiled egg slices over the top.
For the topping, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and milk, and whisk until combined. (Just a warning, the batter will seem fairly runny. That's okay.) Pour the batter evenly over the casserole dish.
Bake the pot pie for 45 minutes, until the biscuit topping is light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
• I poached 4 pounds of bone-in chicken thighs with aromatics--carrots, celery, onions--until cooked through. I shredded the chicken and used the stock for the pot pie. (I also added the remaining bones and extra chicken back to the pot with more water to make additional stock for using later.)
• For extra flavor, blanch the green beans in the reserved stock from poaching the chicken instead of boiling water.
Related: Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings
(Images: Nealey Dozier)