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a bird in the hand

Recipe: chicken pot hand pies

We were just gifted 10 inches of snow. In past years this might not have been as big of a deal, but it’s the most we’ve received in one storm this season at my house. Jeremy hit the local hill despite our aversion to weekend crowds. I stayed home to work and to nurse a sore back after running icy moguls just a few days prior. A dump of snow is always welcome, but what lies underneath depends on the weather that came before (this is also critical for avalanche assessment). We have had sun, wind, and warm temperatures interspersed with a few inches here and some frozen spittle there. It can be pretty crunchy stuff. And when you’re glad that your skis find ice underneath the powder instead of rocks, you know it’s been a paltry winter. So when Jeremy got home in time for lunch, I asked him if he wanted to step out for a ski tour on the local trails.

the snow was coming down all day

and the trees retained all of their poofballs

silent and beautiful

It’s a lovely thing to be out in the mountain forests when it snows. It’s quiet, peaceful, invigorating. We don’t talk much so we can listen for moose, elk, or maybe spy a winter white rabbit before it tears off into the woods. The focus is on our environment, our energy, the weather, the rhythm of the kick and glide. But once we get to the car, all thoughts turn to what there is to eat at home. This is especially true when there is something particularly good and exciting waiting in the kitchen. This time, we had chicken pot hand pies.

chicken, mushrooms, onion, potatoes, carrots, garlic, lima beans, parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil

dice the vegetables

chopped and minced

I love me a good chicken pot pie, but I think I am completely enamored with savory hand pies. The first time I had a proper savory hand pie was in New Zealand where the ubiquitous meat pie won me over… as did their fish and chips. Then I sampled a small fraction of what Australia had to offer. A few years later I was walking with Todd and Diane through little Saigon when Diane purchased a pâté chaud for me to try. Heaven. And last summer while I was running on fumes at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, I plunked down some cash for the last chicken hand pie at Sharmane’s booth. So much happiness in one tiny pastry package.

mix the vegetables, herbs, and olive oil together


There are a lot of recipes for chicken pot pie out there in the world and on the interwebs. I figured the hand pies would just be puff pastry with a really good filling, which I refer to as the chicken pot. The chicken pot that appealed to me most was one that roasted the chicken and vegetables. Roasting in winter is like the best thing ever because it heats the house, cooks great food, and makes everything smell like awesome (unless you burn it, then it’s not so awesome).

rubbing olive oil, salt, and pepper on the chicken

place the chicken and vegetables in the roasting pan

ready, freddy

I altered the recipe to my tastes. I prefer dark meat, so I got three pounds of whole chicken legs as opposed to a whole chicken. I like lima beans much more than peas, so I made that substitution. I chose crimini mushrooms over white button because the flavor is better. And as some of you learned last week, I really don’t like pearl onions, so I used a regular yellow onion instead.

this alone could easily have been dinner

adding the lima beans to the roasted vegetables

After all of that roasting, the only part you need from the chicken is the meat. But I don’t like to waste and since the recipe calls for chicken broth, I used all of the bones and the wonderful, crisp skin to make my own chicken stock in my pressure cooker. Fantastic stuff. I let mine chill on the deck and removed the layer of fat on top.

stripping the meat from the bones

chop the meat

ready to make some stock

If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t enjoy scrubbing stuck browned food from pans. The good news is that you don’t have to with this recipe. Once the roasting pan is emptied of the chicken and vegetables, you will be left with some drippings and caramelized stuff. That’s where all of the flavor is. Now you’re going to make the sauce which will simultaneously clean the pan. Right on.

this is what flavor looks like

the sauce: chicken stock, butter, flour, and flavor

start by melting the fats

For typical chicken pot pie, the resulting sauce should be pretty saucy or fluid. Because I’m making hand pies, I want to minimize the risk of springing a leak. So I reduced the sauce to a fairly thick gravy consistency. This makes it possible to make free-form hand pies if that is your preference (as opposed to molded ones like I make here).

stir in flour to make a roux

add the stock

reduce it down

mix the sauce with the vegetables and chicken

Another hurdle to my quest for the perfect chicken pot hand pie was puff pastry. I’ve made it from scratch before and I loved how it tasted. None of that nasty synthetic film from hydrogenated fats to coat my mouth that you find in most commercial versions. But it’s time consuming. Last year, I noticed that my local Whole Foods had a puff pastry in their frozen section. I looked at the ingredients: butter, flour, water, salt, lemon juice. That’s it. I tried it out and really liked the results. I felt like this was a puff pastry worthy of my chicken pot hand pie and of my standards.

dufour frozen puff pastry (excellent)

line the ramekins with pastry and cut tops

fill the ramekins

I wasn’t sure how much the pies might stick to the ramekins, so for ease of release I greased the ramekins with some butter. It also helps to make sure the pastry that lines each ramekin doesn’t have any tears or leaks where the gravy can ooze out and burn (and thus stick) to the ramekin.

pinching the edges to create a good seal

slicing air vents for steam to escape during baking

mixing cream and egg yolk for the egg wash

brushing egg wash over the tops

baked until deep golden and poofy

You can just imagine how excited one might be to come in from the cold and snow to a house that smells of warm chicken pot hand pies. It’s even better when you bite into one of these hearty little pastries releasing a swirl of white steam into the air. These hand pies are heady, rich, and satisfying. And who doesn’t love a good hand pie?!?

precious stack of golden goodness

alas, you are mine

Chicken Pot Hand Pies
[print recipe]
adapted from Fine Cooking

3 lbs. chicken (a whole chicken or as I prefer dark meat, whole legs)
3 tbsps olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups potatoes, 1/2-inch dice (about 2-3 medium Yukon gold, peeled)
2 cups carrots, 1/2-inch dice (2-3 medium carrots, peeled)
1 medium onion, 1/4-inch dice
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
8 crimini mushrooms, cut into eighths
2 tbsps chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, rosemary, thyme); more to taste
1 cup lima beans (I used frozen organic, original recipe called for peas)

4 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-salt canned)
6 tbsps unsalted butter
6 tbsps flour
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

puff pastry
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (for greasing the ramekins)
you can make a great homemade recipe
or you can purchase 3 lbs. of puff pastry from the store (I like Dufour puff pastry)

egg wash
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/2 cup cream

Roast the chicken and vegetables: Heat the oven to 375°F. Rub the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Season under the skin with salt and pepper. If using a whole chicken, set it upside down in a large flameproof roasting pan. If using whole legs, arrange them in a single layer in a large flameproof roasting pan. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, mushrooms, herbs, and a dash of salt and pepper together. Spread the vegetables around the chicken in the roasting pan. Roast the chicken and vegetables for an hour and 15 minutes, giving the vegetables a stir every 15 minutes or so. Remove the chicken from the pan. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon to a bowl with the lima beans. DO NOT WASH OR RINSE THE ROASTING PAN. You want to keep the browned bits and the fat for the gravy sauce. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, strip the meat from the bones. Save the skin and bones if you are making your own chicken stock (I tossed mine into a pressure cooker with 8 cups of water, pressure-cooked on high for 30 minutes with natural release). Chop the meat into 1/2-inch chunks.

Make the sauce: If you have grease and juices in your roasting pan, separate the fat from the juices. Measure the fat and then add enough butter to total 6 tablespoons. Pour the juices in the broth. Place the roasting pan (with all of the browned bits and goodies) on the stove over medium heat. Melt the fats until bubbling. Add the flour at once and stir constantly to make a smooth roux. Keep stirring until the roux turns a golden brown (~ 5 minutes). Pour in the chicken stock and juices. Let it come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, all the while stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to release the flavorful fond (the browned bits). Cook for a good 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced to a gravy consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Add more herbs to taste.

Make the hand pies: Heat oven to 425°F. Butter twelve 8-ounce ramekins. Roll the puff pastry out to 1/8-inch thickness. Line each ramekin with a single layer of puff pastry dough, up to the rim. Gently press the pastry dough together to seal seams or cover holes so that the entire ramekin is completely lined. Cut out 12 circles of puff pastry dough just slightly larger than the diameter of the top of the ramekin. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, vegetables, and sauce together. Spoon the filling into each ramekin until even with the lip. Set one circle of dough on each ramekin and press the edges of the dough circle together with the lining pastry to form a tight seal. Pinch the edges, fold over and pinch again (just to prevent leakage). Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the tops of each pie to release steam during baking. Mix the egg yolk and cream together, then brush the egg wash over each pie. Bake for 30 minutes or until the tops are deep golden in color and puffed up.

Remove from heat and let cool. Carefully run a sharp knife along the edge of each pie to ensure proper release from the ramekins. They should come out easily. Makes 12.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

miso butter roast chicken argentine empanadas spinach cheese empanadas bourbon peach hand pies

36 nibbles at “a bird in the hand”

  1. Zenee Miller says:

    Beautiful pictures of a yummy recipe! Can’t wait to try it!

  2. Chuck says:

    These pot pies look so good! I’m a sucker for anything wrapped in puff pastry! You should have put two in your backpack and avoided the wait driving home. ;-)

  3. Kristin says:

    They look delicious, but what really got me are the XC skiiing photos. What a gorgeous day in the woods!

  4. Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon says:

    Oh my word. Those are quite possibly the most beautiful chicken pot pies ever.

  5. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    Beautiful pies! I also fell in love with meat pies in New Zealand. I’m still searching for the perfect recipe to recreate them – let me know if you find one first!

  6. sara says:

    LOVE these…so adorable! What a great idea to do these individual pies! :)

  7. angela@spinachtiger says:

    This is an outrageous post. Each picture is so clear as to what to do and they are so beautiful. I make a lot of pie and I’m pinning this. WOW!

  8. Allison Day says:

    Last night when I was looking at this, Son looked over at my screen and said, “Oooh, that looks really good. Can you make that? I LOVE those!” So it looks like I’ll be making these pretty soon. ;D

  9. Lisa says:

    Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite dish but I hardly got one that I really like b/c most of them had thick pie shell (I hate thick ones with less chicken and vegies inside). This looks doable and I can try it.

  10. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence says:

    Those are the most adorable hand pies EVER. I could probably have 2 or 3 of them right now.

  11. Suzanne says:

    These are lovely! Can’t wait to make them. Thanks for the great recipe.

  12. Sofia says:

    Look so yummy i will try this recipe

  13. Sherry says:

    This sounds AMAZING. I’ve got to try it out! But since it’s just me and the fact that while I could eat all 12, I probably shouldn’t. Do you think these will freeze well (maybe before you bake them?) or would it just be better to halve the recipe?

  14. Kurt Jacobson says:

    Great photos, again. These look like the ultimate comfort food, especially if some one is making them for me!

  15. spicytofu says:

    That is some serious cooking! You amaze me….like really, WOW!!! That is so much work for those chicken pot pies. I wish we were neighbors….I would love to cook with you.

  16. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Just thinking of the stillness of the mountain forest when the snow is coming down. Something special and so are these pies. Reminds me of what I saw when I visited my daughter in London. Totally tempting.

  17. jill says:

    Put it in my belly! Recipe forwarded to my sister! mmmmmm

  18. Lei says:

    The pies look absolutely amazing! I love chicken pies so much…definitely going to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  19. mary says:

    Wow. Amazing photos and I WANT TO EAT THESE NOW!!!

  20. m says:

    The grass is always greener. I moved to Miami to get away from winter. Your photos and your pies look so satisfying, I’m actually missing snow.

  21. janete says:

    I made them last night and I followed every step of the recipe … you’re right, roasred chicken and veggies are enough to be eaten just like that … one problem I’d was the crust inside the ramekins, it did not cook … the top was beautiful and gold … seasoning wise was blend I’d add more salt and pp … what do you think I should do, maybe cook the pastry crust before and then add the filling and bake it ??? the resolt I got was not the same beautiful pix you showed here … thanks for your reply …

  22. Valerie says:

    These hand-pies look almost too good to eat! Love your pictures, I can almost taste the flavours1

  23. jenyu says:

    Chuck – ah well, if we did that, they’d be frozen solid ;)

    Kristin – thanks, it was indeed nice to finally have good snow again!

    Wendi – thank you, sweetie xo

    Eva – I’ve never looked, but I’m sure there are many recipes online. I love the ones topped with mashed potatoes :)

    angela – :)

    Allison – ha ha!! Son is sooo cute. I love you guys xo

    Lisa – it’s time consuming, Mom. When you come back to CO, I’ll make some just for you. xo

    Brandon – thanks!

    Sherry – yes, I think you can freeze them without the egg wash. Then when you want to make a few, pull them out of the freezer, brush with egg wash, bake for ~40 min until golden.

    spicytofu – ah, no one cooks with me because I’ve got all of this photography equipment lying around ;)

    Abbe – :)

    Jill – ha ha, I hope your sister doesn’t hate me for all the recipes you ask her to make :)

    m – you know, I love winter so much and loathe the heat that I just cannot wrap my brain around that. xo

    janete – hmm, I don’t know. I worried that my pastry wouldn’t cook through, but it did just fine. So perhaps in your instance the best thing to do is to pre-bake the pastry before filling them. Or perhaps you should check your oven temperature with a thermometer in case it isn’t baking at 425°F? Maybe place the rack in the lower half of the oven so the tops don’t brown too fast before the other part of the pastry is done?

  24. Chef Veronica says:

    This looks delish! My mouth is watering!

  25. Heather says:

    These hand pies look soooo delicious. By the way Jen, if you ever find yourself at trader joes, you should try their puff pastry dough. It’s made with just 5 ingredients: flour, water, butter, salt, and sugar. And it’s only $4.99 a pound!!!!

  26. afracooking says:

    I adore savory pies. I think the first time I ate one was in England – steak and kidney. Your chicken pies look abslutely amazing!

  27. TJ (MusiChef) says:

    these look so delicious!!

  28. jenyu says:

    Heather – ahhhh, if only Trader Joe’s would get here! :)

  29. Michelle says:

    These look amazing, and I’d love to try them. Both my husband and I abhor lima beans. Any suggestion for a substitute? Green peas maybe?

  30. jenyu says:

    Michelle – the original calls for peas, but since I dislike peas, I subbed lima beans. You can certainly use peas or whatever you like! :)

  31. gracee says:

    I made it!! Not quite… I used a lot of shortcuts… but made it!! I added sav blanc and chilli to the filling. It smells divine!!!
    Thank you for the easy tut.

  32. Laurie Earl says:

    I can’t wait to try this! They look delicious and appetizing! Thank you for sharing!

  33. Jasmine says:

    Hi Jen,
    How tall are the ramekins you use for the pot pies? Also for the French Onion soup recipe, how tall and what size are your individual soup crocks? It will be my first time buying these items, so I just wanted to get the right ones.


  34. jenyu says:

    Jasmine – the ramekins are 2 inches deep and the soup bowls are 2.5 inches deep (they are Williams-Sonoma chili bowls).

  35. Weekly Wanderings {2016 week 11} on says:

    […] brother’s girlfriend made the most AMAZING curry pot pies, based on this recipe from Use Real Butter. So freaking […]

  36. Kelly Hubbard says:

    I will have to look for one of those grill pans, as I eat a lot of chicken. During the warm months I do use a gas grill outside, but have been using a Forman grill in winter. I have found that it will make nice grill marks, but to cook all the way through, wind up with burned grill marks. I never considered just a quick grilling to get the marks and finishing up in the oven. Thank you for the post. now I won’t have to use ketchup to give my chicken a little moisture when I eat it. 🙂

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