Autumn is nearly upon us, my favorite time of year. But, with the onset of after-school activities, football games and the general business of life to attend to, finding time to properly feed my family can be a challenge.
I just love it when I come across a recipe that allows me to cheat a bit, but tastes so good that no one will ever notice. Today's Easy Chicken Pot Pie is exactly that kind of recipe.
Several years ago, Tony and I hosted a weekly radio show, and encouraged our audience to send us their favorite hotdish recipes. Each week we would invite one lucky listener to join us in the studio to share their recipe with us and, oftentimes, they would even bring along the featured hotdish for us to sample. This is how we discovered today's recipe, introduced to us by my dear friend Karen Seljevold.
We don't often cook with canned food and were initially skeptical when Karen shared her recipe with us, noting that it is mostly made with cans of veggies and soup. But, Karen swore by her recipe so we gave it a try and loved it. I've made it many times since then, and it is always a hit.
Unlike other hotdishes that feature the ubiquitous can of mushroom soup, Karen's recipe uses two cans of cream of potato soup instead, a flavor I much prefer. The recipe also calls for two cans of Veg-all, a mix of carrots, potatoes, sweet peas, celery and onions. To further simplify this dish, Karen recommends using pre-made pie crusts and the meat from a rotisserie chicken.
Karen zests up this basic recipe by adding a tablespoon of dried tarragon flakes, an ingredient that Tony and I agree makes all the difference. This simple addition brings a depth of flavor and warmth to the pot pie, further enhancing its savory nature.
I've made pot pies before where I've rolled my own pie crust, cut and cooked all the vegetables and chicken by hand, and they are a lot of work without a significant difference in the end.
This pot pie takes all of 15 minutes to prepare and is usually out of the oven in about 45 minutes. And, if you use both white and dark meat, you can actually get two pies from one chicken, leaving one to freeze for later use. You can even prepare it a day in advance and refrigerate until ready to bake.
For meals this easy, an elegant and simple salad, when done right, can further elevate the gourmet factor of the meal. The key to a great salad is the dressing, and my go-to is this homemade Champagne vinaigrette, which can be made several days in advance.
Since the pot pie is already filled with vegetables, I've kept the salad ingredients to a minimum, using only fresh green leaf lettuce with thinly sliced red onions, cherry tomatoes and sliced heart of palm.
Heart of palm is a vegetable harvested from the inner core of a palm tree. Mild in flavor with a slightly chewy texture, it is rich in fiber, potassium and a variety of other minerals and vitamins. It's not a very common ingredient, which makes it a perfect choice to feature alongside such a simple dish.
We have to eat every day, three times a day, and while food should always be healthy and delicious, it can also be practical. So, when a golden nugget like this recipe comes along and allows me to "cheat" by its very simplicity, I'm all in.
Karen Seljevold's Chicken Pot Pie
1 box of pie crust from the frozen food section of the grocery store
2 cans cream of potato soup
2 cans of Veg-all
1 rotisserie chicken from the deli section of the grocery store, save the liquid
¼ to ½ cup milk
1 tablespoon dried tarragon flakes
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the soup and the Veg-all together in a bowl and set aside.
Roll out the pie crusts and line the bottom of a pie pan with one of them. Save the other crust for the top.
Pull the meat off the bone of the rotisserie chicken and add it to the soup and veggie mixture, stirring to mix it all together. (You can really get two pot pies out of one chicken if you like by just doubling the canned goods and pie crust, and you can freeze the other until ready for cooking.)
Add a little milk along with the juice from the chicken to thin the mixture down. Add the salt, ground pepper, garlic and tarragon to taste and pour into your pie pan. Add the top crust and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown. The edges may brown much faster, so cover them with tin foil after 20 to 30 minutes to prevent burning.
Let the pot pie sit awhile to settle and thicken, about 10 minutes. Cut in pie shapes and serve with Sparkling Salad. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 3 days.
Sarah's Sparkling Salad
1 large head of green leaf lettuce, washed and dried, torn into fork-size pieces
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 to 3 stalks of heart of palm, sliced on the bias into ¼-inch thick pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup Champagne vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
To mellow the spice of the red onions, marinate the slices in a little dressing for at least 10 minutes before serving.
In a large bowl, toss the greens with the vinaigrette, using just enough dressing to evenly coat the leaves. Sprinkle the top with the sliced red onion, hearts of palm and cherry tomatoes, and toss lightly. Add more dressing if desired. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
Sarah's Champagne Vinaigrette
Makes: about 1 cup
¼ cup Champagne vinegar
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
5 to 6 dashes hot sauce (Tabasco)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a Mason jar, cover tightly with lid and shake vigorously until combined. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Shake well before each use.
"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 11-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. All previous recipes can be found at thelostitalian.areavoices.com.