Keller's Chicken Pot Pie; Photo by The Professor

Anyone out there grow up eating frozen pot pies?  Anyone ever have a good frozen pot pie experience?  Thought so.  Frozen pies in tiny aluminum tins – Banquet, Swanson’s, store brand, didn’t matter – they all ended up with soggy bottoms (I’m not talking about those funny guys from the movie, ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou’) and mushy, overcooked vegetables – definitely not good eats in my book.  As a kid, if pot pies were on the menu, I’d be asking around to see if I could get myself invited to a friend’s home for dinner . . .

Enter Thomas Keller and his brand new cookbook, ‘ad-hoc at home‘ – a great read and some of the most gorgeous food pictures EH-vuh!  Keller, of the famed ‘French Laundry’ restaurant in Napa, California, (being a former West Coast girl gives me a kinship of sorts) is one of those chefs whose attention to detail makes for some pretty fantastic food.  ad-hoc is full of old-fashioned, home cooking at its best with this recipe being at the top of my ‘must make’ list.

Photo by The Professor
Photo by Smith Bites
Photo by Smith Bites
Photo by The Professor
Photo by The Professor

Don’t be put off by the different components to the dish; I promise you the end result is nothing short of spectacular as was evident by all the ‘mmmmms’, ‘oh mys’ and ‘this is sooooo good!’ when it was served to our Couples Supper Club this past weekend.   And don’t be tempted to take a shortcut and cook the potatoes, carrots and onions in one pot – the cooking times are different for each vegetable and if you toss them all into the same pot, the potatoes will start to fall apart before the carrots are done.  Also worth noting – the pie crust recipe is off the charts – absolutely worth making.  I will admit that it’s somewhat difficult to handle, but once you get it down, this will be your go-to pie crust recipe for savory as well as sweet pies.  And, because I was serving this to a group of 16, I used a deeper pan and doubled the filling so yours will look somewhat smaller.

Oh, and the Professor wants you to know that any leftover crust scraps should be sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar and baked until golden brown – so don’t toss them (gasp!)

And finally, this recipe can certainly be made into individual pot pies and can also be made without the bottom crust if you’re looking for ways to cut some of the calories.

You owe it to yourself to make this at least once – Enough said.

Photo by The Professor
Photo by The Professor
Photo by The Professor

Thomas Keller, ad-hoc at home

Basic Pie Crust for 2-crust pie, chilled

1 cup 1/2-inch pieces red-skinned potatoes
1-1/4 cups 1/2-inch pieces carrots (cut on the diagonal)
12 white pearl onions (NOTE:  it’s not necessary to blanch and peel first since you will be peeling/cutting later in recipe)
3 bay leaves
3 fresh thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns
1-1/4 cups 1/2-inch pieces celery (cut on the diagonal)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used leftover roasted chicken from previous night’s meal)

BECHAMEL (just a fancy name for a ‘white sauce’ so no need to get wigged out)

3 tablespoons (1-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk (slightly warmed – helps to eliminate any potential lumps)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (fresh is a must here)
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme (fresh is a must here)
pinch of cayenne (start with less and add to your taste – you want just enough kick without blowing your head off!)

1 egg, beaten

Roll out the dough, place one piece in a 9 or 10-inch pie plate and the second on a baking sheet, and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 1 day.  (If the crust is not given time to rest, it will shrink as it bakes – this is important folks!!)

Put the potatoes, carrots, and onions in separate small saucepans with water to cover and add 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig and 8 peppercorns and a pinch of salt to each pan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain the vegetables, discard bay, thyme and peppercorns, and spread on a baking sheet.  Cut the onions in half.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water.  Blanch the celery until just crisp-tender, 1 to 1-1/2 minutes.  Drain, transfer to the ice bath, and chill until just cold.  Drain and add to the baking sheet with the other vegetables.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust the heat as needed so that the mixture does not brown.  Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 30 to 40 minutes; move the whisk over the bottom and into the corners of the pan to be sure the bechamel doesn’t burn.

Position the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven , preheat the oven to 375°F.

Strain the bechamel through a fine-mesh strainer into a spouted measuring cup (this removes any possible lumps as well as any skin that may have formed).  Season with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Remove both doughs from the refrigerator.

Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell.  Pour the bechamel over them.  At this point, if the top crust is too hard to shape, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes.  Moisten the rim of the shell with some of the beaten egg.  Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seaL Trim away the execess dough that overhangs the rim.  Brush the top crust with the egg.  Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with a small cutter or the tip of a paring knife to allow steam to escape.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich, golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the Center rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.

Cut the potpie into wedges and serve warm.  Serves 6-8


  1. With storm watch 2010 going on in Southern CA I can finally fill my chicken pot pie craving without getting weird looks. Until now though I didn’t have a good recipe so thank you!

  2. This is beautiful. I have leftover chicken, and might try this tomorrow.

  3. This is a keeper! I think that I will use it the next time my daughter and bf are up-and double up!

    Thank you for the experience, Debra.

  4. This looks so good!

  5. Hi Jake ~ The video link is now live! I had inadvertently posted the recipe before I was finished with my video portion – my apologies for the confusion. And yes, Keller is an absolute MASTER at the details, hence his out-of-this world food. Thanks so much for stopping by and let me know what you think!

  6. Jake Swanson

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I love seeing the small details that Keller adds to basic dishes. However, I think the link to the basic pie crust is incorrect–it just sends me to a blank page.

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