This weekend we had the first day of spring! In Minnesota, the beginning of spring is so slow that I like to call it “The Thaw.” The rim of the frozen lake slowly starts melting and there are patches of open water where the ducks gather. The rest of the lake stays frozen for about another month until the temperatures are consistently in the 50s and 60s. Snowstorms are common in March and early April, and the nights still have temperatures below freezing. Drizzles can be frequent during the day and mornings are misty in the forests. But before you know it, daffodils will soon emerge and take the place of snowdrifts, and we’ll be able to pack away our heavy sweaters and overcoats and delight in the springtime weather. My crocus and tulips are already sprouting, although no buds yet, and we finally have had a chance to see the grass peeking through the melting snow. I can’t wait to get back to the lake for some bike rides and lakeside walks, and to see the crabapple trees erupt into full bloom at the gardens by the lake. The spring makes us all come alive with energy and the sense of freedom that we Minnesotans only fully feel during the warm months of the year. The smell of the lake water, the fragrances of roses and evening bonfires all remind us that we no longer have to be trapped indoors by the winter, and that we can finally be outside for hours and hours every day.
I love spring, and I cannot resist turning to all things leafy and green to celebrate the change of season, and all recipe is just about that! It is full of herbs and springtime vegetables, and it’s an open invitation to pack a meal and eat it outside in the great outdoors. My husband loves, loves chicken pot pie, and so I figured it was high time I developed my own recipe. It’s quick to make, and it’s a hearty meal filled with all the flavors of spring. I wanted to scale the recipe so that it would be made in individual portions and figured that mini is mighty! Why not make mighty mini chicken pot pies?! And so this recipe is the result of packing a traditional chicken pie filling with leeks and fresh thyme in addition to carrot, peas, and onion. The filling is thickened by the classic technique of making a roux, and the resulting filling is creamy, rich, and savory, with the plus that it does not leak out of the pie crust. For miniature pies, no leaking is a must, because you’re working with small servings, so if the filling leaks out, you would be left with an empty pie shell. This recipe makes sure that doesn’t happen, and it’s a breeze to make. The miniature portions make them really versatile: eat them as a mid-morning snack, have them as lunch-on-the-go, pack them into school lunches, or tuck them into a picnic basket for a day outdoors. Besides, beyond practical reasons, aren’t these mini pies cute?
I made this one with store-bought pie crust this time, but you could also use your very own homemade pie crust recipe too. The important thing is to have a buttery flavor in the crust to complement the herbs in the filling. For the crimping technique, you could use the tines of a fork or a hand crimping technique like the picture above. Check out my Instagram account @prairieandpampa for a video that shows how to fold the pleats of the pie! A video is worth more than a thousand words.
So I hope that wherever you are, you are getting to enjoy the signs of spring and are getting ready to enjoy the nicer, warmer weather and all the greens and blooms that it will bring.
Springthyme Chicken Pot Pie
Prep time: 20 min.
Cook time: 35 mins
- ½ cup butter
- 1 ½ cup leeks (white part only, not green)
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 2/3 yellow onion, chopped
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup peas
- ¼ cup celery, chopped
- 4 cups chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- ¼ tsp dry thyme
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 pie crusts at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 400°F
- In a large cast iron skillet, melt the butter.
- Add onion, celery, leeks, spices, and carrots.
- Cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes.
- Sprinkle the flour and stir until thickened. It will look like a dense vegetable roux.
- After cooking the flour for 1 minute, stir in the broth.
- Heat the broth, stirring constantly to avoid mixture sticking to the bottom, for about 1-2 minutes. The spoon should leave a clear path at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the cream, thyme, and shredded chicken and fold gently with a wooden spoon to avoid mashing the filling.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- For a large pie, roll pie crust on the bottom of a clean, dry pie dish, gently brushing the inside of the crust with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water). Pour filling in the pie and place a top crust or create a lattice. For individual miniature pies, cut 3 1/2 inch circles, holding this mini circle of pie dough in one hand. Use your other hand to place about 2 tbsp of filling in the center. Grab another miniature circle and gently press the edges together to seal. Crimp the crust using a fork or by hand. You can see the technique for this on the video on my Instagram account! Place all the mini pies on a baking sheet covered with parchment.
- Brush outer crust with egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brown or golden.
- Let cool 15 minutes before serving.