TND – February 19th = Phyllo need not apply

March 8, 2013

Dinner - February 19

Chicken Pot Pie
Green Beans

I watched a cooking show the other week that ‘lightened up’ chicken pot pie by replacing the traditional crust with phyllo dough.  Now, I like phyllo dough, but that doesn’t mean I think it has any place on top of a traditional American chicken pot pie (a Middle Eastern b’stilla is a whole different story, but that’s also a whole different kind of chicken pie).  Within the confines of understanding that what you put on top of a pot pie needs to be starchy and comforting – phyllo is too pointy to be comforting – I’m flexible about how you want to top your chicken pot pie.  You could use a puff pastry lid.  You could roll out a traditional pie crust.  You could throw caution to the winds and make the America’s Test Kitchen savory crumble topping that calls for ¾ cup of heavy cream and 6 Tbsp of butter (I tried, but just couldn’t bring myself to do that).  You can do what I did and turn it into a cobbler kind of affair and top it with buttermilk biscuits.  Just not phyllo, okay?  There’s a time and a place for phyllo (spanakopita, baklava, wee cups to serve hors d’ouevres), but chicken pot pie isn’t it.

That said, chicken pot pie is a very adaptable kind of dish.  You can mix and match ingredients to suit your personal tastes, mood, or what’s in your fridge that needs to be used.   Don’t like carrots?  Use fewer (or skip them all together).  Like mushrooms?  Add more (I always err on the side of more mushrooms and fewer carrots).  Want to sneak more vegetables into your diet?  Throw some green beans or broccoli into the mix (I loathe overcooked green beans, so I extricated them from the pot pie and served them on the side where they could be nice and crunchy – if you use broccoli, just make sure you cut the florets fairly small so that everything in your pot pie is about the same size).

Some people add potatoes or butternut squash to their chicken pot pies.  This always seems like a wildly redundant presence of starch in my pot pie given that I’m going to be topping it with flaky buttery biscuits, but your mileage may vary.  I’ve even seen recipes that call for you to add hard boiled eggs to your pot pie, but frankly that’s just weird.

This is how I like my pot pie – heavy on the mushrooms, light on the carrots, creamy and comforting, without being over the top rich (if you want that kind of pot pie – substitute some form of cream for the milk).

Chicken Pot Pie
(serves 6)


filling - Feb 19
Olive oil
3 bone-in chicken breasts
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3-4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
8 oz pearl onions, defrosted & allowed to drain on paper towels
1 lb mushrooms, sliced thin (cremini, white, a combination, whatever you like)
8 oz frozen baby peas
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp soy sauce
4 ½ Tbsp butter
4 ½ Tbsp flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups milk
2-4 Tbsp white wine (enough to deglaze a pan & flavor a sauce – you could also use sherry)

Rub chicken breasts with a little olive oil/salt/pepper.  Roast in a 375 oven until cooked through (about 35-40 minutes).   Allow to cool, then remove the skin and shred the meat off the bone – you need about 4 cups shredded meat.

Saute the defrosted pearl onions in a little olive oil until they have started to brown/blister in places.  You’re looking for them to pick up color and draw out some of the moisture (about 5 minutes).  Remove and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan and then saute the carrots until browned & softened (about 5 minutes).  Add to the reserved onions.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan and then sauté the mushrooms (I did this in two batches so I could be sure I’d get a decent browning on the mushrooms and not just have them steam) until they have released their juices and browned (this is important, because you want them to lose their water now, not later in your sauce).

Add the garlic and thyme to the mushrooms in the pan and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Add the tomato paste and soy sauce to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant (I know these sound like weird ingredients in tiny quantities, but they add this nice umami depth to the filling without tasting like either tomato paste or soy sauce – kudos to America’s Test Kitchen from whom I stole the idea).

Return the onions and carrots to the pan and stir to make sure everything is evenly coated in seasoning.  Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine (or sherry, or chicken stock), scraping to get all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Mix the chicken into the vegetable mixture.

Either in the same pan, or in a different pot if you want to multi task, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour to form a paste.  Cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown, stirring constantly.  Stir in the chicken stock and milk.  Over a low heat cook until thickened (anywhere from 10-20 minutes), stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn/stick – there’s enough chicken stock in here that it’s a very forgiving white sauce.  Season to taste with salt/pepper/white wine.

Add the vegetables (including peas) and chicken to the sauce and stir to combine.  Pour into a casserole dish (for extra insurance place the casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet in case anything bubbles over) and top with biscuits (recipe below).  Bake in a 400 oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly.  Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving (mostly so you don’t burn your tongue).

The filling (minus the peas) and the sauce can both be made a day in advance.  I’d recommend reheating the sauce and filling together on the stove top before placing it in the casserole dish because I find that 20-30 minutes in the oven isn’t quite enough time to get everything hot when it’s coming directly from the fridge.

Biscuit Topping

pot pie - Feb 19
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
(generous) ¼ tsp salt
3/8 cup parmesan + a little extra for garnishing
6 Tbsp butter
1-1 ½ cups buttermilk

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the parmesan.  Mix in the buttermilk with a light hand.

Turn dough out onto a floured board and pat/roll about ½” thick.  Cut into whatever shape you desire and place on top of the pot pie filling, reroll the dough until you’ve used all of it.

Brush the tops of the biscuits with a little milk, and garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan and some freshly grated black pepper.

If you end up with more biscuits than surface area on your pot pie just bake them separately.  If your house is anything like mine, extra biscuits will never go to waste.  I got 11 large biscuits out of my dough – you’ll get more or less depending on how large you cut your biscuits.


One comment

  1. […] Follow the yellow brick road (err, link) for recipes […]

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