Dinner Rush! Chunky Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

#FirstSnow That’s how I started one day this last week, watching pillowy white flurries dust my backyard. It’s of course too early in the season for any of it to stick for any length of time, but the magic of that moment had already taken effect. Only one thing seemed a fitting commemoration of a day I look forward to all year. It was to be a chicken pot pie kind of day.

I figure if I’m gonna do fatty comfort food, it’s got to be done right, which means making a rock-solid filling. I avoid using a nonstick skillet here because I want to develop fond (or as chefs call it, “flavor gold”). Fond is all that amazing business that builds up on the bottom of a pan when you’re sautéing something. As long as it stays nutty brown (blackened fond = “flavor kryptonite”), you’re primed to then deglaze the pan, which releases all that business and emulsifies it into your sauce. That fond-ation is what makes a sauce that’s been cooking for 15 minutes taste like a day-long affair.

Which is perfect for me, because I’ve got some snow watching to do.

Chunky Chicken Pot Pie

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks
Salt and ground black pepper
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine or sherry, optional
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted if frozen
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup dry aged cheese, such as dry Jack or pecorino

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil and butter. Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and add it to the hot skillet. Sauté the chicken until brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside, reserving the drippings in the skillet.

Return the pan to medium heat and add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine or sherry (if using), scraping the pan to release any bits stuck to its bottom. Add the chicken stock, milk, mustard, and tarragon to the skillet and bring the liquids up to a bubble. Add the reserved chicken to the skillet, season the sauce with salt and pepper and simmer it, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and transfer the filling to a medium-size baking dish.

While the filling is simmering, unroll the sheet of puff pastry onto a work surface. Cut a few slits through the middle of the dough and brush the surface with a thin layer of the cream. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the surface.

Carefully place the puff pastry over the baking dish (cheese side up), pushing the edges gently down into the dish. Place the pot pie on a baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbling and the crust is puffed and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the pot pie cool for 5 minutes before serving.

NOTE: There’s some opportunity here to fine-tune the filling’s consistency to what you like. If you want a thicker, more creamy filling then stick with the amount of flour written. If you prefer a slightly thinner, more chicken-and-dumplings-style filling (as I do and as the accompanying pictures show), cut the flour down to 2 tablespoons.

More Quick and Easy Dinner Recipes from Patrick Decker

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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