My first memory of chicken pot pie is from third grade, and all I can remember is carrots. Spoonful after spoonful of glowing orange bits lodged in a gloppy white sauce. Sitting at my friend’s dinner table, trying to be polite as I wondered whether or not this was the kind of food you’re supposed to chew.
It wasn’t pretty.
But I was still intrigued by the concept- a complete meal of chicken and vegetables steeped in a flavorful sauce, hidden under a gilded layer of pie dough. So I set out to make a chicken pot pie without the thick, tasteless white sauce, the soggy bottom crust that still tastes of freezer burn, and definitely without the carrots.
In fact, I changed the flavor profile entirely and decided I couldn’t really call this recipe “Chicken Pot Pie.” It has the same ingredients as Coq Au Vin- a traditional French dish made with red-wine braised chicken, lardons, mushrooms, garlic, and fresh herbs- but it’s baked in a cast iron skillet (or pie dish) and topped with a buttery crust.
Yeah, it’s a lot better than chicken pot pie.
And it starts with bacon. The salty, porky treasure gets heated in a pot until crispy, then mushrooms, onions, and garlic are left to swim in the savory pool of bacon fat as they turn golden brown. Chicken, wine, stock, and a hit of brandy go in next, along with a bit of flour to create a rich sauce.
That’s your filling, and you will be tempted to eat it right out of that pot. You might even take four tastes too many and not quite have enough to fill your pie pan. I’m not going to discourage that, but I would suggest a bit of patience- the butter is coming.
After you’ve transferred your pot pie filling into a 9-inch skillet or pie dish, you top it with a butter-streaked puff pastry or pie dough (preferably homemade) and bake it until the bronze crust glows like Odysseus prepared for battle.
Dig into the pot pie with a big spoon and serve it in bowls, topped with a bit of extra parsley. Add a dollop of crème fraiche if you’re really feeling like a Greek god. The creamy tang of crème fraiche against the savory richness of the pie filling is a dynamite combination of flavor and texture that I wish I didn’t know about.
It’s the time of year for hot, comforting food that lasts in your refrigerator all week as you chip away at leftovers. It’s the time of year to spend a bit more time in the kitchen preparing dinner on a Sunday, because it’s too cold to do anything else. It’s the time of year for all-butter pie dough.
As for the carrots, I suppose it’s the time of year for them, too. Here’s an idea: roast whole carrots alongside the pot pie, doused in plenty of olive oil, salt, and pepper. The two should be ready at about the same time, and will taste wonderful next to the pot pie. Everyone wins.
Coq Au Vin Pot Pie
Red-wine braised chicken, bacon, mushrooms, garlic, and fresh herbs, baked in a cast iron skillet (or pie dish) and topped with a buttery crust.
- 2 ounces bacon or pancetta, preferably thick-cut, diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, more for garnish
- 1 9-inch pie crust, chilled, or 1 sheet puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook bacon over medium heat in a heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven) until fat renders and bacon is crisp, 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a medium bowl, reserving the fat in the pan. Add mushrooms to the pot and cook until lightly golden-brown, 6-8 minutes. Season with pepper, then add onion and garlic and cook about 5 minutes until onion is translucent and fragrant. Transfer mushroom and onion mixture to the bowl with the bacon.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss well to coat.
In the now-empty pot, add olive oil and heat over medium. Add chicken pieces and any flour that remains in the bowl. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken pieces are golden and the flour on the bottom of the pot is browned, 10-12 minutes. Return mushrooms and bacon to pot, then pour in wine, stock, and brandy. Scrape bottom of pot, and let simmer about 10 minutes, until thickened. Taste for salt and adjust the seasonings. Turn off heat and stir in parsley. Discard bay leaf and transfer to a 9-inch pie dish.
Roll out pie crust to desired shape and size. Drape crust over filling, making a few slits or decorative holes on top. Tuck edges down around filling and brush crust with egg wash. Place on a baking sheet to catch any overflow before transferring to oven.
Bake until crust is browned and filling is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, at least 10 minutes, before serving with a big spoon. If desired, garnish each serving with parsley and a dollop of creme fraiche.
Draping puff pastry or pie dough directly over a steaming pot pie filling will result in a less-than-crisp, but still absolutely delicious, top crust. I found that the loss in quality was worth the improvement in ease, but if you've got the time I would suggest chilling the filling first, then draping the pie dough over and baking. Serve this with the wine you're putting in it! Preferably a hearty red wine like an (inexpensive) red burgundy.