Chicken Skillet Pie
One of the best winter dishes I can think of is a really good chicken pot pie. The buttery crust paired with the thick chicken broth and veggies is guaranteed to warm the soul.
But there’s a few problems with traditional chicken pot pie. Most importantly, it takes a while to make! Making the crust, rolling it out, fitting the little bowls, making the filling, baking. Definitely block off 2-3 hours if you want to make it right.
Second, and less importantly to me, is traditional chicken pot pie isn’t the healthiest thing on the block. It usually has a lot of butter and cream in it which is delicious, but maybe also diet-busting.
Enter the chicken skillet pie, which won last week’s poll! This guy has all the flavors of chicken pot pie, less fat, and shaves an hour or two off your prep time. It’s pretty much a win-win and the flavors are all still very solid.
Chicken Skillet Pie
Yield: Serves 6.
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 Cup buttermilk
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (only butter in the recipe)
6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds chicken, trimmed of fat. You could use breasts or thighs
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 red peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/2 Cup frozen peas
1/4 Cup half-and-half or cream
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley (optional)
2 Teaspoons fresh thyme (optional)
Salt and pepper
1) For the biscuits, combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in wet ingredients until combined. Spoon mixture onto parchment lined baking sheet into 6 equal biscuits.
2) Bake biscuits at 425 degrees until they are set and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
3) Cool on a wire rack until needed.
4) To start the filling, add the flour to a dry pan and cook until lightly browned over medium heat, probably 6 minutes. Let flour cool.
5) Whisk chicken stock into cooled, cooked flour to create a slurry.
6) Add oil to an oven safe large skillet or dutch oven. Dry off chicken with a paper towel and season well with salt and pepper. Add chicken to hot oil and cook over medium-high heat until chicken is browned on both sides, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken from pan.
7) Add chopped celery, peppers, onions, and carrots to skillet and cook until they start to get soft, about 8 minutes. Stir frequently and use the veggies to scrape up some of the stuff stuck to the pan.
8) Add thyme (opt.) and garlic to pan and cook for another 30 seconds.
9) Add slurry and bay leaves to pan and stir to combine. Then set chicken pieces back in the pan. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes until chicken is done. Remove chicken and shred it when you can handle it.
10) Let sauce and veggies simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until sauce thickens, another 6-7 minutes probably.
11) Once sauce is thick, stir in spinach and cook until wilted.
12) Stir in shredded chicken, peas, and half-and-half. Once well combined, set biscuits on top of filling around the edges of the pan.
13) Bake at 425 until filling is bubbling and biscuits are nicely browned, probably another 10 minutes.
14) Serve it up!
Adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe.
Looks like a lot of ingredients, but most of them are veggies and they’re good for you!
Let’s start with the biscuits though as they really made the meal in my opinion.
Making the Biscuits
Even if you’re trying to be super-healthy, you need some butter in biscuits. There’s no two ways about it. Some biscuits have a Tablespoon per biscuit (so 6 in this recipe), but this original recipe brought it down to 3 and I upped it to 4.
I thought mine were perfectly buttery. Besides butter, buttermilk also makes biscuits really good. You can substitute whole milk in a pinch, but buttermilk does make a really noticeable difference.
To make these guys, just combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and then whisk in your wet ingredients (buttermilk and melted butter). Stir to combine and then drop batter into 6 even-sized biscuits on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
The batter should be really thick and hold its shape.
Bake these at 425 degrees until the biscuits set and are just turning a light brown, probably about 10 minutes. Then let them cool off on a rack if you have one. They won’t be cooked completely and that’s good.
Making the filling
Normally, to make the thick sauce for a pot pie, you make a roux, which is butter and flour cooked together. It thickens liquids really well.
This recipe though involved a new technique that I was completely skeptical about, but it definitely worked. Instead of a roux, you just omit the butter and cook the flour and then mix it with the stock.
So start by adding your dry flour to a skillet over medium heat and cook it, stirring frequently, until the flour is a light brown color. It’ll take maybe 5 minutes, but keep a close eye on it.
Then let this flour cool for a few minutes and once it’s cold, whisk in your chicken stock. This creates a slurry which will thicken almost as well as a roux. It took me a bit longer to thicken the sauce, but the end result was about the same.
To start the stuff in the filling, dry off your chicken with a paper towel and season them all liberally with salt and pepper.
Add your vegetable oil to a large OVEN SAFE skillet (I recommend one with high sides). If you don’t have an oven safe skillet, you could use a dutch oven for this actually.
Anyway, add oil to your pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and brown on each side for about 4 minutes. The chicken won’t be cooked all the way through at this point, but that’s okay. Remove it from the pan when it’s well-browned.
Next, add the chopped carrots, celery, red pepper, and onion to the same pan. As the veggies cook, they’ll pick up any bits and pieces that are stuck to the pan.
Cook these until the veggies are starting to get soft, about 8 minutes.
Then add the garlic and thyme if you’re using it (I didn’t) and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
For the next step, add all the slurry to the pan and stick the chicken pieces back in. Stir this all together, add the bay leaves, cover it, and cook this for about 12 minutes on medium until the chicken is done.
When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan and set it aside to cool for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, let the sauce and veggies simmer uncovered for a few minutes so the sauce can thicken nicely.
When the chicken is cool enough to touch, shred it with a few forks or just roughly chop it up.
When the sauce is pretty thick (this will take maybe 5 minutes), then stir in the spinach and stir it until the spinach is wilted which will take probably 30 seconds.
As a last step, stir in the shredded chicken, half-and-half, and the frozen peas. Now would also be the time to taste for salt and pepper. It’ll probably need a pinch of both but if you use certain chicken broths they contain a lot of salt so you might not need any.
Just taste it and adjust to your liking.
Once your filling is stirred together, add the biscuits around the outside. The filling should be thick enough so the biscuits don’t really sink into the mix.
Return this pan to the oven and cook it until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are nice and browned, probably another 10 minutes.
Then serve it up! Obviously each serving should come with its own biscuit.
I was pretty shocked at how flavorful and rich this was considering there’s no butter in it. Sure, the little bit of cream or half-and-half helps, but for a dish with mostly vegetables and lean meat, it tasted really rich.
For me though, the dish is all about the biscuit. Mushing it up with a spoon and getting a bit of buttery biscuit and creamy broth is just amazing.
This is a dish that you can easily do on a week night (it took me about an hour) and I think you’ll really like the results.