Have you got any leftover chicken? Maybe you roasted a whole bird in your slow cooker or bought a rotisserie chicken at the store? Pot pie is a great way to use up any meat that remains after a big chicken dinner. If you really deepen the flavors in the sauce and replace that bland (and non-nutritious) pastry on top with delicious mashed potatoes, you can’t lose.
I love to make a version of this after Thanksgiving, incorporating leftover turkey, gravy, peas and mashed potatoes. But even without all the leftovers from the holiday, this still comes together in about an hour. Probably not a great option for a busy weeknight, but perfect for a Saturday or Sunday dinner. In fact, you can even cook the filling and topping separately in advance, and bring it all together just before dinner.
One trick that really takes chicken pot pie over the top (besides the upgrade from crust to potatoes) is the addition of some Italian sausage. It doesn’t take much to add a lot of flavor. Consider adding 1/2c to 1c of sausage to the chicken, or using sausage as a replacement for some of the chicken, depending on how much you have of each. This recipe is very flexible.
The addition of sausage is a tip I learned from my college boyfriend’s mother (it was in her mother’s signature recipe). And there’s no wonder why it has remained one of their family’s favorites for generations (and will become one of my family’s, too). Sausage takes chicken pot pie from: Yeah, that’s about what I expected, to: Wow! That’s chicken pot pie? No way? It tastes so good. Anyway, consider this a practice round for transforming your Thanksgiving leftovers into something delicious and totally brand new.
Time: ~ 1 hour
Yield: 6-8 servings
For the topping:
6 potatoes (I used Russet)
3T butter (or more)
1c milk (or cream, I used 2/3c milk and 1/3 c whey leftover from making yogurt)
Salt & pepper
For the filling:
½ large onion
2 large carrots
4 celery stalks
2T oil (canola or olive, or just use more butter)
½ c milk
2c broth (chicken, beef or vegetable)
¼ t celery seed
2c cooked chicken, chopped
1c (or less) cooked sausage (optional)
2c peas (frozen, fresh or cooked)
1. Peel and chop potatoes into 1 ½ inch cubes (roughly). Drop in a large pot and fill with cold water, leaving about 2 inches of head room in the pot. Add salt (if desired). Place on the stove and set heat to high. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Continue to cook until soft. It should take about 30 minutes, depending on how much water you use and the size of your potato cubes.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the onion, carrot and celery in a small dice. (Also cut the chicken now if you haven’t already.)
3. Heat the oil on medium-high in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. (For a time and dish saver, I used a low-sided oven-safe pan. After cooking the filling in it, I simply added the mashed potatoes on top and threw it in the oven.) When the oil is shimmering, add the chopped vegetables. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are clear and the carrot has lost most of its bite.
4. When the vegetables are done, take them out of the pan (or just push them off to the side if you’re comfortable with that), drop in the butter, cut into smaller chunks. When the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook 1 minute.
5. Stir in the milk and broth. Whisk until smooth, then incorporate the vegetables. Cook 5 minutes.
6. Add the celery seed, chicken, and peas and return to bubbling. Cook 10 minutes, or until heated through. (If you’re using fresh or cooked peas, give the chicken a head start and don’t add the peas until the last 3 minutes so they don’t turn mushy.)
7. When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water off and return them in their pan to the stovetop. Also, turn on your oven now and set to 350.
8. Add 3T butter to the potatoes and let it melt. (Turn the heat on very low if the residual heat of the potatoes isn’t enough to melt the butter.)
9. In the meantime, heat the milk (stovetop or microwave is fine). Once the butter has melted add the hot milk and begin to incorporate using a potato masher to smooth and then a spoon to combine. Work it gently and minimally to prevent it from becoming gluey. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling (either in the oven-safe pan you used to cook your filling or a greased baking dish). Dot with remaining butter. Place in oven for about 12 minutes. (More if you’ve had to break the preparation up in stages and your filling and/or potatoes are no longer hot.)
11. When the butter on top is melted and the filling underneath is piping hot, the pot pie is ready. To tell if it’s hot enough look for bubbles around the edges or stick a fork in the middle and then carefully test the fork’s temperature on your tongue. Serve up and enjoy! (BTW, if you used the same oven-safe pot to cook the filling and bake the pot pie, the food will remain hot longer, giving you time to set the table, rally the troops, drink a glass of wine, or whatever, before it starts to cool.)