Searching for a title this post proved to be quite a challenge. I could have called it Chicken Pot Pie with 3 startling ingredients. Or Chicken and Sausage Pot Pie. Or Chicken Pot Pie with Butternut Squash. But in the end, having discovered that I could make this exceptional version of one of my favorite comfort foods and have it on the table in a little over an hour, I stuck with a really pared down name. I am sure it doesn’t do complete justice to this creamy, vegetable-rich, tender chicken and sweet sausage-filled pie. I just hope that there are enough Chicken Pot Pie fans who will understand its allure. If not, perhaps I can up the ante by telling you that you can go ahead and buy Pillsbury Pie Crusts or Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets and cut even more time off the preparation. And I should add that you make the filling in a cast-iron skillet that goes straight from stovetop to the oven which eliminates a lot of clean-up. However, I draw the line with Bon Appetit’s advice that you can use Rotisserie Chicken because you’d miss what the sweet sausage does when cooked with the chicken. And then there’s the matter of the third surprise ingredient….sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut in a chicken pot pie.
I am always on the lookout for new ways with old favorites. This Bon Appetit recipe was certainly one of those. It looked wonderful as it sat there in its cast iron skillet with its perfect golden crust. I confess that I didn’t follow Rick Martinez’ recipe entirely. My main departures from the original: I like a chicken pot pie filled with meat. When I got my chicken home from the supermarket, I’d bought bone-in chicken thighs, solely on the basis of their price. The boneless, skinless thighs were $4.00 a lb. more expensive than their bone-in cousins. When I de-boned them, I didn’t feel that there was nearly enough chicken. I happened to have two Italian sweet sausages in the freezer so I broke these down and added them to my chicken to give it some heft, to say nothing of flavor. I also opted for cream in the cream sauce. The original called for milk so if you’d like, substitute milk for the cream. And I opted for Butternut Squash instead of Acorn and cheated a bit by buying a 12 oz. bag of Mann’s pre-cut Butternut Squash, about half of which I used. While I include the simple dough recipe which Bon Appetit’s writer described as ‘lightening quick, beginner dough’, you don’t live with a baker and attempt to make pie dough.
The other thing you don’t do, is to tell a professed pickle hater that you’ve gone and put sauerkraut, which is, after all, chopped cabbage pickled in brine, into anything he is going to eat. But the Bon Appetit writer, a woman named Elyssa Goldberg, called Sauerkraut her ‘new secret flavoring weapon’ because it ‘adds a little bit of acid and funk’ to the pot pie. I wasn’t sure about the funk but the truth is, it is ¼ cup of sauerkraut which all but disappears into the luscious filling. I wouldn’t leave it out. A jar of the stuff is more than would ever be consumed at our house. But I am fortunate to live right near New York’s Gray’s Papaya, a landmark that sells hot dogs loaded with onions or sauerkraut or both 24 hours a day. They were happy to sell me a small coffee cup filled with sauerkraut for all of $1.00. Please make this, you have no idea what you’re missing if you don’t. Here is the recipe including the instructions for the dough.
Recipe for Weeknight Chicken Pot Pie adapted from Bon Appetit
4 Servings Takes about 1 hour
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into ¾-inch pieces
2 sweet Italian sausages, removed from casing and crumbled
¾ medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more per taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more per taste
¼ cup sauerkraut
6 oz. Butternut Squash cut into ¾-inch pieces
1 Cup Heavy Cream
For the Pastry:
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup all-purpose flour; plus more for surface
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 large egg yolk
1.Preheat oven to 450°. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken and sausage, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, 5–6 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon. Leave any accumulated liquid in the skillet.
2. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in same skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and celery, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan until vegetables are beginning to soften, 6–8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add sauerkraut and cook until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to skillet and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. flour; toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 1 minute.
4. Stir in 1 cup cream and 1 cup water and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 10 minutes.
For the Pastry:
Meanwhile, cut remaining 5 Tbsp. butter into small pieces (it should be cold). Whisk 1 cup flour, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper in a medium bowl. Toss butter in flour mixture to evenly coat. Working quickly and purposely, rub butter into flour with your fingertips to create large, shaggy pieces of dough (the idea is to smash the butter into the flour, creating a mix of flat and thin pieces). Drizzle remaining 2 Tbsp. milk over and knead until dough starts to come together, pressing to incorporate shaggy edges (it will still look a little dry).
Beat egg yolk and 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl just to blend. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, waxed paper, or foil. Roll out to a 10″ circle, trimming any shaggy edges. Using parchment to help you, carefully invert dough over filling in skillet, covering it completely.
If you are using pre-made pie crust, simply place the pastry over the top of the skillet.
Cut 4 slits in dough to allow steam to escape and brush with egg wash.
5. Bake pot pie until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.