A great chicken pot pie is the poster child for comfort food. A creamy, rich sauce, tender chicken, peas and carrots, and a golden, flaky crust—it checks all of the boxes. While going all out on this meal is totally worth it, and you should do it, sometimes it’s nice to have the satisfaction of the real thing with the ease and calories of a weeknight staple. If you’ve ever burnt the hell out of your mouth on a frozen pot pie that was warm on the outside and scalding hot on the inside, read on, because there is a better way.
We have talked about how much we love America’s Test Kitchen’s (ATK) The Best Light Recipe Cookbook. It does a wonderful job of taking classic dishes that may not be the best everyday meal options, and tinkering with the recipe until they land on something lighter, but more importantly, still delicious. Flavor is the key component that so many ‘healthy’ recipes fall well short of. As they are known for, ATK breaks down all aspects of a recipe, identifying what can’t be messed with and where there is room for modifications. Their recipe for chicken pot pie is a perfect example of this.
A golden, flaky crust and a thick filling are a must for any pot pie. This is non-negotiable. Rather than relying on butter and flour for the filling, this pot pie makes use of half and half mixed with cornstarch. As far as the crust, ATK arrived at using a buttermilk biscuit topping that cuts down on the butter (we cut that down even a bit more), but still yields a tender reminder of a full crust.
Rather than relying on fattier chicken thighs as you often find in a pot pie, here we use chicken breast poached in the simmering sauce. This method, along with a good thermometer, produces juicy chicken that’s shredded or cubed into the pie. Add in your traditional vegetable mix, and you have a delicious, lower calorie version of a classic. Note that we or ATK have nothing against fat in using less butter or leaner chicken. Sometimes it’s just the best way to drop calories if your energy budget is tight. Again, as long as it still tastes great, we don’t care where that reduction comes from.
Now, if you’ve read our About Us page, you know we love protein and filling up on vegetables. We love protein so much (if you’re wondering why, we have an article about that) we added a bit more chicken to this recipe. And because veggies are so good for you and great to fill up on, especially if you are trying to lose weight, we bumped up the carrots and celery as well.
We’d rather not mess with a delicious dish. For many of us, though, occasionally our health goals necessitate making some modifications to what and how much we eat. That’s no reason to not enjoy dinner time with your family, or catching up with friends over lunch, and this simple dish is a good example of that. Enjoy!
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
5 stalks celery, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
¼ cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken broth
4 bay leaves
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup half and half
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup peas
¼ chopped parsley
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup buttermilk
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 425 degrees.
- Set a dutch oven on the stovetop over medium heat and coat bottom with spray oil.
- Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and dried thyme to the dutch oven. Cover and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in white wine, chicken broth, and bay leaves, and bring to a simmer.
- Place the chicken breasts into the dutch oven, bring to a simmer again, reduce heat, and cover. Cook the chicken breasts to 150 degrees, or until they are no longer pink in the center.
- Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Return the sauce to a simmer.
- In mixing bowl, stir the half and half into the cornstarch, creating a slurry.
- Slowly stir the slurry into the simmering sauce, and continue whisking until thickened, 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Discard the bay leaves. Stir in the peas and parsley.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred or chop coarsely, and mix into sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and pour mixture into a 13x9 inch baking dish.
- For the biscuits, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Separately, stir the buttermilk into the melted butter.
- Slowly pour the butter/buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, mixing with a rubber spatula until no pockets of dry flour remain.
- Pinch off six equal pieces of biscuit dough. Form into round biscuits. Place on top of the hot filling mixture, evenly spaced apart.
- Bake in the oven until biscuits are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Canned or frozen peas work great in this recipe.