6 min read

Upside-Down Chicken Pot Pie

I'm never eating crust again.

I recently discovered that making chicken pot pie filling is as easy as taking a nap. I love chicken pot pie filling, but I'm not really wild about pie crust*, so I've been trying to find other applications for the filling. So far, I've paired it with phyllo cups, sweet cornbread, and savory sage waffles. All of these combinations were great... but there were worlds yet to conquer.

Here's the thing. Apparently, pie crust is not, in fact, the original traditional casing for chicken pot pie. Apparently, that's some Northerner Bullshit, and I never knew different until my friend DongWon gave me a Very Stern Talking-To. But one day last week, before DongWon schooled me on Southern food traditions and the frozen food era, I took an "it's too hot outside and there's too much to do and I can't function right now" nap in the middle of the day. I woke up a half hour later, sweaty and disoriented, and some long-buried genetic memory of how chicken pot pie is meant to be eaten crawled out of a hole in my thinksponge, and it whispered:


*I know I am alone in not liking pie crust. It's one of my Wrong Opinions. I've made my peace with it and will argue my case to the devil himself when my day comes.

Upside-Down Chicken Pot Pie is a casserole-style dish that uses two pans and makes about eight servings. I'm going to share the incredibly easy version of it with you here, and if you want to complicate it by making things from scratch, go ahead and flex. I'll never know.

Here's what you need to do this the easy way:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups chicken stock (better than bouillon is my true love)
- Half of a bottle of beer (I used anchor steam, but you do you)
- frozen peas (I used about half a bag)
- frozen pearl onions (Also about half a bag)
- 3-4 ribs celery, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- A rotisserie chicken, ripped apart with your hands because you are a feral beast, wild and unstoppable, an apex predator; or, butchered and chopped with a knife, because you are evolved, elevated, and fearful of your own raw destructive potential
- A decent amount of fresh thyme, de-stemmed
- From the spice rack: Black pepper, ground sage, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, dried basil, dried oregano, whatever
- 2 tubes of biscuits, the labels of which should have words like "flaky" and "buttery" on them in terrifyingly aggressive lettering

The Butter Taste Knows Your Heart

Let's Make Filling

This is the part that's going to make people in your house start saying "oh my god are you making chicken pot pie???" They'll ask that question in tones of desperate awe, their eyes shining with hope, and then you can look at them with an enigmatic twinkle in your eye and say "sort of," and you can watch as the hope in their eyes turns to trepidation, and from there to fear, because they know your designs are great and alarming, and they will tell their friends that you are not to be trifled with.

First, make a roux. This is the kind of thing that people think is really hard and complicated, but actually it's super simple and once you get the hang of it you'll do it all the time just to wallow in how easy it is. Here's how you do it:
- Melt two tablespoons of butter in a big ol' pan over medium heat. You don't always have to use a big pan to make roux, but for this recipe, you should. Keep the butter moving so it doesn't burn while the water boils out of it. You'll know the water is finished boiling out when the butter has mostly stopped bubbling.

- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the butter as evenly as you can and stir the two together FAST and MEAN. You don't want any clumps, so smash those babies out. Look, you made a roux!

- Keep stirring the roux over medium heat until it's the color you want. For this recipe, you want a gentle tan color, not too dark. For other recipes - say, recipes that use beef or red wine or human blood - you want a nice deep brown. A darker roux will have a darker flavor.

Add the chicken stock and the beer. Do it slowly because the pan is hotter than you think it is and a lot of steam is going to shoot up at you when you add liquid to it. Whisk this thoroughly to incorporate the roux into the liquid - it's going to act as a thickening agent that will turn that chicken stock into delicious gravy. There's a lot of liquid here, so it'll take a while for that to happen, and that's exactly what we want. (For other recipes, you can add whatever liquid you want and you'll wind up with a thick tasty sauce.)

Add the vegetables. The quantities I listed above for carrots, celery, pearl onions, and frozen peas? All approximations. If you like more carrots or whatever, it's fine, go nuts. I'll probably use a different balance of vegetables every time I make this, because variety is the only thing that keeps us from tumbling facefirst into the void. This is going to cool the pan off a lot, especially those frozen vegetables, which is good because you forgot to chop up the chicken and you need to buy some time.

Add the chicken, the thyme, and the spices. Whenever I make chicken pot pie filling, I don't add salt. I know that sounds bananas, but it never needs it - the chicken stock I use is already so salty, and the chicken adds additional salt. That said, your base liquid might be less salty than mine; go by taste. If you're going to add salt to this, do it after the sauce has reduced and thickened quite a bit, or you'll have regrets.

Let it bubble. Keep this whole thing at a very gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened into a nice velvety gravy. This is about the same amount of time that it takes for my oven to get to 375°.

Pour the filling into a glass or pyrex baking dish. I use a 9"x13" dish, which works out pretty well for me, but you can scale this recipe up or down at your leisure. There will be no consequences. You are like unto a god among mortals.

Top the filling with a single layer of biscuits. You're going to have a moment of uncertainty: surely the biscuits will soak up a lot of that sauce? Release your trepidation, friend. Live like you've never heard the word "soggy" in your life. The biscuits will definitely soak up a lot of that sauce, and their flaky layers will support that soaking-up-ness, and they will be delicious and crisp and fluffy and not soggy or gross at all. You want the biscuits to be pressed right up against each other, completely covering the filling.

Bake until golden-brown, about 20-30 minutes but you can check in after 15 minutes. Serve directly out of the oven.

You can serve just this and you'll have a very tasty, biscuit-centric dish, or you can be aggressively opulent and make a second batch of just gravy (roux + chicken stock, beer, herbs and spices) to pour over everything when you plate it. Making that second batch of gravy takes about the same amount of time that it takes for the biscuits to cook.

Good job

Variations: You can make the biscuits from scratch if you want. You can also roast a chicken from scratch. You can use fresh vegetables instead of frozen. You can make your own chicken stock. You can make the gravy thicker or thinner, depending on your preferences re: how much you want the biscuits to soak up. You can make a fuckton of filling to change the biscuit-to-filling ratio. These are all good and fine things to do.

Pursue your dreams. This world is yours to conquer. I believe in you.