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A Pretty Pot Pie

Winter is a wonderful excuse to simmer something on the stove all day: You generate heat and make the house smell great.

Though I usually avoid pies of any kind because I’m terrible at baking, I’ll always summon the courage to construct a chicken pot pie at my husband’s behest. Any time you can make a man moan with pleasure just by using bacon fat, you should definitely do so.

This pot pie is a bit different in that I use a pate a choux dough to make gougeres instead of a premade pie crust. I have two reasons:  

1) Making one big pie is boring in presentation and messy to serve.

2) Premade pie crust can get soggy on the bottom.

So, I made two giant gougeres (savory version of cream puffs), sliced them and filled them with the chicken mixture. The result is beautiful, crispy and a lot more fun. Don’t be scared by the gougeres; they really only take 5 minutes to make, then you just squeeze them out onto a baking sheet.

Chicken Pot Pies in Pate a Choux

Chicken Filling
½ bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 small white onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
4 tablespoons rendered bacon fat (or good quality butter)
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 cups chicken meat (breast or thigh), shredded
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Saute fennel, onion and carrot in bacon fat over medium high heat in a medium stockpot until browned on the edges, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken broth, lower heat to medium and cook until liquid is reduced by ⅓, about 45 minutes. Stir in sour cream and chicken meat, adding salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low until ready to serve.

Gougeres
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 cup Gruyere cheese, finely grated

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and lightly grease a medium baking sheet. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, water and salt. Bring to boil. Once butter melts, turn heat to medium and add the flour all at once. Stir mixture constantly for 3 minutes or until dough sticks together in a ball. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring to fully incorporate. Stir in the cheese, then pour into a plastic bag (grocery or zip-top) and squeeze to one corner.

Pipe two large mounds of dough with plenty of space between them onto the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 325 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly. Turn oven to broil, slice gougeres in half horizontally and broil cut sides until crispy and browned.

To Assemble:
Place bottoms of gougeres in large soup bowls and cover with equal amounts of chicken filling. Place tops of gougeres onto the chicken filling and serve. Pair with a Pinot Noir.

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