“Special Occasion” Chicken Thigh Pot Pie
Best made over two days, this bottomless pot pie features a crispy cracklin’ crust, tender dark meat, and a schmaltzy wine-enriched filling.
First things first: This is kind of labor intensive, so save it for very special occasions. It begins with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs—the skins are removed and fried until crispy, then chopped and added to an otherwise straightforward pie crust. The rendered fat is used to sweat aromatics that form the filling’s foundation, while the (newly skinless) bone-in thighs are gently poached to create a homemade broth—this in turn provides the filling’s structure. Shallots, carrots, garlic, thyme, white wine, and cream appear in supporting, but no less important, roles.
Those economies are borrowed from Chef Nong Poonsukwattana of Nong’s Khao Man Gai, where she uses them to make her famous Thai chicken and rice. Having made it myself—she very generously shared her full recipe—I’ll happily own that her techniques are what make this chicken pot pie different (better, imo) than any other.
I usually split the recipe across two days, because I prefer a series of bite-sized tasks over one gargantuan project. By frontloading the work, it really doesn’t feel that difficult:
Day 1: Fry chicken skins, make broth, assemble the pie dough, and mise* (prep) all the remaining ingredients for both filling and crust.
Day 2: Prepare filling, roll out crust, bake pie, and eat.
* “Mise” comes from mise en place, a universal commandment of professional kitchens—here, it means I gather, peel, and ready all the ingredients, pack them into deli containers, and label them so I don’t get confused or slowed down when it’s time to actually cook.
Chicken Thigh Pot Pie
6 cups water
1 ¾-2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 thighs), skin removed and reserved
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt
Reserved chicken skins
1 ¼ cups (155 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (14 grams) sugar
½ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
4-6 tablespoons cold water
Egg, for egg wash
3-4 shallots (4 ounces), peeled, trimmed, and diced, about 1 cup
3 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
2-3 carrots (7 ounces), peeled, trimmed, and diced, about 1 ½ cups
½ teaspoon dried thyme (I prefer Wild Greek Thyme Flowers from Daphnis and Chloe)
Kosher or fine sea salt
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup chicken broth, warmed
¾ cup heavy cream, warmed
2 ½ cups chopped chicken thigh meat
¾ cup frozen peas
For the broth
Add water to a 3 QT saucepan or saucier over high heat. Bring to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and add chicken, garlic, bay, sugar, and salt. Keep at a low simmer over medium heat (steaming, with just a few small bubbles here and there) for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Transfer chicken to a plate or cutting board. Once cool enough to handle, remove bones, cartilage, and excess fat, then discard. Roughly chop meat into bite-sized pieces, and reserve for filling.
Strain broth and adjust seasoning to taste. Reserve for filling.
For the crust
Meanwhile, lay skins in a skillet that’s large enough to avoid overlapping. Place on stove and heat over medium. Fry skins like bacon, periodically flipping, moving, and submerging in rendered fat to ensure uniform crisping. Once crispy, golden, and all fat is rendered, remove to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Leave rendered fat in skillet, off heat.
Dice crispy chicken skins as finely as possible and combine in a mixing bowl with flour, salt, and sugar. Whisk briefly, then chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Remove flour mixture from fridge and add cold cubed butter. Work in with fingers, smearing it into flat, floury coins, until flour mixture feels sandy.
Sprinkle 3 Tbsps. cold water over the flour. Using a fork, whisk water into dough. Add water 1 Tbsp. at a time, folding and whisking into flour mixture between each addition. Once the dough begins to come together, ditch the fork and begin folding dough over itself with your hands. This helps create flaky layers and ensures you don’t overwork it.
Form as much as you can into a rough ball. Don’t worry if sandy floury bits remain. Squish dough ball into a circle about ½-inch thick. Shape the dough into a rough disk, wrap in plastic, and let chill in the fridge while you make the filling.
For the filling
Place skillet back over medium heat. Once hot, add shallots, garlic, and carrots and sauté until carrots are a deep orange, shallots are translucent, and both are softened, 10-12 minutes. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon and reduce heat to avoid browning, if necessary. Add thyme, a pinch of salt, and freshly cracked black pepper Fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add wine and stir to incorporate, scraping up fond (browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan), then reduce 2-4 minutes. Once nearly evaporated, sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to combine. Continue stirring gently for another 1-2 minutes, until no raw flour remains, mixture is paste-like, and it smells toasted.
Slowly add warmed chicken broth a little at a time, stirring constantly to ensure your resulting filling is smooth, velvety, and properly emulsified. (Cold broth will prevent proper emulsification! Briefly heat it in a small saucepan if you stored premade broth in the fridge.)
Once all broth is added and filling begins to thicken, reduce heat to medium-low. Slowly stream in warmed cream, still stirring, and let gently bubble for a few more minutes until slightly thickened. Off heat, add chicken and peas.
Pour into a pie dish or other baking dish—at least 1.5 QT capacity—cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
For the pot pie
Preheat oven to 400F.
Remove dough from fridge and allow it to warm up slightly—this will increase pliability and mitigate cracking. Roll out pie dough to the size of your baking dish, plus an inch of seam allowance on all sides. It should be about ¼-inch thick. Remove baking dish from the fridge and transfer crust to top of the baking dish. Tuck the crust’s edges underneath itself and crimp it with your fingers (or press the tines of a fork along the crust’s edge to adhere it to the rim of your baking dish).
Beat egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush across the surface of the chicken pot pie, cut a few steam vents, and set on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet on the middle rack and bake pot pie for 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and you can see the filling bubbling through the steam vents.
Remove from oven, let cool 10-15 minutes, and serve.