This recipe was inspired by a “cream” sauce that I created for a recipe in The Paleo Approach Cookbook. Similar to this recipe, the sauce uses cauliflower blended into broth with some herbs to create a thick creamy and delicious sauce. That recipe has ended up being one of my favorite dishes in the whole book. When I first tasted that sauce, my brain flooded with ideas for other dishes I could bring this technique to, top among them Chicken Pot Pie…
Chicken Pot Pie wasn’t a meal my mom made very often when we were kids, but whenever I had the opportunity to have it, I enjoyed it. Chicken Pot Pie is a wonderful way to reinvent chicken or turkey leftovers. I always roast two chickens at once, and this is an awesome alternative to eating the same meal as leftovers for 4-5 nights! This recipe calls for cooked, leftover chicken, cut into pieces. If you want to make it from fresh chicken, simply bake the chicken for 350F until it reaches 160F (how long that takes will depend on how thick your chicken is and whether or not it has bones, or is a whole chicken, etc).
Classically made with a cream sauce, thickened with flour, and lots of potatoes, topped with pie pastry, there’s a few challenges to creating a paleo-friendly version of Chicken Pot Pie.
Even though I had a fantastic strategy to create a creamy sauce, I was still face with a major challenge: the crust. Until recently, I had yet to figure out how to create a paleo pie crust that could hold together well enough to top a pie (most paleo pie crusts are pinch crusts, where you form the crust right in the pie plate rather than roll it out and then transfer to the pie plate). Pie crusts are one of those things that I have never enjoyed making. I’ve never been particularly good (or patient) at making pie crusts, especially when it comes to topping pies. And I’ve always found making pie crusts to be annoying (at best). But, I still have experimented with different versions periodically over the last couple years.
I finally hit upon a pie crust winner a couple of weeks ago. The addition of a little starch to almond flour helps the pie crust hold together so much better, plus it improves the flavor and turns this crust from a vessel to a contributing member of the dish. It’s still a bit finicky and I admit that transferring the crust from parchment or a silicone mat to the top of this pot pie was a little harrowing, but it held together well enough that even I (who has very poor pie pastry skills) was able to make it look pretty good.
Substitutions: I always get asked about substitutions. I think that any finely milled nut or seed flour could substitute for the almond flour, but I have not tried (although I have plans to try one with sunflower seed flour over the holidays). I don’t think it would be easy to substitute coconut flour. I think that another starch like sweet potato starch or tapioca could substitute for arrowroot powder, but again, I haven’t tried. I can’t recommend any substitutes for egg whites, but if you try something, feel free to comment on this post and let people know if it works. You can be creative when it comes to vegetables for the filling though. If you enjoy peas or green beans in your chicken pot pie (and tolerate them well), then go for it!
AIP modification: This is delicious even if you skip the egg yolks in the sauce (that’s really about not wanting to throw out the nutrient-rich egg yolks leftover from making the crust) and just go for a crustless version.
This makes 6-8 servings.
Ingredients (cauliflower sauce):
- 1 small head cauliflower (5-6 cups florets)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 egg yolks (leftover from making crust, optional)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- Simmer cauliflower and whole clove of garlic in broth in a medium saucepot until cauliflower is soft (about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the florets).
- Place cauliflower, broth and garlic in a blender and blend on high for a minute or two until smooth (careful! best to put a tea towel over the top just in case…)
- Temper the egg yolks. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl. While whisking, add a little of the hot pureed cauliflower. Then place the tempered yolks back into the blender and blend again for a minute to incorporate.
- cauliflower sauce
- 4 cups chicken pieces, cooked (or substitute turkey) (if you’re using fresh chicken, that’s about 2-2.5 lbs)
- 3 large carrots, cut into 1/2″ pieces/rounds
- 4 celery stalks, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 large or 2 small onions, diced
- 3 cups rutabaga, 1/2″ cubes (you could also use, turnips, radish, kohlrabi or a mix)
- 1 large green plantain, peeled and cut into 1/2″ or slightly smaller cubes (or substitute parsnips or sweet potato, or 2 more cups of rutabaga)
- 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
- 3 Tbsp lard (or other favorite cooking fat)
- Heat lard over medium-high heat in a very large frying pan or small stock pot. Add onion, celery, carrots, and rutabaga. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are cooked al dente, about 20 minutes.
- Add plantain and chicken and cook until both are heated through and plantain is starting to soften, about 7-8 more minutes.
- Remove from heat. Stir in cauliflower sauce. Taste and make sure it’s adequately seasoned. Stir in additional salt, if needed
- Combine all ingredients and work together to form a dough with your hands.
- Channel your inner playdough-loving self, and press into a large rectable about 3/8″-1/2″ thick on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat. This is a little easier if your dough is cold. You’re aiming for your rectangle to be the same size or slightly longer than the size of your casserole/lasagna dish. If you make the crust in advance, you can place the dough in the fridge and then press it out when you’re ready, or press it out in advance and then place your whole silicone mat in the fridge until you’re ready.
To put the whole thing together:
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Pour the filing into a large rectangular casserole/lasagna pan.
- Carefully transfer the pie crust onto the top. Trim around the edges with a knife and use any leftover crust to form decorations if you want (leaves are classic, but you can be as creative as you want here). Put a few cuts into the crust for steam to escape.
- Place the whole kit and caboodle onto a rimmed baking sheet (in case it boils over while cooking).
- Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Enjoy!