From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Old-Fashioned Sunday Dinners
As homey as chicken pot pie sounds, this dish is a production. You’ve got to cook and cut up a chicken, make a sauce, parcook vegetables, and all the while prepare, chill, and roll out pie crust. We wanted to streamline the dish and get it on the table in 90 minutes, tops. And, we wanted a completely homemade pie (no prefab crust) full of tender, juicy chicken and bright vegetables.
To start, we swapped out a whole chicken for easy-to-poach chicken breasts—and we used the poaching liquid as the base of our sauce. But to boost the sauce’s flavor, we turned to a few ingredients rich in glutamates, naturally occurring flavor compounds that accentuate savory qualities. Sautéed mushrooms, soy sauce, and tomato paste did the trick, turning into caramelized fond that gave our sauce deep flavor. Sautéing the vegetables, a medley of onions, carrots, and celery, while the chicken rested, also boosted the filling’s flavor. (Later we’d add quick-cooking frozen peas straight to the filling to warm through).
For the pot pie topping, we replaced traditional pastry with a savory crumble topping, enriched with grated cheese and pepper. To increase the crunch factor, we baked the crumble separately from the filling, then scattered it over the pot pie and slid it into the oven to warm through. Minutes later, our homemade pot pie emerged bubbling, fragrant, and topped with a crunchy, flavorful crust.
This recipe relies on two unusual ingredients: soy sauce and tomato paste. Do not omit them. They don’t convey their distinctive tastes but greatly deepen the savory flavor of the filling. When making the topping, do not substitute milk or half-and-half for the heavy cream.