Nobody remembers who first uttered the phrase “chicken parm pot pie” in the Takeout staff meeting. We do not remember how it came up, or how the words jumbled themselves together into something we began to chant in unison. We did not care how we got to that point; all we cared about was that chicken parm pot pie must become a reality posthaste. A cheesy, garlicky reality.
A good pot pie is very much like a casserole, but enclosed in a delicious pastry crust. To be a real pot pie, the chicken parm needed that crust, but pastry dough would make an already rich dish far too heavy. Then I had a thought that would make this recipe lighter, and also save me a significant amount of time: Instead of dipping chicken cutlets in egg, cheese, and seasoned breadcrumb before frying, I would mix the eggs and breading together to make a pressed crumb crust, like one would make with graham crackers for a banana cream pie.
Now that I’d managed to get out of frying stacks of chicken cutlets (I love them to death, but oy are they a production), I had to figure out how to make the chicken. You could buy a rotisserie bird—and if you want to do that to make your life easier I’m not going to stop you—but shredded chicken just doesn’t have the same heft as a substantial piece of thinly cut chicken that’s been cooked high and cooked hard. I chose boneless skinless chicken breasts and cut them into rough pieces a bit smaller than an inch, rubbed them with garlic, oregano, and salt, and then simmered them in a small amount of water to get that firm, slightly tough texture I love when gnashing my teeth through a fat, overstuffed hero.
I filled my breadcrumb crust with layers of shredded mozzarella, Parmesan, chicken, and garlicky marinara sauce, but still needed a top crust. I had originally dismissed the idea of using pizza dough because a recent trip to Labriola in Chicago had left me far too full of delicious deep dish to even think about dough, but once it had finally been digested, my brain reminded me that according to my roots, pizza dough is supposed to be thin and enjoyable. I rolled a ball of it as thin as I could get it, draped it over the top, brushed it generously with garlic butter, and baked that sucker until it was golden brown and my kitchen smelled like my favorite slice joint back in Brooklyn. This pot pie tasted exactly like pot pie is supposed to taste: like home.
For the chicken
- 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts — about 3 - 3.5 lbs
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
For the breadcrumb crust
- 2 2/3 cups plain breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 eggs
For the garlic butter
- 1/2 stick butter
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. minced parsley
For the rest of it
- 1 lb. pizza dough, homemade or store-bought
- 3 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought
- 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Pour about three cups of water into a large saucepan. Dice the chicken breasts into cubes about 3/4", put in the saucepan with the garlic powder, oregano, and salt, and smoosh everything together until the spices are evenly distributed. Add enough water to cover the chicken by about 2", then cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Crack the pot lid, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When all the chicken appears to be cooked through and can flake apart with a fork, drain off the water, then set aside.
Preheat the oven to 425. In a large bowl, whisk together the breadcrumb, cheese, salt, and spices. Use the microwave to melt the butter in a small bowl; whisk in the olive oil, then whisk in the eggs until relatively smooth. Pour into the breadcrumbs and stir well, until the breadcrumbs stick together when pinched (if they appear dry, add a bit more melted butter or olive oil).
Grease the inside of a 10" cast iron pan with a tiny bit of olive oil, just enough to give it a nice oily sheen, then begin pressing the breadcrumbs onto the sides of the pan to make a crust about 1/2" thick. Pour the remaining breadcrumbs on the bottom of the pan and press down well to make a firm bottom crust, then bake for 10-13 minutes until golden brown.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add the garlic. Cook for about two minutes until garlic becomes golden, then add the parsley and remove from the heat. Allow to infuse for a few minutes, then strain out the liquid butter, and put the garlic and parsley aside for garnish.
Cover the bottom of the pan with about 3/4 cup of mozzarella, sprinkle on some Parmesan, and then enough chicken to cover the bottom. Pour on about 1 1/3 cups of marinara sauce, then add more cheese. Repeat again with the chicken, sauce, and the remaining cheese.
Roll out the pizza dough into a circle a bit larger than the top of the pan, then use it to cover the pot pie, stretching it as necessary, and crimping it to the edge to seal. Use the back of a knife to make indentation lines into the dough like you were cutting a pizza, then use the tip of the knife to make small ventilating slit down those lines to perforate your dough. Brush well with garlic butter, then bake for 20 minutes until golden. Before serving, brush with the rest of the garlic butter, sprinkling on the browned garlic and parsley. Serve immediately.