Q: Is there any way to indulge in my favorite cold-weather treat—chicken pot pie—without going whole hog? I realize the crust and gravy are probably the caloric culprits, but the rest of it—white-meat chicken and vegetables—can’t be that bad, right?
A: Chicken pot pie gets its creamy, gravy-like consistency from a roux, traditionally made by cooking as much as 6 tablespoons of butter together with an equal amount of flour. If you simply add flour to broth to thicken it into a gravy, it will have a raw flavor and clump. But because the flour in a roux is cooked, it has a nutty, appealing flavor and mixing it with butter allows it to blend easily into the broth for a smooth, rich-flavored gravy.
How could we lose the fat—but none of the benefits—of a roux? To make our pot pie leaner, we omitted the butter from the roux completely. Instead, we toasted the flour in a dry skillet until fragrant and golden; the toasting lends a nice, roasted flavor and a little color to the sauce as well. We then allowed it to cool before mixing it with the broth for a flavorful, but lightened, lump-free gravy—you can stir toasted flour into a liquid without it clumping.
And instead of sporting a heavy, flaky crust, our skillet pot pie takes a turn with lighter buttermilk biscuits that are parbaked in the oven, spooned on top of the cooked chicken-vegetable mix, and baked in one skillet.