This shepherd's pie varies from the classic version in that it uses chicken instead of lamb (duh), but also in the potatoes. Typically, a shepherd's pie is topped with mashed potatoes. But in my experience, they often get dried out in the oven. This version simply tosses cooked potatoes in butter, salt, and pepper, then spoons them over the filling. An egg wash gives them a nice crispy top and pretty golden color, and I promise you this is world's better than dried out gummy mashed potatoes.
This was a huge hit with my whole family, and it's definitely becoming a new favorite in my house. As we hunker down for what is sure to be a long, cold winter, I'm happy to have this comforting, delicious recipe in my repertoire.
Chicken Shepherd's Pie
barely adapted from Cook's Country, December/January 2015
- 2 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 Tbs unsalted butter, divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tsp minced fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 Tbs cornstarch
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 Tbs water
Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat to 375 degrees F.
Pat the chicken dry and season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in an oven safe 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken in 2-3 batches, about 5 minutes per side, or until the chicken is well-borwned. Transfer to a plate and pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet.
Return the skillet to heat and add the onions, carrots, and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until they are just softening, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook an additional 30 seconds. Stir in the sherry and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 1-2 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the broth.
Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, skin-side up. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook until the chicken registers 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 12 to 14 minutes.
Remove the skillet from heat and use tongs to transfer the chicken to a clean plate. Once he chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with about 1 inch of water. Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a strong simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 10-12 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Return the pot to the stove and cook over low heat, stirring gently, until all of the water has evaporated. This will only take about 1 minute or so. Remove from heat and gently stir in remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Cover and set aside to keep warm.
Whisk the cornstarch together with 3 tablespoons of water. Return the skillet with the broth and vegetables to the stovetop and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture, and cook until the thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the peas, lemon juice, and shredded chicken, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon the potatoes over the entire surface of the filling. Brush the potatoes with the egg.
Bake in the oven until the pie is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Turn the oven to broil and cook until the potatoes are golden-brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.