Poulet En Croûte Is The French Take On Chicken Pot Pie

"Poulet en Croûte" may translate to "crusted chicken" but, in actuality, the dish is a bit more involved than that. It boasts cozy chicken pot pie vibes but in a more elegant package. Both Poulet en Croûte and chicken pot pie marry hearty chicken and veggies in a creamy sauce. But, while chicken pot pie is an impressive comfort food that even beginner home cooks can make, its French cousin requires a more experienced hand to pull off successfully. 

Many French dishes are characterized by infamously involved prep, and Poulet en Croûte is no exception. Unlike the chicken-broth-milk sauce that adds moisture to an American chicken pot pie, the moisture component in Poulet en Croûte comes from rich, tangy crème fraîche. The other wet elements in the French comfort dish are white wine and cognac, which need to be flambéed to cook off the alcohol.

A typical chicken pot pie filling combines bite-sized mixed veggies, like corn, peas, and diced carrots, shredded chicken breast, and butter. In Poulet en Croûte, the chicken is chunked rather than shredded, and briny green olives add a kick of acidity. The profile is made more complex with fresh chopped tarragon, a licoricey herb popular in much of French cooking. It also uses shallots (compared to onions in the American version) and button mushrooms, making for a chunkier, more toothsome texture than the creamier soup-like filling of the American chicken pot pie.

Fire, flames, and different names

Both Poulet en Croûte and chicken pot pie are contained in a crust of puff pastry (aka pâte feuilletée in French), so store-bought pastry crusts work just fine to help cut down on prep time. Although, rather than crimped into a tart-like pie structure, the puff pastry Poulet en Croûte is sometimes folded into a pouch-like pocket with a decorative cross-hatch design of dough layered on top. Both dishes are cooked in a single casserole dish, though it isn't uncommon for American home cooks to make mini chicken pot pies for single-portion servings.

Perhaps the most notable difference between the two warming casseroles is that Poulet en Croûte is a double-meat dish. In addition to chicken, the white wine broth is also packed with smoky sauteed lardons. You might recognize the ingredient from another French classic, Boeuf Bourguignon. If not, lardons are a smoky, salty, pancetta-esque French cured meat from the pork belly or back. The ingredient is similar to bacon but comes cubed rather than cut into strips. Whether simple chicken pot pie is more your style or you're looking to switch up the game with dimensional Poulet en Croûte, both dishes are perfect on a cold winter day, and both are a great way to sneak more protein and veggies into your diet.