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Deconstructed Garam Masala Chicken Pot Pie: An ethnic spin on an American classic

Deconstructed Garam Masala Chicken Pot Pie is served up with a puff pastry on the side at the McGinniss home. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Garam masala is a mixture of coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom and by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Maureen McGinniss' "Deconstructed" Garam Masala Pot Pie is served up piping hot. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

Over the years, my mom has made more delicious home-cooked meals than I could possibly count, but one of my favorites will always be her “Deconstructed” Garam Masala Chicken Pot Pie.

My parents and I came across this recipe through the Food Network. We always love watching TV together, and the Food Network is one of our favorite channels. We’re fans of “Next Food Network Star,” and one of the competitors in the fifth season, Jeffrey Saad, came up with a recipe for Garam Masala Chicken Pot Pie.

My family also has always loved Indian food, and so the idea of a chicken pot pie with an Indian spice twist immediately interested my mom. Garam masala is a mixture of coriander, black pepper, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. It adds heat and spice to the chicken gravy taste of a pot pie.

Usually, my mom buys garam masala at the Toucan International Market in the K-mart mall in Grand Forks, where they have it imported. My family agrees that this garam masala’s authentic Indian flavors make for the best dish, and it only costs $2.59 for seven ounces. But if you don’t think you’ll need such a large amount, Walmart also sells it for $2.38 for 1.73 ounces.

When my mom first gave Saad’s recipe a try, she found there were several aspects she wanted to change to improve it. She decided that chicken thighs were too chewy, and instead began using chicken breast. She also increased the amount of potatoes, although this was mainly due to our family’s preference.

And instead of putting the puff pastry on top of the pot pie filling, she decided to start serving it on the side. She tried two or three times to get the pastry to “puff” like Saad’s, but it never turned out, and it got soggy when it sat on top of the soup-like filling. Keeping them separate (hence “deconstructed”) was far more appealing.

As for the difficulty of the dish, it’s simple to prepare. The only potentially unfamiliar aspect is making the roux, a mixture of flour and butter used to make a sort of gravy. To make this, melt butter in a pan, whisk in flour and cook for one minute.

One of the reasons I personally love this recipe so much is because of how comforting it is. Chicken pot pie is already a classic comfort food, and the differences between the conventional and modified recipes only add to this. I’ll be going to college next year and cooking for myself, and though this recipe might be a bit pricy for a student, I know that it’ll be one I take with me even past college.

Deconstructed Garam Masala Chicken Pot Pie

2 tablespoons oil

1 20-ounce package of boneless chicken breast

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

2 to 3 shallots, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons salted butter

3 tablespoons flour

4 cups reduced sodium chicken stock

2 to 3 golden potatoes, peeled and cubed

½ cup frozen peas

2 tablespoons garam masala

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, slightly defrosted

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Season chicken with garam masala, salt and pepper. Brown on both sides until golden, about 5 minutes for each side. Remove chicken from pan to a cutting board to rest. In the same pan, add garlic, shallots and carrots. Sauté until golden. Remove vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Reduce heat to medium. Melt butter in the pan, whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes are mostly cooked but still firm, for about 10 minutes. Chicken stock will thicken to a sauce consistency. Chop chicken into chunks and add chicken and vegetables to pan. Stir in peas and simmer covered over low heat while working on the puff pastry. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and unfold puff pastry onto it. Cut puff pastry into 9 squares and separate each to have room to “puff” while baking. Transfer to oven and bake until tops are golden brown, for about 15 minutes. Spoon pot pie filling into bowls and serve with pastry squares. 

McGinniss is a senior at Red River High School. She can be reached at