Growing up I never really had a homemade pot pie of any kind. We had the frozen version a few times, but making pot pie from scratch just wasn’t a thing that happened in our house. I actually was okay with that because the frozen ones had not left a good taste in my mouth. As an adult I have entertained the idea of making a vegetable pot pie with a flaky golden crust, but sadly have never followed through.
If I had to pin point the one part of the pot pie making process that really stresses me out it’s the pastry dough, pair that with my husband’s complete and total lack of enthusiasm about a creamy vegetable stuffed pie and you have enough reasons for me to avoid making it all together. Is there anything worse than slaving over a dish only to be met at the kitchen table with turned up noses and preconceived notions about the fruits of your labor? I think not.
I however am a girl that faces a food challenge head on, especially when my family members turn up their noses at merely the mention of a dish that I have never even attempted. A few weeks ago, when I accepted my husband’s unintentional “pot pie challenge” I knew that it would have to be a good one to win him over. I immediately scrapped the idea of making a pie crust, it just scares me, and instead opted for a family favorite: polenta.
When brainstorming ideas for the filling to my pot pie I decided to avoid the typical cream-based veggie filling and substitute my family’s favorite slow cooker chili recipe. Making a traditional pot pie takes a lot of time and effort, but this one can be started in your crockpot in the morning and then completed in as little as 30 minutes in the evening. Hello, simple pot pie! I have made 2 versions of this pot pie already; one where the polenta is baked on top of the chili in the oven and one where the polenta is allowed to set then grilled before being placed on top of the filling. My kids are in favor of the milder flavored baked version, but Todd and I gave the smoky flavor of the grilled version our vote.
Either way, this dish is a winner! Your family will love you and this Tex-Mex version of traditional pot pie.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- ½ poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 (15.5 ounce) can northern beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15.5 ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15.5 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1½ cups vegetable broth, preferably homemade
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and poblano pepper, and cook until the onions are beginning to turn translucent and the peppers are slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute. Stir in the tomato paste and the chili powder and cook for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and pour the onion/pepper mixture into the bowl insert of a 4-6 quart slow cooker.
- Add the fire roasted tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine then cover and cook on low for 7 - 8 hours.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the polenta. Continue to whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers, olive oil, cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta is very thick, about 3 minutes more.
- Baked Polenta Pot Pie:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and ladle in the chili about half way up the side of the dish.
- Complete the steps above for the polenta and gently scoop on top of the chili. Use a spatula to work the polenta to the edges of the baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan, to catch any drips or spills, and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the chili is bubbling around the edges and the polenta is golden brown. *I like to turn my broiler on the last 3-4 minutes to get a really crisp topping.
- Grilled Polenta pot pie:
- Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Complete the steps above for the polenta then pour into the prepared baking dish, smooth over the top with a rubber spatula; the polenta should be about ¾-inch thick. Allow the polenta to rest for 15-20 minutes so that it solidifies.
- While the polenta rests determine what size polenta "tops" you will need for the chili pot pie. I use individual cast iron bowls, so I simply used a round cutter that was slightly smaller than the mouth of our bowls. Alternatively, you can cut the polenta into squares with a knife that will sit neatly on top of your chili.
- Preheat a grill pan until very hot, cut the polenta into desired shapes and sizes, then lightly brush each side of the polenta with olive oil. Place the polenta onto the preheated pan and grill for about 3 minutes per side, or until nice deep grill marks have formed.
- Place the grilled polenta cakes on top of piping hot chili and serve immediately.
For a vegan option, top polenta pot pies with roasted poblano cashew cream, fresh chopped cilantro, and homemade pickled peppers as pictured.
If you eat dairy this is also delicious topped with pepper jack cheese and a dollop of sour cream, fresh chopped cilantro, and homemade pickled peppers.