Week 5 - Comfort In a Dish
by Lynley Jones
Chicken Pot Pie
Growing up, chicken pot pie was always one of my favorite things to eat. At our house in Arizona, it came from the freezer section at Bashas', a little individual serving of chicken and veggies in a creamy sauce, wrapped in pie crust. I can't remember the brand name (Swanson, maybe?) but like every other pie I ate as a child, it was made by a corporation, not by my mother or any other person I knew.
I have no idea what the ingredients were at that time, or how much I would shudder - or not - at them as a mom today. In this time before microwaves, it came in a small metal pie tin, and I knew how to put it in the oven and heat it to bubbly goodness all by myself. Then I'd probably eat it in front of the TV, watching "I Dream of Jeannie" reruns on Channel 5. Good times.
To my ears as an American child in the '70s, the word "pie" generally meant fruit pie, or at least dessert. Chicken pot pie was the one exception I was aware of. It seemed so novel to have chicken in a pie, and I loved it.
Of course, the pie world is filled with savory flavors (in case you missed it, you can learn more here). And pie-baking isn't originally an American thing. Pies came to America from England, along with the language and her people. Once wheat farming was in full swing, our foremothers combined their English pie-baking skills with their American penchant for innovation to preserve and serve all manner of fruit in pies. But including chicken (or other meats) in pies comes from the old country.
Why "Pot" Pie?
I remember asking my mother this question when I first encountered chicken pot pie, and my takeaway from her answer was something about it being best to disregard the "pot" part and just think about the "pie" part. I still don't have a satisfactory answer for this, especially since as best I can tell, the term "pot pie" in England refers to pie filling served out of a pot instead of baked into a pie. So an English "pot pie" isn't actually pie at all!
American Pot Pie
In the United States, "pot pie" definitely means pie. In fact, if you want to convey the concept of a savory pie with a pastry crust to an American, you can explain it by saying something like "you know, like chicken pot pie" and they instantly get it.
So, what is a quintessentially American chicken pot pie? I humbly submit this recipe. It contains the veggies I remember from my frozen pot pies, little bite-sized pieces of chicken, and a creamy sauce. I've also included mushrooms as a nod to English chicken-and-mushroom pies, from whence American chicken pot pie probably derives (and because they are delicious).
Pictures From Cooking Class
Each week, I am honored to bring all this sophisticated deliciousness to local public school children. Check out the pictures from these cooking classes below.