A Chicken in Every Pot Pie

Recipes, Seasonal Foods
on February 14, 2006
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn

We’ve been so distracted by itsy-bitsy portions of nouvelle cuisine, low-carb spaghetti and convenience food, we’ve almost forgotten what good food is all about. Chicken Pot Pie, for instance, might not have an exciting ring to it, but it brings us back to culinary earth.

“Chicken Pot Pie is great comfort food,” says Michael Stern, who with his wife, Jane, has spent the last 25 years eating his way across the blue highways of the country.

In Connecticut, where Stern lives, farm wives sell individual two-crusted chicken pies filled with a sort of chicken hash but no vegetables or gravy. “Gravy is sold separately,” says Stern, “and the pies are filling.” But these pies are not what most people have in mind when they think Chicken Pot Pie.

Although there are probably as many versions of Chicken Pot Pie as there are cooks who make them, every recipe is a combination of chicken, vegetables, sauce and a doughy top. Southerners cover their pies with biscuits and New Englanders use pastry, but underneath them all is a wonderfully old-fashioned filling.

A good Chicken Pot Pie is not complicated, but it takes time. For cooks in a hurry, there are shortcuts. Canned broth can be substituted for homemade stock, leftover or store-bought cooked chicken can be used instead of a start-from-scratch uncooked bird, and frozen peas can be added without thawing. You can even skip the pastry and serve the filling over noodles or rice or even a piece of toast. It will taste fine, but it won’t be Chicken Pot Pie.

By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.