Thursday, December 8, 2011


"Potpie... a crusted pie made with poultry or meat, and, usually chopped vegetables. The term, which first appeared in American print in 1785, probably refers to the deep pie pans or pots used to bake pies in, and it has remained primarily an Americanism. The most popular pot pies have been chicken, beef, and pork. The first frozen pot pie was made with chicken in 1951 by the C.A. Swanson Company." - Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani

Growing up, my family wasn't particularly into canned foods or frozen TV dinners but we did usually have two staples in the kitchen - Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and Banquet's Pot Pies. When you think of either, you immediately think comfort food. And I guess that's part of the reason my dad served it to us. Chicken noodle soup wasn't served for lunch or dinner in our house, Campbell's soup was breakfast on cold blustery mornings before he hustled us off to school. And even though Dad must have served us pot pies regularly, I seem to remember them as treats for special occasions. Maybe because they came with flaky crusts we kids automatically associated with desserts. As an adult I became more selective with what I was willing to eat, and most frozen items fell to the bottom of my list. Occasionally, I'd think of those Banquet pot pies of my childhood and wander down the frozen food aisle. But I always managed to pass them by.

Recently, I had a craving for chicken pot pie. A constant craving that wouldn't go away. And sometimes, you just need to give in to it because nothing else will satisfy it. And because I happen to have left-over pie dough, I decided to make chicken pot pie from scratch. I asked myself, when you think of comfort food which chef comes to mind? Of course, the only answer is Nigella Lawson. The below recipe is an express version of her Chicken Mushroom and Bacon Pie. Now, I'm a huge fan of bacon so I didn't have to think twice if this recipe was for me. And true to her word, total prep and cook time was exactly 30 minutes. Quick and delicious - sold! The end result was absolutely scrumptious and worth the effort.

But sometimes, when you're tired, in a hurry, and can't be bothered, frozen pot pie isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Banquet brand kicked off in 1953 with the introduction of their frozen meat pies. And although there are many brands to choose from these days, Banquet is the one brand I'm guaranteed to find in any grocery store across America. I recently tried one, and honestly, there's no comparison to homemade but in a pinch, they're not bad. Each bite brings me closer to the past and my childhood, and that's not a bad thing. In fact, I'd say it's a darn good thing.

Nigella Lawson's Chicken Mushroom and Bacon Pie
(2 servings)
3 rashers streaky bacon, cut or scissored into 1-inch strips
1 tsp garlic infused oil
2 cups chestnut mushrooms, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
8 oz chick thigh fillets cut into 1-inch pieces
2 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cups hot chicken stock
1 tbsp Marsala
1 (13-oz) 9 x 16 inch sheet all-butter ready-rolled puff pastry
  1. Preheat the oven to 425º F. Fry the bacon strips in the oil until beginning to crisp, then add the sliced mushrooms and soften them in the pan with the bacon.
  2. Turn the chicken strips in the flour and thyme (or toss in freezer bag), and then melt the butter in the pan before adding the floury chicken and all the flour left in the bag. Stir around with the bacon and mushrooms until the chicken begins to color.
  3. Pour in the hot stock and Marsala, stirring to form a sauce and let this bubble away for about 5 minutes.
  4. Make a pastry rim for each of your pots for the pies by curling 1/2-inch strips of pastry around the top of the pots. Dampen the edges to make them stick.
  5. Cut a circle bigger than the top of each pie-pot for the lid, and then divide the chicken filling between the two.
  6. Dampen the edges again and then pop on the top of each pie, sealing the edges with your fingers or using the bottom of a fork.
  7. Cook the pies for about 20 minutes, turning them around half way through cooking. Once cooked, they should puff up magnificently.

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