06 December 2011

Chicken “pot pie”

So what is a "pot pie" in French? Une tourte? Un croustillant? Here's a take on it that I found on a blog called Croque-Camille. Camille is right: the Anglo-Saxon "pot pie" or "meat pie" is made up of classically French components: a flour roux, a pâte brisée, and a velouté sauce.

On Sunday we made a poule au pot — a "chicken in a pot" — inspired by Jacques Pépin and Julia Child (see Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home). That's a one-pot meal — a kind of boiled (or poached) dinner. It's a chicken cooked in broth with white wine, carrots, turnips, celery, potatoes, leeks, onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and spices that can include cloves, allspice berries, and black peppercorns. The result is a dish of moist, succulent chicken and vegetables, and several quarts of good chicken broth for making soups and sauces.

Chicken pot pie (inspired by Jacques Pépin)

The next day, the chicken broth can serve as the base for a velouté sauce, which is a white sauce made not with butter, flour, and water, and not with butter, flour, and milk (that's a béchamel), but with butter (or chicken fat), flour, and chicken broth. Enriched with cream, of course. Hey, Normandy is not that far north of Touraine. And the addition of cream makes it into what can be called a sauce suprême.

The pot pie is less photogenic, but more delicious,
after you cut into it.

Walt makes the crust — butter, flour, salt, and a little water. That's all. Sounds simple, but to me it's not. I make the velouté. It's a division of labor. And then somebody has to dice up all the leftover chicken and vegetables. You just put the diced matter into a baking dish, pour the saucy matter over it, and then lay on the pastry matter. Bake it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, and don't burn the inside of your mouth when you eat it.

One of my cookbooks (The Dictionary of American Food and Drink) says:

Potpie. Also "pot pie." A crusted pie made with poultry or meat and, usually, chopped vegetables. The term, which first appeared in American print in 1792, probably refers to the deep pie pans or pots used to bake the pies in, and it has remained primarily an Americanism.
I think a true American pot pie has both a lower crust and upper crust. We just do the upper. That's rich enough.


  1. Yum, yum! Sure doesn't look like the Swanson Pot Pie I made in the dorms and carried up 3 flights of stairs in the 1970's. Wish I were there!

  2. I wish I knew what a pie was in France... I haven't yet had that discussion with my neighbours but I make enough of them!

  3. Any pie. Savory or sweet. I am on it. But since it is the winter season, chicken pot pie is it!!
    Can't beat it made from scratch.

  4. I make a chicken and vegetables leftovers in velouté pie with just a top crust too. It just seems like the obvious thing to do, doesn't it. I've never heard the expression pot pie before though and I usually make a much shallower pie. I think the expression I would use for a pie like yours is 'deep dish' pie.

  5. Ooooh, the crust looks yummy and the contents does, too. Pot pie heaven!

  6. Cheryl- those Swanson pies were a cut above the Banquet ones that sold four for a dollar in the 60s.
    My Meals on Wheels clients had chicken pot pies on their trays yesterday- must be the season for comfort food. I like the looks of your pie, Ken. I need to remember to use a little white wine when I cook my chicken next time.

  7. How lovely that looks. One of
    our TV chefs, Ina Garten, has
    made a decadent lobster pot pie
    with fennel in addition to the
    usual veggies as well as a splash
    of Pernod. One wants to reach in
    the screen an grab a bite.

  8. The "pot pie" I grew up loving doesn't have crust either on top or on the bottom. The Pennsylvania Dutch use that term for a dish cooked with potatoes, onions, parsley, and either ham, chicken, or beef. Or squirrel or groundhog, for all I know.

    It's the consistency of a soup. You make a dough out of flour, eggs, and milk (some people add a little baking powder), roll it out not too thin, and cut it into squares. When the meat and potatoes are cooked you add the noodles to the broth and cook till done.

    That's Grandma cooking, eastern-PA style.

  9. That really looks a tasty pie. I've a recipe in "Floyd on France" called "pompe aux pommes" which is a standard double-crust apple pie of the sort Pauline's dad used to make. So is a "pompe" the name (or a name) for a pie?

  10. Hi Tim, I didn't know about the pies called pompes in French, but I just did some googling. The pompe is a rectangular apple pie with a top and a bottom crust, usually pâte feuilletée ("puff" or "flaky" pastry) but sometimes pâte brisée ("short" or "pie" crust). Pompes seem to be a specialty of the Bourbonnais (Montluçon, Vichy) and the Auvergne (Clermont-Ferrand, etc.).
    Thanks for mentioning them; they are now on the list.

  11. Carolyn, that's interesting and sounds good. Wonder why it was called a pie, since there's no crust at all.

    Evelyn, yes, white wine. When in doubt, add more wine...

    Ladyjustine, a pie in France is called a pie, using the English term, or a tourte (two crusts) as opposed to a tarte (bottom crust only). See the comments on pompes just above too.

    Cheryl, H. Peter, Susan, Judy, Sheila, Jessi, thanks for the comments.


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