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James Beard's Recipe Box: Old-Fashioned Rich Chicken Pie



December 09, 2010


chicken pot pie Welcome to our latest guest post about recipes from James Beard’s American Cookery. Today we hear from Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine of Big Girls Small Kitchen. (You can read the guest post archives here.) Traditional American food is not always easy to define, especially when you live in New York, where ethnic restaurants and New American cuisine arguably reign. At first we think of diner food—omelets and grilled cheese and French fries—but aren't those of French descent? Hamburgers and hotdogs, perhaps, but aren't those from Germany? On a recent trip to the Mississippi Delta, we wondered if we had struck a true source of American food, but with the barbecue sandwiches came Delta tamales. We’re pretty sure those can be traced back to Mexico. Of course, America is a colony that has become a melting pot; it makes sense that so many types of cuisines have made their way into our diets and cooking, and we’re always eager to learn how. That's why we've loved James Beard’s American Cookery since we first got our hands on it. Turn its pages and a delicious history lesson ensues. The book has always inspired me to experiment. Beard shows us that a recipe’s history is often a trajectory of tweaks, which gives you permission to make your own without altering its basic character. But I tried my best not to do so for the Old-Fashioned Rich Chicken Pie on page 213. In the introduction to the “Chicken Pie” section, James Beard notes that for best results you should have both the crust and the chicken mixture at a cold temperature to achieve a more unified dish. He also instructs you to eat chicken pies as soon as possible after baking. Honestly, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about something old-fashioned—chicken pot pie is not something I eat often—but I loved every bite of this. I also found that it reheated beautifully in the microwave, though the crust lost a bit of its crispiness. But it still made a great lunch, and I ate it for several days without getting bored. Not a bad dish to have in the fridge. Big Girls Small Kitchen is a website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. The Quarter-Life Cooks, Phoebe Lapine and Cara Eisenpress, offer accessible recipes, tips on entertaining, and kitchen strategies to help all home cooks of limited resources. Their upcoming cookbook, Big Girls Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes From Our Year of Cooking in the Real World, will be published by William Morrow in May 2011.