ROBERT ST. JOHN: Chicken Pot Pie

By Robert St. John

Chicken pot pie might be the quintessential family-supper comfort food.
Some could make a valid case for pot roast or meatloaf. Others might cast their vote for beef stew. Healthier types would argue for baked or roasted chicken. Many Southerners would insist that fried chicken be listed at the top of the family-comfort food chain.
Not me, I am a chicken pot pie man to the core. It’s perfect – poultry, vegetables, piecrust. It’s hot, it’s silky, it’s a one-dish meal. Chicken pot pie is my go-to family comfort food.
Unfortunately, it’s a family of one. My wife will eat it if she has to, but my kids hate it.
To them, chicken pot pie is beef tongue, Brussels sprouts, and liver mousse wrapped into one dish.
Seriously, I would love to be able to write a column that states, “My family sits down to supper once a week and eats chicken pot pie while we discuss the events of the day, their stellar report cards, and the beauty of one-dish, chicken and vegetable-spiked comfort food.” You will never see that column. We are working on the report cards, the fight for chicken pot pie appears hopeless.
They hate chicken pot pie. It’s the thing I keep forcing on them, hoping one day it will catch on. I don’t know what there is to dislike. They like chicken, and they eat all manner of poultry. They aren’t chicken-strip kids. They eat their vegetables – they’re not the type offspring who never eat anything green. They certainly enjoy pie. “So what’s not to like?” I ask them.
“I just don’t like it,” one of them will reply.
They have fairly sophisticated palates. They haven’t led a sheltered culinary life. Years ago I swore I was not going to raise one of those kids who eats only fried chicken strips no matter what type restaurant they are in. Never.
We ate chicken pot pie for supper last week. My son just moved it around on his plate and then ate a bowl of cereal afterwards. We had chicken pot pie again last night. My daughter headed me off at the pass and had cereal before supper was served.
Who are these people who will turn down perfectly good hot comfort food for cold cereal? It must be their mother’s blood.
Half of the readers at this point are stating, “I know what I would do. I would make those two kids eat whatever I put in front of them.”
Hold your water, Polly Pious. Two things:
1.) Early on I learned it’s best to pick my battles. I feel it’s best to take a stand on more important food in a restaurant, such as goose-liver pate or fiddlehead ferns and ramps.
2.) The less they eat, the more that’s left for me.
Actually, #2 is more accurate. It’s all about what’s left for me. I can eat a whole chicken pot pie. If there is a little on their plates, then I don’t feel so guilty. It’s like we’re all having family supper, but I’m the only one who is happy. Is that selfish? Maybe so, but remember, we’re talking about God’s gift to comfort food – chicken pot pie.
Other than hamburgers and peanut butter sandwiches, chicken pot pie might be the one food I have consistently eaten throughout my life. Even as a poor and starving college student, I ate chicken pot pie.
Many of the broke college students of my era lived off Ramen noodles. Not me. I lived off crappy, frozen chicken pot pies. Those kind you could buy in the freezer section of the grocery store for less than a dollar.
It was the perfect college-apartment food. Even as bad as those probably were, I have fond memories of them. Those were the days before microwaves. One needed patience to eat a crappy frozen chicken pot pie as they took about an hour to cook from a frozen state.
I sat alone in my sparsely furnished apartment listening to Elvis Costello and Frank Zappa records eating crappy chicken pot pie. Today, I’m still listening to Frank Zappa and Elvis Costello on vinyl and eating chicken pot pie. The surroundings are a little nicer, the chicken pot pie has certainly improved, the conversation is better, yet I’m still a chicken pot pie party of one.
They’ll figure out what they are missing one of these days. Then again, if I’m lucky, maybe they won’t.
Robert St.John is a restaurateur, chef and author of numerous books.

This week’s recipe for Chicken Pot Pie can be found at www.robertstjohn.com.