I recently had an epiphany about, of all things, chicken potpie. A few weeks ago, my partner and I set out for a walk into Griffith Park from our apartment. In the mood for adventuring, we started taking every turn we hadn’t before and soon enough we found ourselves on the back of a hill, practically holding onto the vertical edge like rock climbers.
I looked up and saw the very top of the “D” in the Hollywood sign and suggested that we walk to the sign since we were already “so close.” By the time we reached it, we had trekked six miles, were starving and were very annoyed. To make matters worse, our only way out was a four-mile hike down the hill.
We found a restaurant on Franklin Boulevard and decided to stop to eat for the first time all day. And by “decided,” I mean our hobbling legs and numb feet would take us no farther than the first available place with empty chairs outside.
After we ordered our food, two giant, piping-hot chicken potpies were delivered to the table behind us. A woman walking by stopped midstride, took off her headphones and asked one of the guys, “What is that you’re eating?” The customer responded, “a chicken potpie,” and the woman exclaimed, “it looks so abundant!” FOMO set in immediately for both my partner and me: We wished we had ordered those chicken potpies for our weary, tired souls.
I’ve thought about an “abundant” chicken potpie ever since, and although it might not be a dish you think about this time of year, it can be comforting when morning and night temps still hover below 70 degrees and the skies of early June are gloomy and gray.
One of the ways to keep the potpie from feeling too heavy and rich is by packing in more fresh green vegetables than in classic recipes, which, let’s be honest, haven’t changed much in decades. The cooked carrots and peas are my favorite part of classic chicken potpie, but there are other things that pair equally well with poached chicken and seasoned gravy in a flaky pie crust.
Herbs are an easy first step. Parsley is a mainstay of the classic, but I like to add more than usual recipes and also throw in dill and chives for their greenness and freshness. Swiss chard and sautéed cabbage, while both may not scream “summer,” provide extra greens that toe the line between light and bulking — perfect for a filling such as this. And in the gravy, instead of adding cream as many classic recipes do, I use milk and stir in a spoonful of Dijon mustard and lemon juice, which also helps cut the weight of the dish and perk up the other ingredients.
It’s the perfect weekend project dish: Make the pie crust on a Saturday morning, poach the chicken and prepare the filling that afternoon, then bring everything together and toss in the oven for Sunday lunch or dinner. It’s a veggie-packed pie that feels both comforting and genuinely nourishing — the perfect dish to come back to for leftovers the rest of the week.
To me, it’s like reaching for those Marie Callender’s individual potpies — which I admit I love — in the freezer section to provide instant comfort, regardless of the temperatures outside. And in reworking a comforting classic, this chicken potpie is worthy of the name that awe-struck passerby gave it.
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