Southern Living (February 2011)
Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
But should you judge a recipe by its ingredients?
We frequently do, although we try not to.
As we select recipes to try, we're always trying to keep an open mind, regardless of the recipe's ingredients or techniques.
And so it was with this Stovetop Chicken Pie from Southern Living. It's part of a regular "Momma's Way versus Your Way" feature, in which the magazine offers both a classic dish and an updated version.
In this case, the classic dish is a traditional double-crust chicken pot pie, which looks truly phenomenal. The updated version -- the one we tried-- is made on the stovetop (sans crust), and then, to save time in the kitchen, is spooned over biscuits.
So does it work? And what exactly gave us pause about the ingredients?
1. Frozen buttermilk biscuits. Okay, we get it. It saves time, even though spooning chicken over a biscuit and calling it pot pie is kind of like serving ground beef over bread crumbs and calling it a meatloaf. We invited our friends Trevor and Owen over for this meal, and actually decided to get fancy and make our own biscuits. (This was the only intentional change we made to the recipe.) As karmic punishment for that gumption, our batch of biscuits came out a little flat. Turns out we should have gone with frozen.
2. Onion, mushrooms and frozen baby peas. All three are A-OK. But we sat down to eat this dish with pot pie in mind, and the final result was just screaming for more vegetables. We highly recommend adding carrots and celery, at the very least.
3. "4 cups chopped cooked chicken." The recipe suggests buying a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. For a shortcut recipe, that's a good option. We actually missed this note before going to buy our ingredients, and instead got some bone-in split chicken breasts, which we roasted in the oven the day before we made the Chicken Pie. In this case, we don't think our substitution made any difference in the finished product.
4. Reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup and 1/3 less fat cream cheese. The final dish's creaminess comes from a combination of these two ingredients. We found the combination of the two to be far too rich for our tastes, making for a thick and gloppy pie.
5. 1/2 envelope of Italian dressing mix. We balked, but sure, why not? After all, we're the ones making sweet potatoes with fajita seasoning. So we bought it, but in the rush of serving dinner, we forgot to add it to the dish. In fact, the next morning, Clay (sadly) woke up thinking, "Oh no! We left out the Italian seasoning!"
These aren't the only ingredients. There are of course others, like oil, wine and chicken broth, that go into making the finished dish.
So how does it taste?
It's fine. We neither liked it nor loathed it. Our guests politely ate it, even though we all agreed that it was a little weird. The entire dish tasted overly rich, thanks to the cream cheese and cream of mushroom. The creamy pie had far too few vegetables. In the end, we just don't think it's a plausible stand-in for chicken pot pie. Then again, we don't believe that was the magazine's intention -- it is after all an interesting, if not wholely successful, spin on pot pie.
We're all for shortcut recipes. We just don't think this one works.
A traditional pot pie gets its consistency and rich flavor from simmering the ingredients and reducing the liquid until it's thick and flavorful. Shortcutting that thickness by swapping in cream cheese and cream of mushroom just didn't capture the same taste or feel. And spooning it over biscuits, rather than baking everything together, is too much of a cheat. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Interestingly, we used the leftovers of this dish to make a soup. We added a bunch of chicken stock, some more vegetables, and reduced it down. And you know what? It was pretty good!
Hands-on: 35 minutes
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 8 frozen buttermilk biscuits
- 1 small sweet onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms
- 4 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 (8-oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, cubed
- 1/2 (0.7-oz.) envelope Italian dressing mix (about 2 tsp.)
- 1 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
1. Bake biscuits according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, sauté onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until golden. Add mushrooms, and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients; cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is thoroughly heated. Stir in peas, and cook 2 minutes. Spoon chicken mixture over hot split biscuits.