Monday, May 23, 2011

Pot Pie Disassembled

Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I seem to remember my mother ripping out an article from somewhere or another, a listing of various supermarket products that were unimpeachable and better than homemade. I want to say it was by Craig Claiborne and from the Times, but a diligent perusal of the Google has been fruitless. In any case, I think it included Thomas’ English muffins, and Campbell’s black bean soup – two kitchen staples of my childhood, the black bean soup always served with a paper thin slice of lemon floating atop. Lists like that are perennials; food editors must assign them on a regular basis. “Okay, Julia Moskin, it’s time for the quinquennial supermarket round-up – see what you can find”. Moskin’s list is pretty straight ahead: cheese, crackers, cookies, lentil soup, pasta sauce. I actually bought some Kozy Shack Rice Pudding because of Moskin’s list - rice pudding being something I love and never make - and it’s pretty damned good.

I found another such list on the web recently: “8 Grocery Store Products that are Better than Homemade (really)” - and based solely on the fact that Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies are listed, I was inclined to be seduced. Those Tate’s cookies are awesome, and thoroughly addictive. I was totally skeptical about one product, though, the Marie Callender’s Pot Pie. First, my husband and I make a mean pot pie, and second, we never buy frozen prepared food. Well, I cotton to an occasional frozen pizza, but that’s IT. I’ve never bought a TV dinner in my life. It’s not that we never buy frozen food - but it’s plain frozen fruit, or spinach, or ice cream, or that amazing naan they sell at Trader Joe’s.
Back to the pot pie and my inherent skepticism.

When we make a pot pie at home, we never do it as a double crust pie - we just lay a crust over the filling and tuck it in around the edges. The crust stays flaky and dry, instead of getting all soggy on the bottom.

But hey, The Motherhood offered up an opportunity to review the Marie Callender’s Pot Pie, and out of some perverse curiosity, I decided to try it. After all, I'm always encouraging my child to have an open mind about food.

We baked the pie for the dictated 65 minutes at 400°F, let it cool for another 5 minutes, and cut into it. The crust was golden, and steam was arising.

I distributed pens and index cards and we sat down to dinner.

Short answer? We won’t ever have it again. Tasteless, salty, gummy yuck.

Long answer? The single 16.5 ounce pot pie - which lots of people would eat all of - contains 96% of the recommended daily value of fat, and 66% of the sodium. It's full of ingredients I can't explain, including: disodium guanylate, interesterified soybean oil, disodium inosinate, polysorbate 60 and something just called "flavors". The chicken had a nasty, gelatinous texture. The carrots, peas and celery were flavorless (despite the afore-mentioned "flavors"). It's way too salty. The gravy/sauce was like condensed soup. The crust had a weird graham-cracker-like flavor, and most of it was gummy. It's not a quick dinner to put on the table - it took 65 minutes in the oven! It doesn't taste anything like a homemade pot pie.

If you want a homemade pot pie, make it yourself. If you don't want to take the time to do that, have a bowl of plain buttered pasta instead. It'll taste better, it's quicker to the table, and you know what all the ingredients are.

Disclosure: I have been compensated by Marie Callender's and TheMotherhood for my time writing this post and reviewing the product. The opinions are 100% mine.


thordora said...

I was wondering about the Kozy Shack stuff since I too am too lazy to make it myself. :p

and ugh. Can of cream of chicken, frozen veg, cooked chicken and some bisquick and at least you'll be vaguely familiar with what's in it. And it will taste mostly yum.

leanne said...

Yes, the naan at Trader Joe's. Love that stuff. Also, any chance you might share your chicken pot pie recipe? :)

Jody said...

I ate way too many awful potpies as a child, but now I'm curious about your version. Something without that soggy bottom crust might be worth a try.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think I'm the only person in the world that hates pot pie. Probably because I love almost all vegetables, but for some reason I hate peas and carrots.

My husband and son love it, so every once in a while I will make it, but I never eat it.

FreshHell said...

Not a pot pie fan and not because I'm a vegetarian and lactose intolerant. Just...blech. Also, I can do without peas for, like, forever. That said, those frozen prepared foods are always chock full of salt and fat and if they have reduced them, they've done it in some nefarious way with "ingredients" not found outside the lab. So, I'm kinda glad to hear you all didn't like it.

alejna said...

I love the index cards.

I confess that I have been known to buy frozen prepared foods. There are several things from Amy's Kitchen that I quite like. (They do vegetarian things.)

I've never tried making pot pie. I've had frozen vegetarian ones that were okay, but I don't know how they compare to the "real" ones. (I'm not sure I ever actually had a chicken pot pie before I stopped eating chicken.) Now I'm sort of curious about whether I could concoct a veggie pot pie. I like the idea of doing it without a bottom crust.

Kevin McKeever said...

I remember my mom bringing me a Swanson's chicken pot pie when I was in my bed ... with chicken pox.

It was wrong on so many levels.

The one time a year we make pot pie is after Thanksgiving with all the leftovers. Beats turkey sandwiches for the 14th day in a row.

Maude Lynn said...