Monday, February 7, 2022

The chicken pot pie test

I was chatting with my father the other day. Currently he's 86 and my mom is 90. Because Mom is getting a little more unsteady on her feet, Dad's been doing a lot more of the cooking – and rather finding he's enjoying it. (Mom is so proud of him!)

Somehow we got on the subject of chicken pot pie, something both my parents enjoy eating. But Dad said it was easier to purchase this fare (as take-out) from a nearby restaurant because it was so difficult to make the pies from scratch.

This puzzled me at first, because chicken pot pie is one of my easiest go-to meals for company. It was a standard recipe whenever we hosted the neighborhood potluck at our old place. What's so hard about making chicken pot pie?

Then Dad started going down the ingredients list and I realized he's right. From scratch, it's a bear. First you have to get a chicken, de-bone it, and cut (or shred) it into appropriate size pieces. Then you have to peel and dice carrots (or other vegetables), peel and dice potatoes, cut onions, make the sauce, and make the crust.     

Of these steps, arguably the most time-consuming is the chicken. But the reason making chicken pot pie was never an overly difficult dish for me to make is because I already have chicken breasts canned up. Canned chicken shreds beautifully, making it ideal for a pot pie.

This led me to thinking about the advantages of a deep pantry. I just wrote an article for Self-Reliance Magazine entitled "Pantry Independence" which underscores the importance of having component ingredients preserved for a variety of recipes. (It's a pretty good article, if I do say so. You might want to grab a copy of the current issue.)

I'm starting to think of this as the "Chicken Pot Pie test." Can you make a chicken pot pie from scratch with ingredients found in your pantry and/or found fresh on your farm?

From the article, I included a list of what we have in our pantry. The pantry is roughly 75% home-preserved food (canned or dehydrated) and 25% dry staples and baking/cooking aids. It's organized roughly by categories: meats, vegetables, fruits, sauces, spices. On the floor under the lowest shelves are bulk containers of things like rice, flour, beans, etc.

I tend to purchase bulk quantities of things we can't (or won't) produce ourselves, and then re-can them into more convenient pint jars that we can keep refrigerated once opened (this is especially helpful now that we're empty-nesters and don't go through the volume of food we used to).  Examples include mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. I have beans preserved in two forms (canned and dry), and plenty of dehydrated broccoli (my favorite veggie).

I went through our pantry and took a rough inventory of what's currently in storage. Here's what I came up with:

• Meats: Canned chicken, ham, pork sausage, beef, tuna.

• Sauces: Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce, chicken stock, beef stock, salsa, pizza sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce.

• Vegetables: Dry beans (some dry, some canned), green beans, corn, carrots, peas, mixed veggies, mushrooms, broccoli (dehydrated), chopped canned garlic, onions (some fresh, most dehydrated), tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes.

• Fruits: Peaches (some sliced, some puréed), apples (sauce, diced, or pie filling), blueberries, raspberries (canned in water for making fruit salads), pears, strawberries (some dehydrated, some as preserves), raisins (homemade).

• Dry staples: White flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, dry beans (several types), lentils (red and brown), rice (white and brown), popcorn (homegrown), pasta (several types), granola.

• Baking/cooking aids: Baking powder, baking soda, vinegar (distilled, apple, and homemade fruit-scrap vinegar), cheese powder, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, walnuts, cream of tartar, cornstarch, vanilla, powdered milk, powdered eggs, peanut butter.

• Fats: Olive oil, lard, shortening.

• Sweeteners: Honey, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar.

• Convenience meals (often leftovers which I later canned up): Navy bean soup, chili, lentil stew, chicken in orange sauce, curry chicken, roast beef with gravy, chicken soup, dirty rice mix.

• Spices: Salt, pepper, poppy seeds (homegrown), cinnamon, garden herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley), paprika, berbere powder, Montreal steak seasoning, curry powder, chili powder, red pepper (crushed homegrown cayenne), powdered ginger, garlic powder, nutmeg.

I also store potatoes and onions in the pantry in separate crates.

In light of increasing supply-chain issues and the rising cost of food, it might be worth giving yourself the Chicken Pot Pie Test and see how you do.


  1. Yay! I passed the test. We'll be having turkey pot pie for dinner tomorrow. I try to keep my pantry stocked with the most basic necessities. And with this inflation issue we're having, I'll be stocking much, much more. LOL, but I'll never have a pantry as nice as yours.

  2. I just went through my spices and the garlic power is one big clump. How do you keep it from solidifying?

    1. I had the same problem, which the small Amish store where I bought it attributed to no non-clumping agents added to the garlic powder. So I tried adding a small amount of dry rice to the jar, I think about a half-teaspoon in an 8 ounce jar, and so far, so good. If I happen to get a grain when I measure some for a recipe, I either toss it back in the jar, or I just cook it.

    2. after I grind the garlic into powder I put it on a cookie sheet back in the oven with just the pilot light on. It is the oils in it that are making it clump. I do the same thing with my onion powder.

  3. I find canned chicken kind of disgusting.

    That said, I do not find chicken pot pie too much of a faff. Cottage (or shepherd's) pie, I don't want to cook the bottom part, cook the top part, and then cook it all again. That said, my kids absolutely adore this recipe from Delia Smith which is a complete winner, so I break down and make it sometimes. (I do know cottage pie (shepherd's is if it contains lamb) was originally for leftovers so much less work.) Highly recommended even if you have to translate to American.

  4. Now I'm craving chicken pot pie! We're not going to have it because kindergartner Granddaughter is here for the day, and we're making supper for her mommy and daddy. She's excited to make your pizza. I know we'll be covered in flour, but we love cooking together.

  5. Yep. My pantry looks almost like yours. And every fall I can up 'Pot Pie Filling' in broth and put those jars are on the shelf. Pull one down, add a jar of our own meat-bird chicken I canned and voila! Easy dinner. maybe you can can up some "filling" for your dad. Also, having a pantry like this made the 'lockdown' almost a breeze as far as food was concerned. I hope everyone learned to stock up while they can. Especially as prices are rising and inflation/shrinkflation is here. All the best.... MamaJ

    1. I forgot to add that I thicken the filling when I open the jar and make the pot pie! Never NEVER thicken your sauces or gravies before canning. They don't can safely.

  6. Although I have the means to cook from my pantry (and freezer) for quite some time, I do have a problem. Until today, I hadn’t seen saltine crackers in the store since before Christmas. This hasn’t been a problem because I had enough stocked. However, there may come a time when I do use the last cracker. Does anyone have a good recipe for saltine crackers? My favorites are the cheap generic ones. I prefer a recipe for crackers that taste like these.

    1. Saltines are frequently gone from shelves or too expensive to buy. I found a small recipe book in a seed catalog called Pinetree, that was cheap and had lots of cracker recipes.

  7. I do pass the chicken pot pie test tho not with all the yummy home canned ingredients. I'm more of a chicken vegetable soup fanatic, but not from canned soup since there's a bunch of unreadable junk on canned soup labels. I prefer it fresh,of course, and the ingredients pretty well match pot pie filling. In case of illness there are cans of mixed veggies and cans of chicken stocked. There's a lot more nutrition there for less $ than canned soup.

    Your pantry is something to envy. There is one item tho which many people don't stock and really should. Molasses. It's truly a super food for us and livestock. One tablespoon has 600 mg of potassium, which is one of the things you need to replace electrolytes. It's full of about 20 things your body needs including calcium.
    Several years ago I got severely sick to the stomach to the point of almost passing out and was alone and unable to reach a phone. I literally crawled into the kitchen and got the molasses from a bottom shelf and salt, crawled back to the bathroom and mixed salt, molasses and water and gagged it down. A little while later I was able to stand and call a friend to take me to the doctor.
    If you're outside working and perspiring tea or water is not going to replace your electrolytes. It's a problem easily fixed with the right ingredients, and for me, molasses works. Better even if you can find a tastier way to fix an electrolyte drink.

  8. No yeast? How long does yeast store?