Cook the Books – Pot Pie with Beard

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In the series Cook the Books, we non-professionals attempt recipes from our collection and report back on results. I, Sara the Librarian, attempted a recipe from the King of Gourmets…. 

For my first Cook the Books attempt, I figured I should start with the first American Gourmet (please, debate away in the comments.) So I picked up James Beard’s American Cookery. I’ve been reading the excellent United States of Arugula by David Kamp; learning so much about James Beard’s life inspired me to test out one of his recipes. American Cookery has been called “The Bible of American Cooking” and “the Must-have American Kitchen Reference” because it includes absolutely everything you could possible want to make. And then some! There are 3 different recipes for the humble pot pie, but for wild fried chicken beard lists 13 different choices. The recipes are easy to follow, and Beard writes as if he is talking to a friend. The 2010 edition we have here in the library has lovely illustrations throughout.


A grey sky and a cold wind always leave me craving baked dishes, so I flipped to Beard’s Pot Pie. From there I had three to chose from, I went with the Old-Fashioned Rich Chicken Pie. Gentle readers, I must be honest with you. I took some modern-gal short cuts. I’m sorry Mr.Beard! I used pre-made crust and cut chicken rather than whole. Beard only includes onions and carrots for veg, so my first step was chopping those. Next, I poached my chicken lightly, then poached the veggies in the chicken broth.

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From there, I mixed a cream sauce with just salt, pepper and a bit of hot sauce. I placed the chicken and veggies in the casserole dish, then poured the sauce over the top. After it cooled, I rolled the pie crust over the top and brushed it with a mixture of egg and cream (lazy cooks rejoice, this trick perks up store bought crust.) 15 minutes at 450, followed by 35 minutes at 350.

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All in all, I was pleased with the results and it wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated. American Cookery is completely approachable for a novice, and for you pro’s out there, I’m sure the end product would be really mind-blowing with homemade crust and the full chicken approach. King he may be, but James Beard is a humble king who holds your hand in the kitchen, and doesn’t mind if you take some short cuts.

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