It’s a hot and sunny Saturday and we’re on our way to Lynnville, a sleepy little town that you could live in Tennessee all your life without hearing of, but which today has drawn our attention because of an ad I saw somewhere for a blackberry festival. The whole trip, I’m reading to Tim from my latest library find, and right away, we’re both so into the stories about food and parenting and the world of magazine editing that before we know it, we’ve driven the entire hour, past hilly pasture land and giant barns and no places to use a bathroom, anywhere, and then there’s Lynnville, right before us, rewarding our travel with what turns out to be the very anti-climactic main street that today boasts one carnival booth, four craft tents and, off in the corner, a 85-year-old man selling tomatoes.
So we talk with the tomato man, who tells us he’s lived in Lynnville all his life, and we ask him about blackberries, and he says, no, there aren’t any, but you know, he used to pick them when he was a boy, and we buy a bag of his produce, and he gives us a green pepper for two quarters, and we’re back in the car.
We say to each other, laughing at the wasted hours in the countryside, well, at least there were tomatoes! but then I pull out my book and we remember: actually, at least there’s this.
It’s a week later that I finish “Dinner: A Love Story,” the Saturday night we’re flying home to Chicago, just a few minutes before we board the plane. About 80% of the book I’ve read aloud to Tim, either that day to and from the no-blackberry blackberry festival or in the five or six nights following, before we fall asleep at night. Part cookbook and part memoir, it comes from Jenny Rosenstrach, the former Real Simple editor who blogs at a site by the same name. I wasn’t a follower before I read the book, but I am now: after reading Rosenstrach’s stories, which are as much about food as they are about parenting, as much about gathering around the table as they are about building relationships, I feel like she’s someone with whom I’d like to be friends.
While we’re in Illinois, my mom says to us one morning, I have some chicken, what should I make? And I jump from my chair. I know exactly the thing! I tell her. And I run upstairs to my suitcase to pull out this book, to flip to the chicken pot pie recipe, the one Rosenstrach has been making since the early days of marriage and entertaining and which she has been known to monogram for a real wow factor for her kids.
My mom makes it and it has the same effect: I eat three pieces. And later that night, my brother wipes the dish clean. So when Tim and I come back to Nashville and we’re making dinner for friends, it’s this recipe that we turn to, making it the night before and just sticking in back in the oven for 15 minutes before serving.
The thing about chicken pot pie is it’s comfort food. It’s hot and it’s creamy and eating it feels like you’re nine years old again, cradling a cup of chicken soup—but it’s even better! with a flaky crust!—so while I know it’s July and it’s humid and many of us are heading to the pool or the beach or the lake house, and so salads and grilling and fresh fruit sounds more like the norm, bookmark this one (rainy days or not!) because it’s good.
Oh, and while you’re at it, bookmark “Dinner: A Love Story” and make it a must-read. I’m so glad we did.
Chicken Pot Pie
Lightly adapted from Dinner: A Love Story
Makes one 10-inch pie; serves 4-6
I should also add that this was just one of many recipes I wanted to make as soon as I saw them in the book—seriously great read.
1 cup chicken stock
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
The leaves of a few sprigs of thyme (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons white spelt flour
2 cups cooked chicken (we roasted a bone-in breast with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper; then pulled off the meat)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 ready-to-bake pie crust (recipe below)*
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil and add the chopped sweet potatoes, carrot, onion and thyme. Salt and pepper all over. Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine flour and milk. When the veggies are soft, add this flour-milk mixture to the pan slowly, stirring until everything thickens. Remove pan from heat and add chicken and peas.
Add the pie filling to a 10-inch pie plate and cover with your pie crust. Cut a few slits on top to allow steam to escape while baking. Using a pastry brush, paint the beaten egg all over the top to give things a nice golden sheen.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until filling looks bubbly inside.
My favorite-ever, always reliable, tried-and-true, trusted version.
1 cup flour (I’ve used white spelt, whole-grain spelt, wheat, all-purpose, sprouted wheat)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (i.e., 1 stick) butter, chopped into cubes, kept very cold
1/4 cup cold water
Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or two forks until the batter is crumbly, with pea-sized butter chunks throughout. Add water and stir together; then use hands to form the dough into a ball. Flatten dough on flour-lined parchment paper and roll out into the size of your pie pan; set aside.