BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE…
And that reminds me…
As a 10-year-old growing up in the winter, in Kewanee, Illinois, I can recall when television was coming on the scene and SWANSON TV DINNERS were being introduced at the A&P grocery store a couple blocks away. Despite my mom, Aunt Rose and my grandmother all being great cooks (and all of us living under the same roof), TV dinners seemed to me like a step-up – an All-American Dinner…the iconic Swanson Chicken Pot Pie (BTW, all white meat, even then).
Fast forward to today. Pot pies are still a popular American choice, and in fact pot pies (or sorta pot pies) exist – more than that, they thrive – in one form or another all over the world. Timbales in Italy…certain red curry constructions in Thailand…the occasional Indian Biryani topped with a naan bread crust…tamale pie in Mexico….lamb fatayer in the Middle East….German brats, beer and cheddar crowned with a pretzel crust…and some preparations of Moussaka in Greece.
While the stuff under the lid is usually beef, lamb, poultry or seafood with vegetables, there are also game pot pies, packed with grouse, venison, pheasant and even wild boar. These are especially popular in the fall, and particularly in Europe.
However, it’s a sad state of culinary affairs that England has adopted those too often dreary pot pies made out of scraps and leftovers as a national dish…in the same league as the ubiquitous BANGERS & MASH or FISH & CHIPS.
And so it was that a couple weeks ago, in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, that I came upon an article titled, “London’s Least Humble Pie,” featuring stunning and creative pot pie departures, far from the gloomy, sometimes factory-made iterations that have become “pub grub.”
Now, Joanne and I have eaten our share of pot pies on visits to London. Our favorite steakhouse, the GUINEA GRILL in Mayfair, served me (not Joanne…OMG, not Joanne, EVER) a delicious gut bomb Steak & Kidney Pie on a recent visit. Yeah, I eat kidneys…with hot English mustard.
BTW, remember…don’t forget to request Table #22 there.
GEALE’S in Notting Hill is well worth a visit. Of course, you’ll get the Fish & Chips (best in London), but also treat yourselves to their mashed potato-topped Fish Pie. It’s loaded.
On more than one occasion, at the doorstep of Covent Garden on a cold and rainy night, Joanne and I have settled into table #14 at J. SHEEKEY for their Dublin Prawn Pot Pie. That and a bottle of white Burgundy or two does take the chill off.
The article in the Wall Street Journal led off with one of my favorite chefs, Fergus Henderson of snout-to-tail dining fame. He utilizes the whole hog – and I mean the WHOLE hog – in his preparations. I’ve never had his Pork Pie, but if you look at the image below, you’ll understand, once and for all, the origin of the Pork Pie Hat.
Here are the restaurants in London that are taking the humble, savory pastry to new heights with ambitious recipes, the very best ingredients, and more than a little imagination and chutzpah. You can check out their websites.
THE WINDMILL – three-time winner at THE BRITISH PIE AWARDS.
MARKSMAN – protegés of Fergus Henderson
THE WIGMOR – in the posh Langham hotel, overseen by Michel Roux of the two Michelin-starred LE GAVROCHE in Mayfair. in the Spring? LAMB. In the Fall? VENISON.
ROCHELLE CANTEEN – Chef Margot, wife of Fergus Henderson. In the fall, for sharing, a pie with a wintry filling of venison and pickled walnuts is a signature dish. It’s in Shoreditch.
THE HOLBORN DINING ROOM – Chef Calum Franklin (a favorite of ours) serves New Zealand Curried Lamb (pictured). It’s housed in the Rosewood Hotel.
And now, looking for something strange to eat? Wondering about the horrors you might be eating? Dig into the MOTHER OF ALL SAVORY POT PIES…….
Direct from SWEENEY TODD, “the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” who slits the throats of customers, strips the meat off their bones, and makes it into pies sold by his accomplice and baker, Mrs. Lovett, in her bakery.
And as her motto reads,
“SERVING PEOPLE SINCE 1846”