"Pot Pies: Comfort Food Under Cover," Diane Phillips

Pros: Delicious recipes
Cons: It’s really more of a casseroles than pot pies cookbook
Rating: 4 out of 5

First published 2/8/2001

I guess author Diane Phillips thought that a cookbook entitled “Pot Pies and Casseroles” wouldn’t sell as well as one called just “Pot Pies.” I think she made the wrong decision. Don’t get me wrong; the food in here is very delicious. We’ve really enjoyed everything we’ve made from it. Nothing has sucked; only one recipe even bordered on mediocre – and really, it only barely bordered on it. But most of these things aren’t pot pies. A few could be considered creative re-interpretations of the pot pie concept, but most are just layered casseroles. Take the recipe we made last night. You layer potato slices with a homemade tomato sauce, and top with cheeses. A very good casserole, yes. But a pot pie? I wouldn’t have thought to call it that in a thousand years.

I generally judge cookbooks primarily on the quality of the recipes, but Diane loses a point for the “truth in advertising” desire. The title of a cookbook is in many ways its promise to the consumer, as I’m willing to bet that lots of people buy cookbooks based solely on the title: “Oooh! I want a pot pies cookbook! I’ll get that one.” Diane broke that promise, and you can see the results in the number of negative reviews this cookbook has gotten. It isn’t that the food is bad, it’s just that it isn’t what the consumer expects. It’s like advertising a campy horror movie as a scary suspense movie: it can be a really good campy horror movie, but no one will care because they went expecting a scary suspense movie.

The Recipes

Many of these recipes make great one-dish meals. They’re hearty and filling, and if you pick the right ones you can end up with a great mixture of vegetable and meat. Take the Cider Braised Pork Pie with Sweet Potato Crust, for example. Now this is delicious. Tender slabs of meat, topped with sweet potatoes mashed with brown sugar and butter, and finished off with a cider gravy. It’s sweet, delicious, and incredibly filling. It really is a fantastic recipe.

You’ll find Veal Osso Buco with Risotto Gremolata Crust, Pot Roasted Lamb with Rosemary White Bean Crust, Mom’s Beef Stew Topped with Sage Parmesan Biscuits, Turkey Vegetable Dill Pie with Chive Biscuit Crust, Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie with Chive Mashed Potato Crust, and the delectable Chicken Gumbo Pie with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust (yum!).

There are seafood recipes: Seafood Brunch Pie Topped with Crab Cake Crust, Snapper Veracruz with Jalapeno Jack Cheese Crust, and Halibut Pie with Cheddar Dill Biscuits. There’s a Broccoli Hollandaise Pie, a Chile Relleno Pie, Grilled Vegetable Pie with Ricotta Spinach Crust, Minestrone Pie with Parmesan Focaccia Crust, and Swiss Chard Pie with Bruschetta Crust. The term “crust” is applied fairly loosely. Most people think of something bread-like when they think of pot pies. Here it really just means a layer of a different sort of food, like sweet potatoes mashed with brown sugar.

The Layout

The layout is pretty good. Most recipes don’t trail onto the back of the page, so you can usually just prop the book open and go. It would be nice if all of them were like this, though. The directions are fairly simple and clear. We find these make good weekday meals as they don’t take a lot of effort and time.

The ingredients and directions for each recipe’s crust usually come after the ingredients and directions for the rest of the recipe. This is good for keeping things organized and easy to use, but you need to remember to check both ingredient lists when making up your grocery list.

This is a very good cookbook, and well worth getting. Just don’t expect to find lots of traditional pot pies in here. Append a silent “…and Casseroles” to the title, and you’ll do just fine.

Posted in Cooking, Reviews

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