Who doesn't love a bubbling, steaming bite of pot pie?
Pot pies are easy to prepare, especially if you use refrigerated dough. And they can soothe your soul as quickly as they fill your belly with meat-and-crusty goodness.
Carrying a whiff of comfort and home (even if Swanson, rather than mom, did most of the work), the trusty pot pie of the 1950s has been on the rise ever since the recession of 2008.
"My mom would make pot pies and freeze them," said Phil McGauley of Santa Rosa, who launched his own line of frozen pot pies this fall. "She would pull them out and say, &‘Here's what's for dinner.' I grew up with that, and I brought that back."
Jeff Mall, chef/owner of Zin Restaurant in Healdsburg, still has fond memories of the frozen pot pies of his childhood, and impatiently waiting for the pie to bake.
"The pot pie was always molten on the inside, so I burned my mouth being too anxious to eat it," he said. "I always ate the crust first."
At Zin, Mall gives the chicken pot pie his own creative twist, baking individual pies in a small, cast-iron skillet with two biscuits on top.
"We use dark-meat chicken, because it holds up better for braising," he said. "And we use fresh vegetables ... baby carrots and onions and root vegetables."
At the Petaluma Pie Co. in Petaluma, open for just over a year at Helen Putnam Plaza, owners Lina Hoshino and Angelo Sacerdote enjoy tweaking their savory pies with interesting global flavors.
"We did pie because it can be savory ... it's got more staying power," Sacerdote said. "And pie is an easy thing to be creative with."
At Petaluma Pie Co., you can sample about a half-dozen savory hand pies, baked in flavor combinations like Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, Samosa (potatoes and peas), Spinach and Feta, Mushroom and Goat Gouda.
The cafe also bakes a Broccoli and Cheddar Pot pie, which tastes a lot like a mac 'n' cheese, only healthier. There's also a classic Chicken Pot pie, baked with a flaky crust on top and a sturdy crust on the bottom.
"The bottom crust has eggs and less butter, which makes it sturdier," Sacerdote said. "That's what we use for our hand pies."
For the filling, Sacerdote uses organic, dark-meat chicken, fresh carrots and celery, and organic frozen peas.
"We didn't have Chicken Pot Pie for a long time," Sacerdote said. "But people would order it anyway."
On weekends, the small pie shop with 20 seats also serves "brunch" pot pies that come in classic flavors like spinach and cheddar, or smoked salmon and fromage blanc.
"It's like a quiche with just a top crust," Sacerdote said. "The bottom crust is Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin and roasted in the oven ahead of time."
Of course, the secret to baking a delicious pot pie is to source the very best ingredients you can find. Petaluma Pie Co. buys cheese locally from Cowgirl Creamery and Spring Hill Dairy and uses butter, milk and cream from Straus Family Creamery.
It takes orders for take-and-bake frozen pies and carries a line of sweet pies as well, in classic flavors like Chocolate Cream and Banana Cream.