Biscuits?

Reader Glenn asks if I’m sure that the original pot pies weren’t made with a biscuit topping instead of a regular pie crust, as his traditional family recipe calls for biscuit dough on top.

First let me clarify for all those non-Americans out there that Glenn means a savory American-style biscuit dough, not a sweet cookie-like dough. Actually Glenn, I’m not certain at all. It seems no one knows for sure where the first topping for a modern pot pie came from, much less what form it took. Home cooks use all sorts of doughs to top their pies: short crust, puff pastry, biscuit, even filo dough. In other words, whatever’s handy.

And that’s very much in the spirit of pot pie, and for that matter pie in general. Like tupperware, pies were nothing more than a way to preserve scraps. Especially where savory pies are concerned, there’s no wrong recipe. Thanks Glenn!

4 thoughts on “Biscuits?”

  1. Given old food storage methods, I’d be surprised if the top “tupperware lid” was originally biscuit for meat-preserving pot pies, given biscuit’s short shelf-life, as it were. (also since chemical leavening used to be a fair bit rarer and less reliable/more unpleasant-tasting back in The Old Days)

    Largely unrelatedly, you may find “Ten Dollars Enough” interesting (it’s a “how to live on $10 per week housekeeping money in 1888 New York, but with all the food super fancy so your husband doesn’t get grumpy about cold meats!” magazine guide that was then compiled into a fictional narrative – a couple of entirely ridiculous savory pies make an appearance, but they’re clearly for food purposes, not storage purposes). http://www.gutenberg.org/files/49521/49521-h/49521-h.htm

    1. Oh that’s a for-sure, KC. When I’m talking about the true pies of old, I’m thinking several hundred years ago. As mentioned in previous posts, pot pie isn’t really pie, it’s stew with a little frill of pastry draped over it. Forgive me for conflating the two a bit here. And that’s a fantastic link! Many thanks, KC!

      – Joe

  2. In my New England family there were two kinds of pot pies – ones for eating now and ones for eating later. “For now” pot pies generally had biscuit on top. “For later” pot pies generally had pie crust (which I later learned was pate brisee) on top. Puff pastry was a sure sign that we were sitting in a restaurant rather than at the kitchen table.

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