There comes a time in any quest when you find yourself up against it and you have to dig deep to find the right path. It’s in those moments when our faith is shaken and our heart disillusioned that we call out to a higher power and hope the answer comes. Today I did that, and Oprah answered. Praise be to Oprah.
A few years ago, Oprah (My Oprah as Lola calls her) selected a relatively new pie shop located on Cape Cod as one of her Favorite Things. That’s a hefty endorsement. I mean – this is Oprah. Apparently, Oprah and Gayle King (Oprah’s best friend, until she meets Lola) were on Cape Cod to attend the funeral for Eunice Kennedy Shriver. One of the two friends who run the shop thought it would be nice to send Oprah a Chicken Pot Pie from their store, so she wrapped one up and brought it to the hotel where Oprah was staying (probably the Days Inn, but I’m not sure). Somehow the pie ended up getting to Gayle and Oprah and they both thought it was da bomb (I’m glad to know celebrities will sometimes eat what you give them as someone who just gave a raspberry cream pie to David Sedaris). Can you picture Gayle and Oprah in their jammies jumping up and down on their hotel double beds while eating a plate of Chicken Pot Pie with a spork? That’s my vision. In any case, when the time came for Oprah to name her favorite things, she named the Centerville Pie Company as having the best Chicken Pot Pie. Overnight, they went from selling 20 to 40 pies a week to selling 100 to 200 pies a week. Praise Oprah.
If Lola hears that Oprah endorses something, she listens. So not long after Lola heard about the pot pie, we happened to be returning from a trip to Chatham to visit the Breslin’s on their vacation (aren’t they nice for inviting us on vacation?) We thought we would take a little detour and stop for some pie on the way back, and that’s where things went overboard. The shop has two sides – the pie side and the restaurant side. We started with lunch on the restaurant side. Lola had the Chicken Pot Pie and I had the Shepherd’s Pie. It was everything Oprah had promised. It’s a tiny place – maybe ten tables and a counter – but everyone is friendly and there was a sense of family there. The pie ladies were walking around too, but everyone was busy doing their pie jobs. We naturally had some sweet pie for dessert (I forget what kind), but a double pie lunch is always a great way to enjoy your journey back from vacation. Afterwards, we walked over to the pie side for some pie to go. We had to take this delight home, so we bought a Chicken Pot Pie (with a side of extra gravy) and a Shepherd’s Pie to satisfy our savory side. Then we branched out to try some sweet pies: apple, all berry, blueberry, maybe a pecan, strawberry-rhubarb – I forget exactly what it was. I just remember leaving with eight pies. Yes eight pies for a family of two – it was that good (we shared them, I think).
Fast forward a few years and I’m doing my shopping at Clement’s. They have been known to carry some local specialties and our big supporters of local business. I glanced down into the freezer cabinet and noticed a sign that said they were now carrying pies from Centerville Pie Company! I think I shrieked in delight. They carry a limited supply of large and small pot pies and shepherd’s pies and I have even seen a clam pie mixed in there sometimes as well. When I saw that this day was coming, I could think of no better way to celebrate National Great American Pot Pie Day than by heating up one of Oprah’s favorites, so I headed to Clement’s and grabbed a pie.
The thing you should know about pot pies is that they take a long time to cook. You can’t rush them because the crust has to get nice and golden brown. These take 90 minutes in the oven, so you really have to plan ahead. There’s no microwaving these. Just give them the time to work their magic. They also suggest cooking on the bottom rack in your oven and this helps too – it makes the crust on the bottom cook more evenly. There’s another equally good pot pie place in Massachusetts (although not yet Oprah endorsed) called Harrow’s Chicken Pies which has six locations all located north of Boston. Really, really good pie and if you go, you have the option of getting a pie that is heated up for you (order in advance). We picked up a pie to go there once and they suggested brushing the top of the pie with milk before placing in the oven. So now, whenever we cook a pot pie, we always brush with milk. It gives the crust that golden color. Here’s how our pie came out:
I should have invited Gayle and Oprah over to celebrate. They would have really loved it. We could have watched some Narcos together. I would have put some sheets on our couches and some blankets so they could spend the night. We could wake up and do some yoga together (Downward Facing Oprah). Nonetheless, Lola and I celebrated together which is really my favorite way to celebrate any day. The pie was perfect especially with the cool autumn breeze coming through the windows. It tasted like fall which is a great taste when you have been craving it. Praise be to Oprah.
On a side note, I also made a recipe today that was one of my grandmother’s specialties. Because she is my influence and inspiration for all the cooking parts of this quest, it was fun to make this recipe. It was for Carrot Bread which was one of my all time favorites growing up and sometimes Gram would make a whole bread just for me. She’d serve it up sliced with lots of butter spread on every piece. I don’t think I have had carrot bread since my grandmother passed away in 1996, and even a few years before that when her carrot bread production had slowed down. I have asked family for the recipe but it was kind of a mystery. Someone had it, they thought, but maybe not. About a week ago I got a text from my cousin Clare who was going through recipes at her Mom’s house and she found the Carrot Bread recipe. She sent me the picture. It was typed out (from a typewriter) and had a few handwritten notes on there as well. The paper was clearly aged and weathered, as all good recipes should be. I was looking at the recipe this morning and I noticed we had all the ingredients in house, so I decided to make it.
There were a few steps missing in the recipe (my grandmother could make this in her sleep so I am sure she didn’t feel the need to right down the instructions to the T) but because I have made a few banana breads in my day, I was able to adjust. When it came out of the oven, I was a little worried because it was lighter in color than I recalled. But after it cooled, I cut a piece and it was everything I remembered. Moist, sweet, crunchy from the walnuts – even the smell brought me right to the table where my grandmother was giving me a piece. So thanks Gram for giving me this bread, for giving me the confidence to cook and for showing me the kindness and love you can share with recipes and food. It was nice having a break with you today.
Next Up: Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving