Damn Yankee Chicken Pie

In 1939 my Aunt Bec (Bessie) made the long and perilous train journey from rural Alabama to New England. She needed to check out my newborn eldest brother to make certain he was a fitting heir to the Radford name.

wedding photo

Wedding photo Miriam Elizabeth Bentley and Edwin Smith Radford December 26, 1937

My parents hadn’t much money at the time and tried hard to put together an economical meal that was “fancy” enough for company. In other words, cheap and filling. My mother and grandmother hit upon an old family favorite, chicken pie.
Aunt Bec, of course had to supervise the preparation. She knew about chicken pot pie with a flaky pie crust on top. After all, she served it often to her company. But she had never seen a chicken pie like this one!

Mom stewed up a chicken with rice and celery and a few spices like salt and pepper right and proper according to Aunt Bec. Then she committed the ultimate heresy for chicken pot pie. She removed all of the meat from the bones, discarding the skin, fat, gristle, giblets, and the bones. “You going to waste all that good chicken? Why, what are we going to chew on?” Aunt Bec exclaimed. She had always been taught to serve the chicken parts whole for her guests to pick out of the stew and gnaw clean. It made a much more satisfying meal. What was her Damn Yankee sister-in-law thinking?

My mother looked at her in abject puzzlement. Leave the bones in? Why? You can not eat the bones.

Later when the dish was served, hot and bubbling, thick with gravy and vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes (another heresy) Aunt Bec admitted that yes, this was indeed a decent chicken pie but not a pot pie. When she returned home, she served my mother’s variation of chicken pie to her friends and relatives. They all agreed it tasted all right, but it was like no chicken pot pie they had ever seen.

Aunt Bec proudly replied that it was Damn Yankee Chicken Pie and she had a Damn Yankee sister-in-law who was a right good cook.


1 stewing chicken

3 stalks celery chopped

1 medium onion chopped

½ C uncooked rice or barley

1 C water

salt & pepper to taste.

1 lb carrots peeled, and sliced

12 oz bag frozen peas — they did not have frozen in 1939

3 cups mashed potatoes

butter or margarine

In pressure cooker or stew pot, cook the chicken with the celery, onion, rice, water, and salt and pepper. When the meat falls off the bones, remove the chicken from heat and let cool just long enough to be able to handle. Take the meat off the bones and place in a large casserole dish, discard skin, fat, gristle, giblets (unless you like them in which case dice them up and toss into the casserole dish). Cook the carrots in the chicken broth, when they are tender, add the peas and remove from heat (do not overcook). Add the rice, vegetables, and broth from the original stew pot to the chicken — should be fairly thick. Mix gently. Top with mashed potatoes, dot with a butter or margarine and broil for about 2 min to brown the mashed potato peaks.

If this makes too much, freeze in smaller batches without potatoes. Thaw and reheat, top with fresh potatoes and broil as above.

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About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: www.ireneradford.net Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Damn Yankee Chicken Pie — 7 Comments

  1. I’ve been trying to come up with more to tie to recipes and never got any more stories from older relatives who have now passed. Going to have to dig deep into the cache of photos to come with more.

  2. Pressure cookers make this an easy meal to cook with only an hour or so prep and cooking time. With a stew pot it takes all day and some planning. I can see that I need to get a chicken and start cooking again.

  3. I vote for the Damned Yankee version! 🙂 Boneless chicken parts can be a great boon.

    Family recipes are a great delight, and I grab all of them I can. Not that I make them exactly the same way; I seldom do that unless it’s a fancy sauce or dessert or cake or something else that needs to be done JUST as the recipe says. But even there I sometimes play fast and loose. Sometimes the results are a bit off, but normally not. And that’s what changes someone else’s family recipe into MY family’s recipe. 🙂 It’s an additive process, imo.

  4. I love this stuff, because it sheds such a light on the way our families lived in their time.

    When I was a kid and both my mother and grandmother were alive, my mother had one of her rare cooking moods, and decided we would make my great-grandmother’s noodle. The term was always singular, as in “I made a noodle to go with the stew.” The recipe involved a cup of flour, a pinch of salt, one egg, and an eggshell full of water.

    I, being a troublesome child, immediately wanted to know what that “eggshell full of water” represented, measurement-wise. What if you cracked the egg in such a way that you could only get a few drops of water in what was left of the shell? What if you cracked off the very top of the shell and got almost a whole shell’s worth of water? Where was the uniformity! I was concerned.

    My mother, to whom such a question had never occurred. She asked her mother, who considered, and finally said, “Well, you know, dear, I don’t know that we could afford to use two whole eggs for one noodle.”

    Oh. So I suppose I could make a noodle with two eggs and no water at all. But somehow, I don’t. One egg, and an eggshell full of water. Whatever that turns out to be.