All-American Comfort Food
It could be a Midwestern thing or a 50′s thing that prompted my mom to always keep Swanson’s chicken pot pies in the freezer when we were growing up. And for me, when it came to the casseroles and one-dish meals from that time period, it was all about the crust or topping (usually bread, pie crust or potato) more so than the middle parts; probably a precursor to my current sugar addiction.
The Crusty Truth
So I was a little disappointed when we compared the Marie Callender’s restaurant version of their chicken pot pie (left) to the frozen version (right) and discovered the restaurant one had only pie crust on the top – no sides or bottom. Three of us did the taste testing and 2 of us thought the frozen crust actually tasted better although it could be just because it was so familiar and the lack of bottom crust on the other tainted our taste buds.
They probably couldn’t add more crust on the sides and bottom because it would have brought the calories more over the top than they are: 1,140 calories. But then we look at the calories for the frozen one – which, by the way, allegedly serves TWO people, and it’s also 1140 calories – if you eat the whole thing (and how exactly do you divide up a liquidy messy chicken pot pie???). The smaller frozen one is 468 grams of golden deliciousness while the restaurant one is 636.1 grams of mostly liquid. Which, of course, means that it must serve THREE people.
A Closer Look
All Guts No Glory
Aside from the restaurant version being more like chicken soup than chicken pie, it had better tasting chicken (and more of it) and yummy little bits of celery. The frozen version had bigger and more veggie pieces (including broccoli and carrots) but tasted saltier (1700 mg. vs. 1020 mg. for the restaurant version), had very little sauce and had rubbery chicken (probably why they didn’t put as much in).
The Chemistry Lab
Two of us liked the flavor of the frozen one better, but some of the ingredients look a little scary like Soy Protein Isolate Product – one of many chemically altered additives – made even scarier by calling it a “product”. And they did all kinds of weird stuff to the soybean oil in the frozen one – they interesterified it (a chemical alteration to improve the texture) and hydrogenated it (a chemical alteration to make the oil semi-solid turning it into a “trans fat”).
The restaurant version has less chemicals BUT it does have some chemical preservatives (which to me is just weird if they are baking them fresh daily??) AND surprisingly it has MSG. I’m assuming that the frozen version does not have MSG because the label is far more visible than the ingredients in the restaurant version – which you would have to look online to get, so most people don’t make the extra effort. How many people would stop ordering it if they knew it had MSG? Marie Callender’s likes to use MSG – See: Poking Around in Lasagna Layers