I earn my Serious Keep by trawling the more brightly colored corners of the chewing and swilling life, dealing primarily in neon-lit chain restaurants and rainbow-hued boozes. A lot of this stuff turns out to be every bit as garbagey as you'd expect it to be—surprise, surprise, Four Loko and heat-lamped onion-bit rings suck—but a minor majority of it ranges from acceptable to downright enjoyable. Without this gig, I never would have known the pleasures of tequila-coconut rum or Wendy's chili.
But most of what I review sounds kinda gross to a lot of Serious Eaters, so I'm often thanked for "taking one for the team." This makes me feel a little guilty, because even when my tongue runs across something terrible, it's not that big a burden to take one slurp and toss the rest. The worst thing about my job is having to occasionally spit out microwaved eggs or flavored vodka.
That can be disappointing, but it's a fair trade, especially now that I can count myself among the small fraternity of people who have been paid to eat KFC's positively glorious Chunky Chicken Pot Pie. You've probably seen the corny-but-cute commercials where 70s-looking dudes in a 70s-looking car order this near-perfect pie; I'm not usually drawn to goofy retro advertising—and almost never drawn to retro eating; I'm not a big "comfort food" advocate—but I'd gladly grow sideburns while waiting in line for gas if there was a Chunky Chicken Pot Pie involved.
I usually approach my professional fast food lunches with the intent to eat a maximum of 400 calories' worth of whatever's on the docket that day, but after the first forkful of this beaut I knew I was in for the whole 790, along with the couple moons' fill of sodium and fat and all the rest of it. This pie is certainly worth its $3.99 price tag, and also worth the penitential dinner of broccoli juice and fond memories.
The crust stretches well over the border of the 6-inch pie tin, which comes in handy for those of us who like to eat pie with our hands: After you and your fork have dispatched with the center crust, there's plenty of overhang waiting to be broken off into an edible pie shovel. The pastry tastes quite good, too. It's fairly well browned, though a touch blonde for my personal tastes, and very buttery. It's nicely layered, with the exodermis providing some crunch before giving way to an undercrust that melts into the rest of the pie.
The filling consists of bite-sized shreds of white and dark chicken, carrot coins, peas, diced potatoes, and gravy. The chicken-to-potato ratio runs high on the poultry side, which is a good thing in terms of both value and quality. The meat is tender and flavorful, while I didn't even notice the potatoes until I was halfway through my lunch. They weren't so distinguishable from the gravy-soaked crust shrapnel, but their mushiness was fine in a pie context and there weren't enough of them to get in the way of the good stuff.
It was a pleasant surprise to find that the carrots belong firmly in the good stuff category. These are no mere afterthought tossed in to provide color and token nutrition. The dozen or so quarter-inch rounds are thick enough to retain some of their snap and most of their flavor. The peas don't fair as well, but at least they stay bright green and slightly sweet.
The gravy is the lifeblood of any savory pie, and the KFC Chunky Chicken Pot Pie's vital fluid holds the guts together with much aplomb and butter. It's lighter in color and heavier in texture and flavor than the stuff they pour on the mashed potatoes, with sweetness and tang to enhance the pepper and cream. This is pretty ambitious juice for fast food gravy, and the gamble pays off handsomely.
The KFC Chunky Chicken Pot Pie is the best fast food I have ever eaten.
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