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BVC Eats: Chicken pot pie

Back at the dawnatime, when my Osborne computer was considered the latest poot in portable compooters and a cup of coffee cost less than a paperback novel, pot pies came from the grocery in the po’-folks freezer: 25 cents for something made of crumbly cardboard, lard, gravy, and mushy peas and carrots. And I loved ’em. I loved them the way I loved box-mix macaroni and cheese, and cheap ramen noodles, and creamed chipped beef on toast, and that casserole you make with stringy green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, and fried onion rings.

Nowadays a pot pie costs $12 at Whole Paycheck. I haven’t sprung for one. It would make me sad if it turned out to be no better than the 25-cent version of yore, and it would make feel inadequate if it was better than my homemade.

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 4 to 6

Chicken:

In a heavy-bottom pan, poach one chicken thigh per person in water to cover, for 8 to 10 minutes, i.e., not cooked through yet. Cool the chicken. Bone it if there are bones. Discard the bones. Mince the meat and skin. Return the chicken to the same pan with the poaching water, which is now stock.

Vegetable schloop:

carrots
celery
flat parsley
garlic greens
fresh garlic
white or red potato
sweet potato
sweet onion
sweet peas (canned or frozen, though fresh would be fancy)
1 Tablespoon strong-flavored olive oil
rubbed sage to taste – I always add a lot
salt & pepper – ditto

Chop 4 cups of vegetables selected from the list above in proportions that please you. I recommend a pretty small dice-size. Season. Add to the chopped poached chicken and stock in the heavy-bottom pot. Cover tightly and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes. We’re going for mushy here. When mushy is achieved, strain out the cooked chicken and veg and set aside. Reserve the remaining stock in a separate bowl.

White sauce:

3 Tablespoons butter and/or olive oil
3 to 4 Tablespoons flour
sprinkle of paprika or cayenne
reserved stock, with water or heavy cream or sherry added to make it up to 1-1/2 cups

In the same heavy-bottom pan, melt butter until browned. Whisk in flour and seasoning, stirring to prevent burning. When the flour is turning light brown and bubbling, add the reserved stock and whisk until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat.

Stir everything together in the heavy-bottom pan: white sauce, veggies, minced chicken.

Pie crust:

8 Tablespoons cold butter
2 cups white flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
½ c sugar or more (yes really, you’ll thank me)
1 teaspoon salt

Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. If you are one of those fancy people who have the time to wash all the parts, use a food processor to reduce the flour-butter mixture to “the texture of coarse crumbs.” Do you know what that means, exactly? Neither do I. I just go by “no big lumps of butter left.”

Slowly sprinkle 5 Tablespoons of cold water over this mixture and mix it gently with a fork until all the stuff globs together in a glob. (This may not be enough water, but go slow!) Divide the glob in two uneven pieces, roughly ¾ and ¼ of the batch, respectively. Turn the larger glob out onto a towel or pastry cloth that has been sprinkled with ½ cup flour and ½ cup corn meal. Roll the pastry out with a rolling pin.

Here I could get very technical about pie crust. Roll in brief, gentle strokes from the center out to the edges. Mend breaks by overlapping the edges and rolling gently. Keep it thick. All kinds of fussy.

An easy, How-to-Stay-Married Tip: increase all the ingredients by 25% and set aside a glob just for your spouse. Mine eats it raw. I know, gross, right?

Line a deep 2-quart French (fluted, round) casserole with the first (larger) rolled-out pie crust. Lap plenty over the edge. Crimp it up good. In theory this is to keep the filling from overflowing. Really, it’s so you have lots of yummy crisp buttery baked piecrust to nibble on /w/h/e/n/ /i/t/ /f/a/l/l/s/ /o/f/f/ /i/n/ /t/h/e/ /o/v/e/n/.

Pour your hot schloop mixture into the crust. It needs to be hot so that the pie crust will cook appropriately.

Roll out the last quarter of the pastry glob into a thick circle approximating the size of the pie and lay it on the pie. It’s okay if the crust doesn’t meet the edge. That’s just my opinion. Stab the crust a few times to make air slits.

Important tip, and again, don’t skip this step if you want to stay married: Melt some more butter, at least 2 Tablespoons, and brush it over the crust.

Bake the pie at 325f until the top crust is beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Take it out at 20 minutes and repeat the butter-on-top step (ibid). Bake another 20 minutes or until the top is nicely brown.

Might as well serve it hot. You’ll be eating it reheated for a day or two, which is amazing, and now you’ll see why all the sugar in the crust, but it’s only hot from the oven once, when the pie crust is that sizzling crispy crunchy sweet ‘n’ salty buttery texture.

Reposted in part with permission from agreenmanreview.com.

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