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Before we married, one of Rich’s favorite dishes was a plate of rice with a Marie Callender chicken pot pie turned upside down, and plopped on top. For years, he’d slowly wheel past supermarket freezer cases, reminiscing about the “good old days” of heating up frozen pot pies, taquitos, breaded shrimp, and fish sticks.

Whenever we were apart, due to travel or attending events, Rich would sneak off and purchase his old standby, a Marie Callender pot pie.  Pot pieA few years ago, I decided to make a batch of mini chicken pot pies. While they looked lovely in pretty ramekins, they were a culinary failures. I had invited a friend over for lunch, proudly serving my pot pies. However, she found them tasteless with too much crust, and a mediocre filling, sadly missing salt.

While disappointed, I reconsidered my use of salt. Because my father had a heart attack when I was nine, and it was believed high blood pressure had led to his condition, I got used to cooking with little or no salt. In reality, his arteries narrowed with cholesterol.

Nevertheless, my tasteless chicken pot pies, coupled with Rich’s proclivity for hiding his food under a layer of fresh ground pepper, pushed the issue over the edge. I needed to start using salt!

Last week, with a bin full of vegetables, and time on my hands, I decided to give pot pies another try. Happily, it was a success, with Rich declared my pot pie every bit as good as those made by Marie Callender!

Since I don’t use recipes, here’s an approximation of what I did:

Filling

  • Red potatoes (don’t peel)
  • Walla Walla onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Frozen peas
  • Bouquet garni: sage, oregano, parsley, rosemary
  • 12.5 ounce can of chicken (or cooked chicken)
  • Rice or tapioca flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce

Cut the red potatoes and onion in chunks, and place in a pot along with the fresh herbs, salt, and pepper, and enough water to cover. Cook until the potatoes are slightly hard. Add chunks of carrots and celery, along with frozen peas, and enough water to cover. Cook a few minutes longer to soften, but retain the color of the vegetables.

Drain the vegetables in a colander, over a bowl to catch the broth. Remove the herbs.

Strain the broth back into the pot, and add the juice from the can of chicken. Bring to a boil. Mix rice or tapioca flour with enough water to make a slurry. Add to the boiling broth, stirring constantly to make a gravy. Taste, and adjust flavoring and color by adding Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and finely ground herbs.

Gently simmer to cook the flour, and stabilize the consistency. If you want the gravy to be thicker, add a bit more flour (always blend with water beforehand, and slowly pour in, stirring constantly to avoid lumps). If the gravy is too thick, add a bit of water.

Crust

  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of white flour
  • 1 cube of butter
  • Finely chopped fresh herbs
  • Salt

Make the crusts by combining the flours, chopped herbs and salt. Blend in the butter. Add a few tablespoons of water, and use a fork to blend. Continue adding tablespoons of water until the dough forms a ball. Place on a floured board and lightly kneaded.

Divide the dough in half, and roll-out to fit a deep-dish pie pan. Trim the dough so it doesn’t overhang the pan. Roll-out the rest of the dough, including the scrapes from the bottom crust.

Pour the cooled filling into the pie pan. Place the second dough over the top. Trim and press the edges of the two crusts together to seal. To ensure they’re sealed, flute the edges or use a fork to mash the two crust together.

Use a sharp knife to cut a few slits in the top. Place the pie on a foil-lined tray (to catch spills), and place in a 375◦ oven. Back for 30-45 minutes or until the gravy bubbles out of the slits on the top.

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