|Don't mind me, I'm just a delicious pie. I could be any kind of pie. Mmmm...|
It kind of surprised me to realize that some of my favorite young child memories are of my dad in the kitchen. He wasn't really a cook. He could make potato or macaroni salads (probably because my mom taught him how, but he could). He was a master griller, or at least he did it often enough to be a master. And he could pair grilled goodies with rice or potatos to make a decent dinner. But generally the kitchen was Mom's domain, as evidenced by the Great Cookie Disaster of 1989. In the GCD-'89, somehow my Dad got involved in the baking of Chocolate Chip Cookies. He and I together successfully made the dough, and scooped it out onto a cookie sheet. Dad, being Dad, was convinced we could fit just a few more cookies the sideless cookie pan, and we stuck the whole thing into the oven. It didn't take long for the oven to start smoking. As predicted by any experienced baker: they had all melted down and spread out, not only making one big cookie on the sheet, but falling off the cookie sheet onto the floor of the oven. Even the giant cookie was ruined by the smoke. It was a sad day for cookies. But I look back fondly on that day and I don't remember the probable frustration of a 9 year old who would have to go cookieless nor do I remember the irritation of a smoke filled kitchen. Only the impetuousness of my dad, who had such a zest for life (and chocolate chip cookies).
Other favorite Dad food memories are making beef jerky from scratch. Without a dehydrator, mind you, in the oven. To this day I do not remember eating the jerky, I do not remember tasting it or if it even came out. I remember the thin slicing of the meet, getting to stir the marinade, and laying it all out on racks before it went into the oven. I remember watching him prepare for his weekend with the boys, chopping up potatoes and beating the eggs together so he could make breakfast on Saturday mornings. And I remember going to the store to pick out frozen dinners. I'm sure we went with mom too on certain occasions, but I remember specifically going with Dad. He would read to us what was in each package, to make sure we were really getting exactly what we wanted. We didn't do frozen dinners often, just occasionally when my parents were going out and we were going to be with a sitter, or if mom was away for the evening, but even those prepackaged (and probably terrible for you) dinners have become special and important to my upbringing. Especially the pot pies. They were individual sized, and as he took them out of the packaging and my sister and I would watch as he would take a knife and carve our first initial into the top of each pie, ostensibly to create a vent for the hot air, but we really knew it was so we would know which one belonged to us. It was a very important part of the pot pie ritual, even though I'm sure the pies were exactly the same.
Time passes, as it does, and frozen dinners became a thing of the past, as we eventually became old enough to fend for ourselves when our parents went out. I grew up, went to college and became part of the work force before pot pies once again entered my reality. This time, I was 25 and had moved in with some wonderful friends. B, one of the said friends, who is a fabulous cook in her own right, made a pot pie for dinner. From scratch. I thought it was the most magical thing I had ever seen-- roll out crusts from the grocery store made this a fabulously easy meal, and you could even make it ahead of time, and pop it into the oven when you get home from work, or (gasp) freeze it! Oh, and the left overs! Its like a working girl's dream dinner and a delicious way to use up the veggies in the fridge. It even had squash it it, and even though I kinda hate squash, I had a second helping. It was that good.
I have to say that the veggies I put in the recipe are just what we had in the fridge that we all will eat. Feel free to modify for whatever you like or have on hand. A lot of people like celery or fennel in theirs, I highly recommend either, but there are certain people (I wont mention names) in my house who are a little picky about aromatics, so they're not in the recipe. (A note about fennel-- I would saute it up in the butter a little before you add the broth-- gives it a better flavor.) Peas are also common, use them frozen, just like the corn for a dash of color. In this recipe I used remnants of a smoked turkey that we made a while back, which definitely adds a dimension of deliciousness that I had not previously reached with my pot pie recipe. If that's not your style though, you can cook up some chicken breasts yourself ahead of time, or some people I know just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and use the meat, to make an even easier version. Just make sure the poultry is cooked before it goes into the pot pie goodness. Also, this is not a low fat recipe. If you wanted to make it lighter, you could omit the milk all together, go lighter on the butter/flour mixture, and only use one pie crust on top, instead of both. If you do though, don't tell me. It would make me sad.
I have shared this recipe with many people because I love it that much. They in turn have shared their versions with me, and the recipe below is a compilation of all the favorites, so I can't credit any one person for the specific recipe below. I will however, give a shout out to my friend B who brought the pot pie back into my world after a long haitus, and my sister who, by trying to follow my instructions, made an even more delicious version. And to my Dad, the non-chef, who laid the foundation of how to properly vent the pot pie.
|Its a little messy, but its worth it.|
Easy Poultry Pot Pie
This makes the filling for two pies-- I freeze the leftovers and have an even easier pot pie next time.
Two pre-rolled pie crusts, found in the refrigerator section of the store
3/4- 1lb cooked poultry
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) hot pepper sauce (Tobasco, etc)
5 medium red potatoes (about 3/4 lb) skins on, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 lb peeled carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2-3/4 cup milk/half and half or cream (I use whole milk, feel free to use what you have)
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
Spices/herbs to taste
Egg wash (1 egg white 1 tsp water, beaten together)
Take your pie crusts out of the fridge, leave in bags, set aside.
If you need to, cook up your poultry and set aside.
In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the onions, until the become translucent (about 4-5 mins). Add garlic, cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over mixture in pan, let it come together, and the flour cook, for another min. Add in your chicken stock, powdered mustard and hot pepper sauce, stir. Add in potatoes, cover and cook for 10 min. All potatoes should be at least partially touching the liquid. If not, add more chicken stock. Add carrots and cook uncovered until veggies are cooked through. They won't cook that much more in the oven, so make sure they're pretty much where you want them. Don't forget to stir occasionally.
While the goodness is cooking, we'll address the crusts. The crusts are easy-- open box, cut open bags. Voila! They don't have to be room temp (AND DON"T PUT THEM IN THE MICROWAVE!!) but you don't want them straight from the fridge either. Unroll one crust into 9" pie plate. Press gently to fill in the plate. Unroll your second crust onto a cutting board. Brush the egg wash across the top of the crust. Use a butter knife to gently scrape away lines in the crust, about 1" apart. Don't be exact, this is homemade. Turn the crust about 45 degrees, and scrape again, creating a diamond pattern on the top. Set aside your crusts for baking! (Keep the egg wash for later.)
When the veggies are done cooking, stir in the milk/cream, add in your chicken and corn. Taste it now. You'll probably need salt (more than you might think if you used homemade stock) and pepper. Feel free to add a little more hot pepper sauce and mustard-- they're supposed to give it a little special something, not be the main flavor. Feel free to add in whatever exciting spices/herbs you have in the cupboard. I usually add a little extra onion and garlic powders.
Once you've got it where you want it, pour/spoon it into pie crust. Don't fill ALL the way to the top, it will drip down the outside of the crust. Ick. Freeze your leftovers, or set aside to serve on the side of your pot pie slice. Once the shell is properly filled, brush egg wash over the exposed crust on the side. This will help the bottom crust bind to the top. Take your top crust, place egg washed side up. Press around the edges, rolling and fluting as necessary. Vent your pie with a few knife slits (or your initials) in the center of the pie. Bake in a preheated oven until the bottom crust browns, about 45 min. If the top starts to get too brown, lie a piece of foil over it (don't wrap, just place). This will allow the crust to firm up without trapping in the steam.
Once you take your pie out of the oven, let it sit for about 10 min, just to let things firm up. Slice and serve. It will be messy, but delicious!