Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Almost Homemade Chicken Pot Pie...

Yes, really. This is the not-quite-from-scratch, scratch version. Because, picky as I am, commercial foods have improved enough that I not only use them, but also, recommend them. [Gasp!]

I know what you are now thinking! "Quick, check the back of her neck; did she go up over Copper Hill last evening?" and also, probably, "Who is this posting on Mom's blog?" Rest easy. Maybe I'm mellowing with age???

Whatever, I love pastry, especially savory pastry -- and making pie crust from butter and flour is tedious by hand (and, as you know, I'm too cheap to buy a food processor, besides which, it takes longer to set up and clean up than to do the work by hand for only two old people).

I'm not a fan of any of the prepared pot pies in the supermarket, although Pepperidge Farm did have an acceptable one some years back. Alas, it's no longer available, and was mostly crust, anyway...but good crust! There is a local restaurant (Grand Traverse Pie Company) which makes crusts as good as mine, but they cost $6 per 6" pot pie! However, I have found that Pillsbury has a prepared (uncooked) pie pastry that works just fine and tastes good, too.

To prove my point that the following recipe is easy and fast enough to make on a day I wasn't really expecting company until they called in the middle of my gardening... I whipped this dinner up from what I had in the pantry and freezer, and it was quicker than trying to thaw a steak or pork chops, and cheaper than taking them out to a restaurant. And while it was cooking, I had time to spruce up the house, take a shower and pick flowers for the table!

Quick Home-made Chicken Pot Pie
Svs 8 old(er) folks as complete meal, or 4 younger adults with salad, or 2 teenaged boys (but only if you add appetizer & dessert & half of everything else in the refrigerator)

Notes: Takes about half an hour to make up and 45-60 minutes to bake. (Or you could make two smaller pies and freeze one before baking. Cooking time then on the fresh one will be a little less, and frozen one can be popped frozen into the oven for at least an hour. Pastry will not be quite so flaky, though similar to commercial take and bake frozen pies.)

You'll need:
  • 4 strips bacon (I used Oscar Mayer, kind of fatty, thin slices -- good for making lots of bacon grease, plus very crispy when cooked)
  • butter
  • 1/4 Cup flour
  • 2 - 13 oz cans chicken breast in water (I used Sam's Club Member's Mark premium chunk)
  • liquid from canned chicken
  • water
  • 1/2 of a 16 oz package frozen mixed vegetables (diced peas, green beans, corn, carrots) I used Kroger brand
  • 1/2 of a 14 oz package frozen Kroger Recipe Starters (diced celery, onion & carrot)
  • 1 pkg refrigerated Pillsbury pie crusts (2 crusts rolled out)
  • large saute pan
  • wire whisk
  • 10-12" pie pan (I used glass, but tin or stainless steel will work. This is too heavy a pot pie for foil unless you set it on a cookie sheet to move it in and out of the oven. 10" pan will result in mounded filling that could boil over and make a mess, but looks pretty on the table. Larger pie pan will make a flatter, but less potentially messy, presentation.)
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. And take the pie crust out of the refrigerator to warm up a bit at room temperature while you make the pie filling.

Now, make the roux: Okay, this is just a pan gravy, but you are using bacon grease instead of roast chicken pan drippings. It's just the basic ratio of 1/4 cup fat to 1/4 cup flour to 2 cups liquid.

If you have already saved bacon grease from breakfast or whatever, you don't need to fry bacon. You can also substitute all butter and Hormel Bacon Bits, as the main flavor of the roux is going to come from the chicken broth out of the canned chicken, anyway. Oh, and if any of you just happen to have the rendered chicken fat on hand in your pantry, ready to make roux ... you are way ahead of me and up there with Julia Child, my dears!

Moving on for the rest of us...
1. Fry the bacon strips gently in the saute pan until crisp. Reserve (hide from other family members!) the bacon to crumble over the pie later. Measure the drippings to see how much butter to add to equal 1/4 cup, and return to the pan.

2. While bacon is crisping, open canned chicken and drain. Measure the liquid and add enough water to make 1.5 cups.

3. Place frozen veggies in microwave container with a half cup of reserved liquid and heat through (defrost and warm, don't cook). Drain into reserved liquid for the roux. This flavors the veggies of chicken, and the roux of the veggies, which allows this quick recipe to taste really made from scratch...

4. Over medium heat, add flour to the bacon drippings in the saute pan, and stir with a whisk until bubbly and slightly browned and without lumps. Couple minutes should be enough.

5. Pour in the liquid all at once, whisking briskly to mix well. Continue to whisk as the roux (gravy) thickens.

Now, mix the pot pie filling:
1. Gently add the chicken and vegetables to the roux (that's why I said large saute pan, but you could just toss it all into a big mixing bowl). Break up any very large chicken chunks, but not so much that it turns to mush. Bite sized pieces are appreciated by folks who are used to commercial pot pies that have only 1-2 bites of meat in them.

2. Crumble bacon pieces and sprinkle over the mixture.

To Assemble and bake the pie:
1. Carefully unwrap and unfurl one pie crust pastry and lay into the pie pan. If using the 12" pan, use your fingers to ease the crust up the sides to fit.

2. Pour the filling into the crust and mound it up in the middle if using the 10" pan. You can sprinkle the reserved bacon crumbles at this point, if you don't want to stir the filling too much before.

3. Spread the second crust on top and seal the edges well. Cut several slashes (chance to develop your artistic side) in the top to allow steam to escape and also to encourage any bubbling over to stay in the middle of the pie instead of running out the edge and onto the floor of the oven.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F in middle of oven for half and hour. Check doneness and if crust is turning brown too fast, add a foil shield. (Google it! I've never done it, myself, but some folks are picky about too brown crust on the edges...) Continue to bake another 15-30 minutes, depending upon several things (of course): type of pan, glass takes a bit less as it continues to cook after removing it from the oven; whether you use a baking stone (thanks, Celia, I love mine!) that helps cook the bottom crust and prevent sogginess, and also shortens cooking time.

5. Cool 15-20 minutes before serving -- otherwise you will serve lava temperature filling. It's good for leftovers, too, just not so flaky a pastry on reheating.

Et, voila!

Of course, if I have forgotten something, just let me know. :)

Love, MOM

PS, for the vegetarians? You can substitute coconut oil for the bacon fat and butter, increase the veggies, replace the water/broth with coconut milk, and leave out the chicken. This makes a wonderfully light (believe it or not) meal.

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