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Warming up 

Praise-worthy pot pies

My friend Nan in Chicago made one. So did my mother, who lives in Pennsylvania. All across America, womenfolk were baking pot pies and I was their preacher.

I had found my calling, to spread the good word about bubbling-hot, savory filling and how it can save home cooks from falling into a frozen winter coma. "Let's move beyond soup, y'all," I shouted from my countertop, and praise the revitalizing power of pie crust that's meant for supper.

So go on and open that fridge. Talk to the contents of your crisper. Doesn't it feel good to connect with those neglected veggies? Everything you need is right here, at home, and deliverance from winter evil is but an hour away.

What's-in-the-fridge Chicken Pot Pie

Dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove minced garlic

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

About 1 cup milk/cream (cream is easiest to work with; half-and-half works well, too)

In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and garlic. Stir to combine. Add butter, and with your fingertips or with a dough cutter, "work" butter into flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in cheddar. Add milk/cream, gradually and gently, just until dough holds. Dough will be wet and sticky. Scoop onto plastic, wrap and allow to relax in fridge, at least 15 minutes.

When ready to roll, remove dough from fridge and place on a lightly floured work surface. Dust dough with flour and add as necessary until dough is pliable and can be rolled out into a circle about 1/4-inch thick.

Filling:

This is merely a guide; use what you like and what's already in the house.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 carrots, diced

A few sprigs rosemary, needles removed, finely chopped

6-10 small potatoes -- red, fingerling, etc.

About 5 ounces cooked chicken, pulled from bones

Handful Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped

1 cup chicken stock

9-inch pie plate, greased

In a saucepan with boiling, salted water, cook potatoes until nearly fully cooked. Drain and chop into bite-sized pieces.

In a deep skillet, heat oil and add onion, garlic and carrots. Over medium heat, cook until veggies are softened; add rosemary, potatoes and chicken, stirring until combined. Add salt and pepper as needed. Add chard, stirring to combine, allowing it to slightly wilt.

Meanwhile, heat stock in a small saucepan and keep at a simmer. In a fourth pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add 2 tablespoons flour, allowing the two to combine and cook for a minute. Gradually add stock to roux, whisking vigorously to remove any flour lumps, until you have a gravy. Season as you like.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spoon filling into pie plate, followed by enough gravy to moisten filling. Place dough on top and trim as necessary, crimping edges.

With a paring knife, make a few incisions in dough for steam release. Bake for 30 minutes, until dough turns golden and filling is bubbling. Slice into pie wedges and serve immediately. Makes at least 4 servings.

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