Why this blog?

"If you are careful," Garp wrote, "if you use good ingredients, and you don't take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane."
from John Irving's novel, The World According to Garp

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chicken Pie

I've been home a lot this week because we've had several inches of snow and ice, so I've been cooking a lot of comfort food.  (And eating a lot of chips, it must be said.)  Chicken pie is one of those dishes that you can make as simple and cheap or as fancy and complicated as you want - I kind of split the difference on this one.  I had the time to roast the chicken myself, but I didn't even try to make pastry - the Pillsbury dough boy makes better pie crust than me; I have come to accept this.  And by the way, any resemblance between a homemade chicken pie and those little frozen things called 'pot pies' is purely coincidental.  I have no objection to those; there are times when they feed an essential TV-dinner-loving morsel of my soul.  But they ain't chicken pie.

About mid-afternoon, I took a whole, 2-pound fryer out of the fridge, unwrapped it, washed it off, took the giblets and neck out of the body cavity (it has to be done, so hitch up your sweats and do it; the chicken can't care any more), rubbed down the skin with the end of half a stick (4 tablespoons) of butter, then put it in one of those oven browning bags with the rest of the half-stick of butter, a big yellow onion, cut up, and a generous sprinkling each of salt, pepper, and dried rubbed sage.  (Fresh sage would work, too, of course, but I wouldn't buy it special for this dish.)  I tied it all up in the bag as instructed on the package (shake a tablespoon of flour inside before the food goes in, cut six slits in the bag after it's tied up) and put it in a 350 degree oven for the next two hours until it was roasted through and golden brown.  I took it out of the oven, cut open the bag, and let it cool for another 45 minutes to an hour. 

I skinned the chicken and stripped the meat off the bones, then cut it into small bite-sized chunks and put it in a heavy soup pot with the strained drippings from the pan.  I added a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of hot water, a half cup of packaged chicken broth, a bag of slightly defrosted frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, green beans, corn, peas - all of which you could add separately if you wanted, but again, why bother?), and four small boiling potatoes, peeled and diced to be about the same size as the carrots in the mix.  (If I'd had a mix that had potatoes in it, I would have used it, but since I didn't, I had to peel potatoes.)  You could use canned mixed vegetables, too, I suppose, but they'd end up squishier in the finished pie.  I cooked all of this down on medium-low heat until the liquid was reduced to about half and the potatoes were just soft - about thirty minutes.  Then I mixed two tablespoons of corn starch with two-thirds of a cup of hot water until the starch dissolved, then mixed it in to thicken the broth and give it a silky sheen. 

I sprayed a long, oval ceramic casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray - my mom always used a round, deep-dish casserole with a lid, and I would prefer that, too, but I don't have one. I took three of the pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts (the refrigerated kind, not the frozen) out of the fridge and softened them slightly per the package directions.  I lined the bottom of the casserole with one and a half, pressing the edge together tight, then poured the filling inside - I actually ended up with more filling than I needed, so I put the excess in a freezer-tight container and stuck it in the freezer.  I'll make one of those little pot pies later.  Then I put on a top crust made from the other one and a half pre-made crusts (no need to press the edges together on top; they'll bake together nicely), crimped it together all around the edge with a fork, trimmed the excess, cut a few slits in the top in a star pattern, and stuck it in the oven at 400 degrees.  The filling was already cooked, so it was just a matter of baking the crust through - 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven.  I let it cool for about ten minutes before I served it, just to let the juices settle and thicken. 

We ate it all on its own, but a green salad would go with it well.  It served six adults generously with enough for one person's lunch left over. 

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