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Joni Woolf: Chicken Pot Pie, two ways

Two or three times a year, my late sister’s baby boy, Ross McDougall, will text me from his home near Raleigh, N.C., with a simple statement: “I’m making …” (fill in the blank). It happened last Friday. I got a text from Ross saying “Making chicken pot pie with garlic and roasted carrots.” No salutation, no complimentary close, just checking in to let me know what he’s up to. He’s been the major cook for his family for a while now. A modern “techie,” he works more from home than from the office, so he can be near the stove and check on what’s cooking. On this Friday he was working on the pot pie, so I asked for a recipe. I was having a hard time imagining a 59-year-old male putting together all the ingredients required for a pie. But that’s MY failure, not his. He knew exactly what he was putting in it, and when it was done, he texted me a picture of a fabulous-looking pie. Here it is:

Chicken Pot Pie by Ross
1 pound chicken breast pieces
2 or 3 carrots
2 or 3 celery sticks
(could add potatoes; he didn’t)
½ half sweet onion
Half a poblano pepper
1/3 green pepper
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Frozen pie shell, thawed
Butter (about ½ stick)
Chicken Stock
Sour cream
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, brown in butter in saucepan, adding McCormick’s Chicken Seasoning, to taste. Remove; save drippings. Add enough olive oil to saucepan to soften vegetables, over low heat. Mince garlic, slice carrots and celery. Soften in pan to taste (he prefers them crunchy). Slice the onions into tiny slices. Cut peppers into very small squares. Cook onions and peppers till soft (or 5 to 10 minutes longer if you are enjoying the aroma!). Once vegetables are soft, to taste, add chicken, about ½ cup chicken stock, ½ cup plain flour and 2 big spoonfuls of sour cream. The stock, flour, and sour cream create the pie filling, so adjust to taste and stir to combine thoroughly. Cook 5 to 10 minutes on low to medium heat. Pour into pie filling and bake 20 to 30 minutes in preheated 375 degree F. oven. Remove and serve. He adds: “We throw cheddar cheese on top because life is short!”
For comparison, I went to the Fresh Tastes From a Well-Seasoned Kitchen cookbook and found a similar recipe. Her recipe calls for like amounts of the chicken breasts (or thighs), celery, carrots and onions, as his. She adds 6 to 8 ounces of fresh mushrooms (any kind), curry powder, 1 cup chicken broth, ½ cup coconut milk (or evaporated milk) ½ cup dry white wine, 2/3 cup shelled edamame or frozen green peas, fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano and a pinch of sugar. Then she spoons her concoction into a baking dish and tops it with buttermilk biscuits that she rolls flat to cover the mixture. She then bakes it 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are brown and the pie is bubbly. In the same cookbook, the author, Lee Clayton Roper, has a recipe for a Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie that sounds interesting and could be a vegetarian dish. It features shallots, carrots, celery root, and turnips roots, as well as up to 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It is baked in a puff pastry, which simplifies cooking, and offers the encouraging suggestion for the meat lovers among us that we might also enjoy it with the addition of a cup of chopped country ham.
Pies such as these are a meal by themselves. A green salad could be added, if desired, but no need to add bread, since the crust provides plenty of carbohydrates, while also adding to eye appeal. Pot pies are among those comfort foods that we often think of when we think of home cooking. These long years later it pains me to admit that my first experience of pot pies was the individual kinds that, 50-something years ago I bought, frozen, in a little package, at the grocery store for a quick meal for a busy family. I have learned better. I no longer buy frozen pies. But one could do worse than pulling a Swanson’s pie from the freezer, popping it in the oven, and waiting nearby with a glass of wine, ready to pierce that nicely browned crust and enjoy not only food, but memories.
Regarding last week’s recipe for the Lane Cake: the amount of flour was dropped from the ingredients. It is 3 1/4 cups of plain flour, sifted three times. (And yes, I sifted it three times.)

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net