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My Weekly Post

Chicken Pie Recipe Revealed!

At the very end of my book, Saturday Beans and Sunday Suppers, I make reference to a chicken pie that I like to make on cold winter evenings, such as it will be tonight. Ever since, I have been chastened by readers who lamented I did not include the recipe. Today, I am responding to those many requests.

The pie that I make is from a recipe I got many years ago from a woman in Groton, Vermont, who made these pies for their popular town suppers, to raise money for the volunteer fire company. (I think I called it "the pie that bought the fire engine.") Having grown up on chicken pot pies, usually frozen, and sometimes, in the summer, bought from a wonderful place called Whimpies, (out on the Cape in Osterville, Massachusetts), I had never had a chicken pie with a biscuit crust. I thought all chicken pies were made like any pies, chicken and gravy and vegetables tucked between two pastry crusts. Since learning the recipe from the folks in Vermont, I have never even attempted a two-crust chicken pie. This recipe will cure you for all times, if you need conversion. Reading the old recipe as it was printed in Yankee (October, 1985), I see that I have adapted it liberally since then and, of course, this is the pie I make now. If you make it, I beg of you not to try to sidestep the making of the biscuits by buying refrigerated biscuits in a tube. Not that you would! But I thought I would mention that, just in case you thought it might make it easier. Really, I can’t stress enough how simple it is to make a biscuit. I think it’s just that we are out of practice. Like anything else, once you are in the habit, well, you won’t be buying any biscuits from the dairy section of the supermarket. In the time that it would take to go to the grocery store and back, your biscuits will be baked.

Chicken Pie
1 whole chicken
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 16-ounce bag of frozen peas (use fresh if it’s the right season)

Place the chicken into a stockpot and cover it with water. Place a few bay leaves, a teaspoon of salt and several peppercorns into the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Let simmer gently for about 15 minutes and then turn off the heat and let the covered pot sit until it is cool, about 3 or 4 hours. Remove skin and bone from the chicken and place bite-size pieces of the meat in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Reserve about a quart of the broth.

Place two tablespoons of butter into a large skillet and when it’s melted, add two tablespoons of flour. Using a wire whisk, stir in a few tablespoons of the broth, making a thick paste. Gradually add the rest of the broth, a bit at a time, whisking all the while. When it’s thickened but still pourable (you don’t want it to be pasty, a smooth liquid gravy is what you are looking for here), pour about half of it over the chicken pieces.
Preheat the oven to 425.
Biscuit Crust
This is the recipe I use for all biscuits, biscuits in the morning, biscuits for shortcake, biscuits for ham and cheese sandwiches. But best of all, biscuits for chicken pie.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons softened butter
2/3 to ¾ cup Kefir or buttermilk (I always use Kefir, in natural food section of your grocery store)

Stir all the dry ingredients together with a wire whisk and then cut in the butter. Add the milk and blend until the dough is workable with your hands. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour as you go. Place on the counter or bread board and knead lightly until it’s no longer sticky. Roll it out to fit the top of your casserole dish – make it slighter smaller so it will fit on top of the chicken but not overlap or be fastened to the sides of the dish. The gravy is going to bubble up around the crust as it bakes. You can be approximate, it’s OK to be shaggy around the edges or however you like. (The old recipe calls for cutting a hole in the center of the dough and putting an inverted custard cup in the middle to vent the pie and help it cook more evenly but I have to say, I have never done this and my pie always comes out fine.)

Put the peas on top of the chicken and gravy and then top it with the crust. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the biscuit is golden. Serve with extra gravy.

It probably would serve six but even when I serve it to four, I don’t end up with leftovers. Once you start serving this to your friends, they aren’t going to let you get away with making anything else. Or take it to the potluck. You will be beloved.
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