Letting Life Lead
Hello, friends and eaters! This post was supposed to make it’s appearance on Star Wars Day — May the Fourth Be With You — but I couldn’t carve out the time in between refereeing siblings, weeping over the laundry, bitching about the toilet (when is this boy going to learn how to aim into the giant hole?) , and wallowing in the despair of domestic drudgery.
Expecting a recipe with exact measurements?
I point laugh at you. Silly Wabbit.
For you new people, this series isn’t called “inconsistent” for nothing. Sometimes I use a recipe, sure. But, I am more apt to alter it or toss stuff together and see what happens.
I wanted pot pie. I made pot pie.
It’s easy, but it’s not for dieters or those afraid of butter. You can substitute some of the butter for lard or Crisco if you are feeling lucky. Experiment and have fun or be a killjoy and follow a measured recipe. Your call.
Pastry and breads do call for, at least, an idea of proportion.
For pie crust the basic ratio is 2:1 (flour to cold butter).
Weight is the best way to get the proportion with little effort. So if you use 12 ounces of flour, use 6 ounces of butter.
In ‘merica, that’s about 2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour and about 2 sticks of butter — approximate not exact. Trust me, weight is better. If you want to use exactly 8 ounces of butter then you need 16 ounces of flour; if you want to use 8 ounces of flour then use 4 ounces of butter. This ratio works with cups too, just read the measurement markings on your butter — one stick is 1/4 of a cup (4 oz). The ratio is pretty forgiving. It’s so easy, our ancestors did it without gadgets.
I’ve got a few tips to increase your chances of channeling the force. If you use salted butter, you may not want to add additional salt. Pastry flour is slightly lighter in weight per cup (4.25 oz) than all purpose (4.5 oz); either is fine. Bread flour will toughen up on you too fast and cake flour is too soft for crust. Cold, cold, cold. Cold ingredients are a must. If you suffer from perpetually cold hands like me, pie crust is a match made in Cold-Finger-Valhalla. Two and 1/4 cups of flour will yield one top of a of a pie, so if you want to have a bottom crust double that amount. I suggest that first timers work with 2 1/4 cups (12 ounces) of flour at a time.
Flour (all purpose or pastry flour)
Butter (cold, small cubes)
Pinch or two of salt
Water (cold, 1 tablespoon at a time)
Incorporate butter into flour and pinch of salt until a crumbly mixture forms. Use your fingers, big fork, or a pastry cutter (I love mine). Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until a non-sticky dough ball forms. How many tablespoons you use totally depends entirely on how much moisture is already in your flour. Don’t get impatient. You’ll be surprised at how fast you go from dry as a bone to “too much”. Don’t over-work the dough. Once it is in a mixed nice ball, let it be. For best results, allow it to rest for about fifteen to twenty minute in the fridge or on the counter if your house is fairly cool. Roll it out and use in pie pans, tart pans, or muffin cups.
I found that 16 ounces of flour and 8 ounces of butter was more than enough for the filling I made for my entire pie and five mini pies.
Chicken Pot Pie Filling
Preheat oven to 375
3 chicken thighs (skinned, deboned, and cubed; white meat is fine too)
5 ounces of cut string beans (half a frozen bag)
1 large clove of garlic (minced fine)
diced potatoes (four small)
carrots (diced or sliced)
celery seed (about 1/4 tsp)
poultry seasoning (marjoram, rosemary, sage, nutmeg)
water or broth or stock to cover
chicken bones or bullion (optional)
Roux for the gravy
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup butter (or oil or combination)
2/3 cup milk
The above ingredients are what I used, but I didn’t really measure. I sniffed and tasted and adjusted as things were cooking. In a pot with a little oil, saute the chicken with the garlic, onion, salt, and pepper until fragrant and the onion soft. Add celery seed (fresh celery would also work) and other seasonings. My seasonings are pretty powerful, so I can use less. Start with 1/4 tsp and see how that smells/tastes as it cooks; you can always add more. Add the vegetables. Choose your favorites: corn, peas, asparagus, broccoli etc. Add liquid to cover and chicken bullion if desired or toss in the left-over bones for added flavor. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Cook for about 15 minutes and remove bones if using. Set aside; keep the cooking liquid.
For a quick, not-by-the-book roux cook 1/3 cup flour with 1/3 cup of butter/oil just until the rawness is cooked off. It will make a little soft dough ball sometimes. It’s okay. Add in the liquid from the cooked vegetables a little at a time and stir, stir, stir until a gravy starts to form. You may choose not to use all the liquid depending on how much you have. Look at the gravy and decide. Add in the milk. Continue to cook until the gravy thickens how you like it. Add in your vegetable chicken mixture. Now is a good time to check your salt, pepper, and other seasonings with a final taste test. If you desire a thinner gravy add more milk, water, or broth at this time. I like a copious amount of thick gravy.
Let the mixture cool a bit before pouring it into the prepared pie pan. Or if your pie crust was an epic fail just eat it out of the pot with a big spoon family style. It’s all good.
Be sure to crimp the edges and put vent holes in your top crust. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes (listen to your nose and your eyes people!). If you make mini-pot pies, it should take about twenty minutes.
Mini pies are a great way to get your leechy spawn off your back. Uh. I mean, to teach your delightful children the fine details and rewards of cookery.
Now go forth and make something!
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Author of suspense novels Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, The Stix, and New Age Lamians. As well as the short story collection Time Wasters and (co-author of) The Suspenseful Collection. Columnist for The Conscious Talk Magazine.
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