Friday, November 10, 2006

A Pot Pie of One's Own

In 3 Acts

Act 1:
Swansons. Or maybe Banquet.

My babysitter Margie is a senior in high school. Tonight she makes me dinner and we play Mystery Date. According to the rules of the game, I try to accumulate all the right clothes to make up an outfit that will prepare me for my adventure. The potential escorts include some glamorous possibilities: a ski instructor, a beach bum, the Dreamboat. The excitement comes when one of us completes our ensemble and gets to open up the door in the center of the board. Most of the time I find that when I’m wearing a pink satin evening gown with silver slippers and a fur stole, I’m stuck with a guy in Bermuda shorts who’s toting a bowling ball.

(Actually, I think something like that once happened to me in real life.)

Margie spends hours talking on the phone with her boyfriend Larry. I’ve seen pictures of him and while he isn’t a Dreamboat, he’s not a Dud, either. I nibble at the crust on the rim of the little tin pie pan and dig around in Margie’s book bag. Her shorthand textbook is filled with mysterious scribbles and dots and sweeping curves. Margie hoots at something Larry says. I press my fingers to the pages of the book and stare, wondering where this magical language is spoken.

Act 2:
In the Tea Room

It is the third time this week that the chef has called in sick. Last week he waved a knife in my direction and scowled in a dark way. He likes to fry bacon when he knows I’m scheduled to arrive, understanding somehow that at this stage of my pregnancy, one whiff of pork fat is all it takes to make me heave.

I do not think I am suited to running a restaurant.

The lunch crowd will be arriving soon. I declare the chef fired and Oscar, the 16-year-old dishwasher, promoted. Oscar is sweet and puppy-like; the only thing he has ever waved at me is a dishrag -- a sign of surrender at the end of his shift. Now he lines the pot pie dishes with pastry and counts out the morsels of chicken. Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, siete. The flock of blue-haired ladies who lunch here quickly become indignant if one is awarded more chicken than another.

Act 3:
When I was a stay-at-home mom

Bake a pot pie and take it to the friend who just had a baby.
Bake a pot pie and take it to the preschool for the teachers’ lunch.
Bake a pot pie and take it to the neighbors who are moving away.
Bake a pot pie and take it to the church lady who just had her knee replaced.
Bake a pot pie and take it to the old guy whose wife just died.
Bake a pot pie and take it to the friend who just had two babies.
Bake a pot pie and send it to the elementary school for the teachers’ lunch.
Bake a pot pie and take it to the new neighbors.
Bake a pot pie and leave it on the doorstep of the old guy who is now living with the church lady who just had her knee replaced.


Chicken Pot Pie
Adapted from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook

I’ve used variations of this recipe for years. You can assemble it a day ahead and keep it, unbaked, in the refrigerator overnight. Make two and you'll make a friend.


2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 c. heavy cream
4 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ in. pieces
2 zucchini, cut into ½ in. pieces
4 T. butter
2 small onions, chopped
4 T. flour
1 c. chicken broth
¼ c. Cognac or white wine
1 t. dried tarragon
1 ½ t. salt
pepper to taste

pastry for a single crust pie

Lay chicken breasts in a single layer in roasting pan. Pour cream over and bake at 350, 20-25 minutes. Let the chicken cool in the cream. When cool, cut chicken into 1 inch pieces. Reserve the cream and cooking juices!

Blanch carrots in boiling water for 5 minutes. Add zucchini and blanch 2 minutes more. Drain.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add broth, and whisk until thickened. Stir in reserved cream and cooking juices, along with Cognac or wine. Cook over low heat until thick. Stir in tarragon, salt, and pepper.

Fold in chicken and vegetables. Pour mixture into deep casserole or soufflé dish. Roll out pastry and place on top of dish. Trim pastry and crimp edges. Brush milk over top of crust. Cut steam vents.

Bake at 425 for approximately 30 minutes.



At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks positively yummy. Of course, in my kitchen, it's likely to get a generous pinch of curry powder instead of (or maybe even in addition to) the tarragon.

I grew up on pot pies. Not even the fancy Swanson ones... we got the Safeway house brand. Any time my brothers and I were left home alone, the oldest was in charge of making dinner which was almost always pot pies. They came in chicken, turkey, and beef. We'd always fight over who got the beef one. Frankly, I never understood why my mother even bought the chicken or turkey as they were only eaten grudgingly.

I haven't had one in years.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger The Queen of Tarts said...

anonymous (cd), The beef version was way too dark and scary for me; it had the potential to mask all sorts of alarming things (like vegetables).


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