During the colder months, first-time dinner guests are always served chicken pie at our house. Long ago, I vowed that I would never make another chicken pie after making hundreds of them weekly in our pie shop, MOM. But when we closed it and moved on to other projects, not too much time passed before we were all longing for the taste of MOM – both my mom (who was the expert pie maker) and the daily pies from the shop. So, I started making them again. (Although I refrain from succumbing to pleas of long-time customers who still stop me on the street asking “can’t you make me just one pie?”)
During the winter, there is nothing more warming and comforting that a chicken pie straight from the oven. And, if you’re the cook, they are the perfect entertaining meal as much can be done in advance which leaves time to enjoy drinks with guests. I make the filling (see Cookbook Ideas – An American Family Cooks – for the recipe) and the pastry early in the day. I cut out the pastry tops and little chicks to decorate so all that I have to do is pop the pastry on the filled containers (I use individual large soufflé dishes) and then sit the pies in a preheated 375ºF oven to bake for about 30 minutes while we all enjoy our first course – always a salad and often one served with what I call Olive Swirls which I’ll tell you about in a later post.
Since An American Family Cooks has the recipe for both the filling and the pastry, we are simply sharing the photos of me putting together pies for this past weekend’s dinner party, hoping to inspire you into making them for your wintertime entertaining.
Since I have changed my pastry recipe a bit over the years, here is the revision – either the original or this one will work. To make enough pastry for a 2 crust pie, I combine 2½ cups of all-purpose flour with 1¼ cups lard or vegetable shortening (when using lard I am careful about the filling that I combine it with as it has, to me, a very distinct meaty flavor) and about ½ teaspoon salt (more or less to your own taste) in the food processor fitted with the metal blade. I moisten with ½ cup of ice cold water, processing to just barely combine. I pull the dough together and separate it into 2 equal pieces which I flatten, cover with plastic film, and refrigerate until ready to use. I think this makes a perfect light, flaky traditional American pie crust.