Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Turkey Pot Pie

My biggest goal in starting Operation Freezer Burn was to get rid of that big old turkey carcass that’s been hanging around since last Thanksgiving. Step 1 was to make crock pot turkey stock, which I did here.

There was a lot more meat on those bones than I had remembered, especially since I hadn’t taken anything off of the wings and very little off the drumsticks. In addition to the cubed dark meat I already had in the freezer, I now had another couple of pounds to take care of. I wasn’t ready to make more turkey soup (although more on that later), but what else could I use it for? I do have an old recipe for a hot turkey salad that is absolutely delicious, but with mayonnaise and potato chips high on the ingredients list it’s not the best thing to have around if you’re desperately trying to get back on a fitness track, which I’ve been trying to do since the holidays. (Which really starts to sound lame by March, don't you think?)

When I worked for the League of Women Voters in Austin back in the ‘80s, I got two really great recipes from the woman for whom I worked. One of the recipes was this sausage, corn and tomato casserole that is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. It has four ingredients and takes about 30 minutes to cook. Add a fresh green salad and it is heaven.

The other recipe she gave me is for a biscuit-topped chicken pot pie, which is also fairly simple to make. I used to make both of these dishes on a regular basis, but as such things often do they fall out of rotation and I forget about them for a while. The sausage, corn and tomato dish returns more regularly because all it takes is for Eckrich Smoked Sausage to be on sale at the grocery store to resurrect it and I usually already have the other three ingredients on hand. As a matter of fact, in full-out defiance of Operation Freezer Burn, there are two packages of 2-for-the-price-of-1 sausage in my freezer at this very minute.

But the chicken pot pie requires a deeper probe into my brain to access. Last Saturday Bob and I walked again, and he mentioned to me that our brains catalog and file every single thing with which they come into contact, and we assign the level at which each item should be filed. Our brain’s storage capacity is humongous (not his word but I can’t remember all the details) enough to retain everything. So we decide if something belongs in a short-term file, a long-term file, something we want to be able to access frequently or never expect to use again. I suppose it’s why at one time the police used hypnosis on witnesses – to help access those pieces of data where the brain doesn’t remember into which file they went. And because we assign different levels of importance to each item, sometimes it takes longer to access or remember some things than it does others.

I think the last time I made this chicken pot pie recipe was over ten years ago. That’s a real shame because it’s a wonderful little recipe. Again, add a fresh green salad and you’re good to go. And while I was staring at the bowl of turkey meat gleaned off of the stock bones, it occurred to me that turkey might make a tasty pot pie. I dug out the recipe and got to work.

The real beauty of this recipe is the biscuit topping. You just mix up the batter, dot it all around the top, and it rises and covers the whole thing. I never quite trust that it will work because it looks like such a small amount of dough to cover such a large dish. But every time it does, and that crust is warm and dough-y and really makes the cake, so to speak.

Here it is all ready to go into the oven, with the little blobs of dough dotted across the top. Doesn't look like it could rise enough to cover the whole thing, does it?
And as I was dropping little spoonsful across the turkey and vegetables, I smiled to myself at how it never seems like there will be enough dough to cover the pie. It wasn’t until the pie had been in the oven for about 20 minutes and I was washing up the dishes that I went over the ingredients in my head and wondered just how that dough was going to rise without any kind of leavening ingredient in it. I took a second look at the recipe. I had completely missed the baking powder and it was too late to do anything about it.

And alas, the topping doesn't cover any more of the pie than it did before it went into the oven.

What I ended up with was the same sized little dots that had originally graced the top. And while I was supremely disappointed, I have to admit that it didn’t taste all that bad. What the dough balls lacked in size they more than made up for in dense tastiness. But next time I will be sure to remember the baking powder.

About the turkey soup - I have since made another batch of turkey soup with the turkey stock and it was phenomenally spectacularly deliciously good. I do not exaggerate. I will never go back to simple broth again. My freezer is already filling up with chicken bones and I can’t wait to make a batch of crock pot chicken stock. I’m telling you, you have to make some and see for yourself.
Home Cookin Chapter: Poultry

Chicken Pot Pie

Notes: I substituted turkey and turkey stock for the chicken and chicken broth. This recipe serves 2; I usually double (at least) the pie ingredients except for the flour and butter. These days I substitute olive oil for butter. I do not increase the topping mixture - it's not necessary.

For Pie:

2 Chicken breast halves
1-3/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp flour
1/3 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 cup peas

For Biscuit topping:

1/2 c. flour
dash salt
dash sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. butter, cut in thin slices
5 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Simmer chicken in broth one hour. Melt butter in saucepan. Saute
carrots 5 minutes, add celery and onion, saute 5 more minutes. Add flour
and stir to make roux. Gradually stir in broth, add seasonings, peas
and chicken. Pour into 1-1/2 qt. casserole; set aside.

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter, add milk. Toss briefly but
thoroughly until sticky dough is formed. Drop by heaping
tablespoonsful onto chicken mixture. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of dough.

Bake in preheated 350 deg. oven for 30 mins.

Servings: 2

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (

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