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Cabin Fever Supper: Mary Mack’s Chicken Pie

If you’re committed to a low-carb diet or on Day 15 of the Whole 30, stop reading right now! This recipe, handed down to me by my mother, who learned to cook mostly from her beloved childhood babysitter, Willie, doesn’t include anything green, gluten-free or carb-lite. Perhaps that’s why Julia always said it was the most delicious thing she ever ate when she would stay with us in Nashville or Sewanee. When Julia said something was delicious, that meant it was really delicious. And this is.

The trick to Mama’s chicken pie – aside from its flaky and decadent crust – made with the healthy cup of Crisco that is de rigeur for all Southern pie crusts – is its simplicity. Where the northern chicken pot pie (a very fine staple in its own right) includes carrots, pearl onions and green peas, depending on your recipe, Mama’s chicken pie has only five ingredients for the filling: butter, milk, chicken stock, chicken, and a can of very-tasty, if unrefined, Campbell’s cream of chicken soup. Lots of Mama’s recipes call for cream of chicken soup. I always keep a few cans of it – along with its sister ingredient, cream of mushroom soup – in my pantry just in case.

If you’re looking for a new take on comfort food as you plan your weekend menu, look no further. I love to serve this dish golden and hot out of the oven on a cold winter night with a simple green salad tossed in lemony vinaigrette or blanched haricots verts with plenty of coarse salt and lemon zest. Paired with a nice bottle of cold Chablis or a good Cotes du Rhone, this may be my favorite winter meal of all time.

Mary Mack’s Chicken Pie

Serves 6

For the Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup Crisco shortening
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water

For the Filling:

  • 3 large chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth mixed with 1 can Campbell’s cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup of whole milk or half and half
  • flour, if needed, to thicken sauce

Directions

  • Place chicken breasts in a stock pot and cover with water; add salt to taste, and cook over medium heat until cooked through
  • In the meantime, combine shortening, salt and flour in a food processor and pulse until the mixture reaches the consistency of small pebbles. Do not over-pulse
  • Slowly add cold water as needed and pulse until the dough forms a ball
  • You may not need all the cold water – keep an eye on the dough to make sure it is not too wet or too dry
  • Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 15 minutes
  • Remove chicken from stock pot, remove chicken from bone, shred or chop and set aside in a bowl
  • In a saucepan, combine milk and broth, stir over medium heat
  • Add butter and one can of soup
  • Stir over low to medium heat until it forms a thin gravy (the cream sauce will thicken while the pie is in the oven so it should not be too thick before baking)
  • If sauce requires thickening, add a small amount of flour
  • Once sauce reaches the texture of a gravy, add shredded chicken, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour filling into a rectangular or oval oven-proof casserole dish
  • Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator
  • Roll out on a floured surface to form a pie crust
  • Cut dough into strips and add a few dumplings to the chicken filling
  • Form a latticework crust over the chicken filling
  • Bake at 350 until crust is golden and filling is bubbling

Serve hot with a green salad or haricots verts.

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