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Comport food: in cold weather, nothing sticks to your bones better than delicious, hearty pot pies.

There are things that we do as Southerners that set us apart from the rest of the world. When the temperature dips in the low 30s and the local meteorologists begin predicting things like "Blizzard, 2000" (I bought a sled during that one and never saw anything but mud) and "The Ice Storm of the Decade, 2004," we immediately close schools and rush to the grocery store. Then we cook giant pots of hearty soups and beefy stews and spicy chili that could feed the entire neighborhood. Another habit of Southerners is in a time of need, feed. When a friend or neighbor is ill, we take them food. Food speaks and gives comfort. Food becomes our language.

The warm and creamy Chicken Pot Pie speaks volumes. It is the ultimate comfort food. It will feed a family with its bread, meat, and vegetables and is marvelously satisfying. The beauty of the pot pie lies in its simplicity. It is just a couple of chicken breasts simmered with onions, carrots, and celery and combined with broth and cream, then tucked into a buttery crust and baked.

The texture of the meat is important. It should be moist, tender, and full of flavor. My mother taught me to add the chicken breasts and vegetables to boiling water and then turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook for about an hour. The meat will remain tender. Using skin-on, bone-in breasts makes a much more flavorful pie than using skinless breasts.

Lee Bailey, who was a masterful cook and one of my favorite cookbook authors, writes, "I have been serving chicken pot pie to mark special occasions for over fifteen years now. It never fails--there seems to be something so soothing about its flavor. And I believe it must have pleasant memory associations for most people as well...." His recipe includes a cornbread crust, and he prefers to boil a large hen because of its flavor and the higher yield of meat. It is a wonderful pot pie and definitely worth putting in your recipe box.

The perfect pot pie doesn't have to contain chicken. Cooked shrimp cloaked in cream and sherry, wrapped in a delicate crust, and baked in individual ramekins serves as a perfect entree. Even a nice cut of roast makes a luxurious beef pie. Use tender cuts of beef, an array of vegetables, and a robust stock combined with red wine and cream, and bake it in a flaky crust. Frozen peas seem to work well in this particular dish.

In England, tiny beef pies called Cornish pasties are sold on the streets just like New Yorkers sell hotdogs. They are simple pastries that include beef and root vegetables wrapped in tender pie crusts and served with apple chutney. Oh, how I wish there were street-vendors in Jackson selling Cornish pasties! But then again, eating on the street is another one of our Deep South culinary "don'ts." (My mother would say it is not lady-like to eat while walking.)

Serving a comforting pot pie to your family or a sick friend is thoughtful as well as tasty. These recipes can be easily doubled and frozen.

2 cups all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

Place flour into bowl. Using a pastry cutter,
cut butter and shortening into flour until mixture
resembles a course cornmeal. Add water
a little at a time, stirring lightly with a fork until
dough is formed and comes together. Shape
into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate
for at least 30 minutes.

4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
2 carrots, peeled
4 stalks celery, cut in half
1 onion, quartered
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 pint cream
Milk to thin
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Tabasco to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add chicken breasts, carrots, celery, onion, and
salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and
simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked
through. Let chicken remain in the pot for another
30 minutes. Remove chicken and vegetables from
pot and cool, reserving stock. Pull meat from
bones, and roughly chop the vegetables.

In a saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour
until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually add
chicken stock and cream until a thick sauce
forms. Add milk if mixture is too thick Check
seasonings, and add salt, pepper, and Tabasco
sauce as needed. Stir in chicken and chopped
vegetables and place in a heat-proof pie pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place prepared
crust on top of filling and pinch edges of dough.
Decorate with remaining dough as desired. Brush
pie with a glaze made with the cream and egg yolk
Bake for 30-45 minutes until crust is golden.

Yield: 8 servings.

1/4 cup cream
I egg yolk

Blend cream and egg yolk together using
a fork.


l large hen
10 celery stalks
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 large potato, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 cops hot chicken stock
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
8 drops Tabasco sauce
1 cup frozen baby lima beans

Place the hen in a large pot and cover
with water. Break the celery into pieces and
put in the pot. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours until the
chicken is tender. Skim off fat if necessary.
Let chicken cool in the pot When cool, take
the chicken carefully from the stock and
remove the meat from bones. Discarding the
skin, return the bones to the pot. Measure
out 4 generous cups of the meat; cube and
set aside. Simmer the stock another hour to
reduce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Discard the bones.

Place the carrots and potatoes in a saucepan
and cover with water. Simmer for
10 minutes and drain.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Saute onion
in the margarine until translucent. Meanwhile,
heat stock Stir flour into the onion and mix
well. Add heated stock slowly, stirring constantly.
When smooth, let simmer for a minute and add
the salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce.

To assemble pie, put a layer of chicken
in the bottom of a shallow, greased 3-quart
casserole. Sprinkle a third of frozen limas,
carrots, and potatoes in the bottom. Add salt
and pepper. Repeat layers until all the chicken
and vegetables are used. Pour the stock sauce
over all and top with crust.

1 1/2 cups white cornmeal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup oil

Sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking
powder, sugar, and salt. Set aside. Mix milk
with the eggs and oil and combine with dry
ingredients. Pour over chicken and vegetables.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: 8 servings.


4 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cream
Red pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sherry
1/2 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 pounds cooked and peeled shrimp
2 large cans mushrooms
1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 10-12
(8-ounce) ramekins and set aside. In a heavy
saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour to make a
light roux. Add salt and whisk in cream until the
sauce is smooth. Season mixture with red pepper
Add sherry, cheese, shrimp, and mushrooms, stirring
well. Ladle mixture into ramekins. Roll puff
pastry onto a floured surface, and cut ten 3-inch
circles with a biscuit cutter Place a pastry round
on top of each ramekins, pressing to seal

1/4 cup cream
1 egg yolk

Beat egg yolk with 1/4 cup cream. Cut tiny
slits into the top of each pie and brush with
glaze. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet. Bake
for 25-30 minutes until pastry is golden brown.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.


1 tablespoon oil or butter
3 pounds beef tenderloin or tender cut of roast beef,
 cut into pieces
7 cups stock
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 bay leaves
2 cups carrots, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cups frozen green peas
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 cup cream
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 (17-ounce) package frozen puff pastry

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a
saucepan with a heavy bottom. Add meat
and sear on all sides. Add stock, tomato paste,
wine, and bay leaves, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour.
Add vegetables and cream and continue
cooking for 20 minutes. Check seasonings,
and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix flour
and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small bowl.
Stir paste into stock mixture and simmer until
sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.

Pour beef and vegetable mixture into a
heat-proof baking dish and top with prepared
puff pastry.

1/4 cup cream
1 egg yolk

Beat egg yolk with 1/4 cup cream. Cut slits
into pastry and brush with glaze. Race into a
hot oven and bake 15-20 minutes until pastry
is golden.

Yield: 6 servings.

(shown below left)

3 1/3 cups self-rising flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup butter, chopped
Ice water

Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a
food processor. Using pulse button, add butter
a couple of pieces at a time until mixture
resembles cornmeal. Add ice water drop by
drop until mixture comes together and is not
sticky. Remove from bowl and pat into a 9-inch
ball and refrigerate.

1 small onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon butter
18 ounces top round or chuck beef, diced
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon dry English mustard
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

1 large egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On top
of stove, cook the onions and the potatoes
in butter. Add beef and cook on medium
heat, browning meat evenly. Turn heat down
and season with mace, mustard, salt, and
pepper. Cook for 30 minutes or until everything
is tender.

Divide pastry into 4 pieces and roll each
one out between plastic wrap into a rough
circle about 6 inches. Place a cup of the beef
mixture onto the center of one side of the
circle and fold pastry over. Brush egg glaze on
edges to seal the pies and then brush over all.
Crimp the edges as desired. Place the pasties
on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake
for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to
350 degrees and bake 15 more minutes.
Serve with chutney or mustard.

Yield: 4-6 generous servings.


I am a newlywed and signed up for the NearlyWed.
I love Mississippi Magazine! The recipes are great,
so I thought I would share one that my sister-in-law
shared with me.

Amber C. Horn, Ridgeland

1 package piecrust (comes 2 per package)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans mixed vegetables (drain 1 can)
1 large can chicken or 1 large chicken breast, cooked
1(6-ounce) package cheddar cheese, shredded
Spices of your choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease pie pan
and place one crust on the bottom In large bowl,
mix soup, mixed vegetables, spices, and chicken.
Pour mixture into piecrust. Cover with shredded
cheese. Place other piecrust on top. Crimp
edges together, and cut slits in the top. Bake until
golden brown, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Yield: 6-8 servings.


This has been a family favorite for years.

Evelyn Slay, Pearl

4 chicken breasts
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
3/4-1 cup water
1/2 stick margarine, divided
Black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil
chicken breasts until tender. Reserve broth
for dumplings. Cool chicken, and cut into
small pieces. Put in a 2 quart casserole and
set aside. Combine flour, salt, shortening and
egg in bowl. Add 3/4-1 cup water and mix well.
For dumplings, roll out 3/4 of the dough on
floured board and cut into strips 1 x 3 inches
long. Drop dumplings into chicken broth. Do
not stir, but use a fork to separate. Boil about
5 minutes. Pour over chicken and dot with
4 teaspoons of margarine and black pepper.
(Be sure to cover dumplings with broth.) Roll
out remaining dough for top crust. Dot with
remaining margarine. Bake for 30 minutes.

Yield: 8-10 servings.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Downhome Publications, Inc.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:food / home matters
Author:Burgess, Emily Hines
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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