A kind reader recently sent me a letter expressing appreciation of the Valentine Series, and asking for the recipe for the chicken pot pie made with cream gravy that Rainey Valentine makes for her uncle in Lost Highways.
Here’s the truth folks: I am not a cook. I am a fiction writer.
When I wrote Lost Highways, my chicken pot pie was one my son’s favorites. I actually cooked a bit back then. I, and Rainey, made country-style chicken pot pie, which is stewed chicken chunks in cream gravy and topped with biscuits. Rich comfort food. Rainey’s, of course, always turned out perfectly. She probably sang around the kitchen, cleaned up as she went, and did it all with manicured hands and Mary Kay makeup on.
Mine, however, is generally hit and miss, too thick or too runny, every pot and length of counter top dirty, hands never manicured but fingernails blunt from typing, flour smudges on my face, and supper usually served far later than planned.
Last night, thanks to Miss Robin’s sweet letter, I was prompted to make my chicken pot pie, and I discovered that it still has the power to bring my now-grown son home.
When Rainey made Chicken Pot Pie, it was traditional, with wheat flour. Now that I and my mother have celiac disease, and all of my family eats gluten-free in this house, I have had to modify it. I do my best with directions below.
Stew one whole chicken. Season to taste. I use salt, pepper, onions, sometimes celery seed, powdered garlic (I told you I am not a real cook). When chicken is about to fall off the bone, take it out of the pot. Save 3 cups of broth. Take the meat off the bones, make sure it is chunked, and set aside. This is really easiest to do the day before. At least start early afternoon.
About an hour before serving, set oven at 400 degrees.
To make cream gravy, stir 4-5 Tablespoons cornstarch into one half cup water. Pour the 3 cups of chicken broth, complete with the fat on the top, and 1 cup of milk into a frying pan. (You can also do 2 cups milk & 2 cups chicken broth, or all chicken broth. This is not an exact science.) Heat on medium high, and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Keep heating and stirring until mixture thickens to a medium to thin gravy.
Put the chicken into a large baking dish–I use a cast iron dutch oven that has been in the family three generations. I’m guessing 3 quart size. Pour in the gravy. If you like, add 1/2 to 1 cup of frozen vegetables, such as peas or lima beans and corn, or chopped potatoes, or anything that is your favorite. The gang I had last night does not like vegetables in it, so we went with just chicken and gravy. Stir and set on a low heat to have hot.
Next, mix up a batch of biscuits, either from scratch (they are easy, if you’ve never tried) or from a mix. Either formed or dropped style is acceptable, but do make them a bit on the dry side. Being gluten-free now, I am forever grateful for Betty Crocker’s Gluten-Free Bisquick mix, which makes up drop biscuits. Using a large spoon, I drop biscuit-sized spoonfuls of dough over the top of the chicken-gravy mixture. One in the middle and the other spoonfuls of dough circling. They will barely touch, and yes, they sink just a bit. Put pie directly in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until biscuit tops are browned and mixture is bubbling through.
I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten something, so feel free to send me an email for clarification. I am sorry not to have a photograph to show you, but four generations around the table last night ate it up before I thought of taking a picture. They may have been surprised that I actually cooked something, and it was good.