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the odd couple: the pig and the cow

20 October 2009

dj

chicken pot pie

fictional hero Forrest Gump said he and lifelong love Jenny went together like peas and carrots. some perceived them, perhaps, as an odd couple. but most as a beloved one. and so, to me, has become the pairing of the pig and the cow.

much like barbecue, cooks of all abilities are impassioned about the contents of their pie crusts: all-butter. all-shortening. a perfect split. or something more asymmetrical. ever on the mission to improve my mediocre attempts, i’ve spent what some might deem an inordinate amount of time  researching the topic. until i unearthed my pie crust true north: a fusion of rendered leaf lard (the fat that protects a hog’s kidneys) and european-style butter.

great cooks have already waxed poetic about this winning combination—a combination that yields the most flaky, memorable crust ever known. so, i set out to try my hand at re-creating all its glory. first, i sent an e-mail to Heath Putnam of Wooly Pigs to ask if he had any leaf lard on hand. Heath was kind enough to give me a call to let me know he planned to bring some leaf lard to the next Seattle University District Farmers’ Market. then, early (i’d say bright and, but it was one of those Pacific Northwest gully washers) on Saturday morning, my friend Lourdes and i met at the market. even though we got soaked to the skin, we had a totally fantastic time and left with Wooly Pigs’ leaf lard in shopping bag. the next step? rendering the lard.

i learned a ton about rendering leaf lard from Ashley’s wonderful not-without-salt post and by watching her video, where she uses the stovetop method. there’s also a very nice compilation of other leaf lard-related references on her blog. feeling elated, but pooped after our market outing, i chose to render my leaf lard using the oven method. lessons learned?

  1. exercise patience during the oven-rendering process (i.e., stop looking through the glass door every 20 minutes; the temp is only on 200F; go to bed). rendered leaf lard in mini muffin tins
  2. probably don’t store your beautifully rendered, precious-as-gold lard in muffin tins (one of the methods i read about); go out and get a nice Ball canning jar. easier to manage and store.
  3. pie crust born of the perfect union of pig and cow can be used for both savory and sweet applications. oh, and from my new vantage point, simply cannot be surpassed.

i introduced the pig and the cow to the chicken (they became fast friends). you’ll find the results here, created mostly with a bunch of leftovers. a rich, hearty filling that takes advantage of  the flavors of seasoned rotisserie chicken. and, of course, topped with that heavenly, flaky, to-die-for crust. sigh.

Odd Couple Chicken Pot Pie
a variation based on a turkey pot pie recipe from Emeril’s TV Dinners

INGREDIENTS

for the pie crust
recipe of your choice. mine new favorite is here. i don’t pretend for one second to know how to make it like Kate McDermott of Art of the Pie, but i aspire to learn one day.

for this recipe, you can choose to have a top and bottom crust or just a top crust. i went with the latter.

for the filling
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion (e.g., Walla Walla, yellow)
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons unbleached organic flour
2 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup diced potatoes (i just cooked small Yukon Golds in boiling for about five minutes, then let cool and cut up) or any leftover potatoes (not mashed!)
1 cup leftover, diced sweet potatoes
1 cup diced carrots (i used whole petite carrots and threw them in with the Yukon Golds for about two minutes)
1 cup sweet young peas, fresh or frozen; defrost if frozen (i used fresh snap peas)
2 cups shredded cooked, leftover rotisserie chicken or turkey

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 375F.
  2. grease a 9-inch square baking dish (i used 4 small, individual casseroles).
  3. heat butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
  4. add the onions, season with salt and pepper, cook/stir for 2 minutes.
  5. stir in the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to make a roux.
  6. stir in the chicken stock, and bring the liquid to a boil.
  7. reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 4 to 6 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken.
  8. stir in the half-and-half and continue to cook for another 4 minutes.
  9. season with salt and pepper.
  10. stir in the potatoes, carrots, peas, chicken and any other leftover vegetables.
  11. season to taste.
  12. if you’re using a bottom crust, line the baking dish with the rolled-out crust.
  13. pour the filling into the prepared pan.
  14. place the top crust on top of the filling. unbaked pot pie
  15. carefully tuck the overlapping crusts into the dish, forming a thick edge.
  16. crimp the edges, and cut vents in the top crust.
  17. place the baking dish on a cookie sheet.
  18. bake until the crust is golden brown, around 25 to 30 minutes.
  19. let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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