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Pie for dinner?

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Posted: Friday, February 1, 2008 10:00 pm

Pie for dinner? Savory pies are making a comeback in a new, trendy comfort food kind of way and they are no longer just a hiding place for that leftover mystery meat. According to the Herald Tribune, even the British are seeing a re-birth in the perception of savory pies, and though they were once regarded as a "low-rent kind of food," they are now showing up on menus in trendy restaurants, incorporating exotic flavors and re-educating the British palette. Even Virgin Atlantic Airlines is offering a savory pie in its upper class service and the dinner pie is once again crossing the Atlantic, coming to America.

Savory pies are nothing new and can be traced back to the Middle Ages. The Egyptians and the Romans encased meats in hard pastries made from flour, suet and eggs as a way to prevent spoilage, as well as a moist cooking method. Most cultures have some form of savory pie that can be associated with it, while the fillings or seasoning may take on a more regional note.

American home-style pot-pie may be the first thing you think of, filled with chicken or turkey, often straight from the freezer case or made after Thanksgiving dinner to use up left-overs. The beloved quiche, a classic dish of French cuisine, has become a standard menu item with "real" men asking for seconds, while the Greeks bring their flakey spinach pie, spanakopita to the table.

By Nancy Rostomily
This is a quick savory pie recipe that forms a light biscuit-type crust as it cooks.
1 medium rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken/turkey
1 cup chicken broth
1 can cream of celery soup
1 stick butter - melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Remove bones and skin from cooked chicken and place bite sized chunks in a 9-by-13 inch baking dish. In a bowl, whisk chicken broth, celery soup, half of the melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper until smooth. Pour over cut-up chicken pieces (and vegetables if using).
Whisk flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a bowl to break up any lumps. Add milk and the remaining melted butter and mix. Pour this mixture evenly over chicken. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degree until crust forms and browns.
Optional: Add mixed veggies by layering them on top of chicken before adding sauce.
Serve with a green salad.
Serves 8.

The Italians enjoy a double crusted meat and cheese pie known as a torta, the internationally loved pizza pie and the hand held calzone. Eastern Europeans are known for their pierogi or piroshke hand pies whereas the English enjoy their pasty with its crimped edges and warm filling. While most think of savory pies as having a pastry top, don't forget the British shepherd's pie, traditionally made from ground meat with braised vegetables, then topped with mashed potatoes instead of dough.

Since the possibilities are limitless with savory pies and there are no set ingredients, they make wonderful dinners for the busy family. No sides are required since everything is in one dish, but a salad is always a welcomed accompaniment for those that feel the need to accessorize. Crust made from scratch, using a good basic p…te brisée recipe, do make the best tasting pies, but there are other options available for the busy cook. Opt for a good ready made pie crust, frozen puff pastry, phyllo dough or even use stovetop stuffing as your crust. Consider other shortcuts to help in quick assembly, like rotisserie chicken, deli roast beef or frozen cooked shrimp. Bagged, pre-cut veggies and other good quality prepared items make for faster prep, while canned tomatoes, soups and refrigerated pre-made sauces can bring the filling together in a snap.

So sing a song of sixpence, while you're baking pie and you can have a warming, comforting, and filling dinner on the table without 4 and twenty blackbirds in no time.

Lodi resident Nancy Rostomily is a southern girl at heart, who enjoys the art and science of food. She can be reached at lodifood@hotmail.com.

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