THE WASHINGTON POST – With all the talk of flour shortages, my singular concern became not whether my sourdough starter would survive (it has) but whether there would be pie.
Even before writing a couple of books about pies and making hundreds in every shape and size, pie was central to my meal planning. It is my favourite way to not only extend, but reimagine, a leftover into a meal. Making pie brings out the resourceful cook in me, making substitutions at will to suit my mood, refrigerator and pantry. And leftover pie is heaven-sent. It makes an ideal lunch, a sensible afternoon snack, or, if formed as a turnover and frozen, a welcome treat for later.
For this Curried Chicken Pie, I’ve made a basic curry sauce to surround chicken and cauliflower. With visual appeal in mind, I add bright carrots and peas and for bold flavour, chopped cilantro. Within pastry, flavours can dull, so I add an extra pinch of salt and grind of pepper and taste and correct until the filling sings. Curry powder, premixed and in the spice aisle, must be fresh to carry any zing. If yours has been languishing, add a pinch of cayenne or chilli flakes.
Consider this filling recipe a template for any savoury pie. Do you have a favourite chilli or stew? It’s possible to make a pie filling starting with those flavours, employing a thickener like flour or cornstarch, boosting the sauce with canned tomatoes, chicken stock or any complementary liquid. Cook the filling until it’s neither soupy nor dry, but has enough gravy to ensure a saucy centre after baking.
Pie filling is infinitely adjustable. For the chicken, swap in any leftover protein, from ground meat (cooked first), shredded beef, cubes of pot roast, slices of turkey or slivers of lamb. Substitute seitan or cooked beans or lentils to keep it vegetarian. Or make the filling vegetable-centric, adding green beans, corn, chopped tomato, zucchini, eggplant, or tiny potatoes. Frozen vegetables are absolutely acceptable. Aim to make a generous four cups of filling for a deep-dish round pie, a shallow slab pie – a double-crust pie baked on a shallow, rimmed, nine- by 13-inch baking sheet – or a dozen turnovers.
If pies make you nervous, there’s never been a better time to practise. Use a store-bought crust, or if you get ambitious, make extra dough to freeze for future pies. My Flaky Pie Dough swings from savoury to sweet and will be ready when peaches arrive.
Making a pie is a skill, not a talent, and with repetition and enough YouTube videos, it’s achievable. We are all being resourceful these days so if you don’t have a rolling pin, use a bottle. If crimping makes you nervous, a table fork can be used to press the top crust to the bottom crust. Be confident, knowing that an enthusiastically bubbling filling is a sure sign of a delicious pie.
CURRIED CHICKEN PIE
Servings: Eight to 12
Three tablespoons neutral oil
Three cups yellow onions, sliced in half moons
One jalapeño chilli pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
Three tablespoons all-purpose flour
One teaspoon salt, plus 1/8 teaspoon for optional egg wash
Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Two pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into one-inch chunks
Two tablespoons unsalted butter
One cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water
One cup full-fat coconut milk
Two tablespoons curry powder
Three cups cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen (not defrosted)
Three cups sliced carrots
One cup snap peas, fresh or frozen (not defrosted)
Half cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
Two pie doughs for a nine-inch deep-dish pie, store bought or homemade, chilled
One large egg, for optional egg wash
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until soft, browned and sweet, stirring from time to time, about 30 minutes. Stir in the jalapeño, cook for 30 seconds, then transfer the onions and jalapeño to a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. In the same Dutch oven, add the butter and increase the heat to medium-high. When the butter foams, add the chicken and do not stir until the chicken has browned a bit on the bottom, about five minutes. Stir gently to turn the chicken and continue cooking, until browned here and there, about five more minutes.
Pour in the broth, and using, a large spoon, scrape up the tasty bits (fond). Pour in the coconut milk and sprinkle the curry powder over everything. Stir to thoroughly combine the sauce, then add the cauliflower and carrots. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook until the vegetables are barely tender and the sauce has thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the peas and cilantro, stir well and remove the pan from the stove. Cool to room temperature before filling the pie.
If making the egg wash, a small bowl, whisk together the egg, one tablespoon of water and 1/8 teaspoon of salt until combined.
Bake the pie: Place the oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Roll out and place one circle of dough in the pie pan, spoon in the filling, and cover with a second circle of dough. Crimp well. Using a sharp knife, slash three or four holes in the top crust. Brush with an egg wash, if using. Bake for 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling up through the vents.
If making a shallow slab pie, you will need three pie doughs: Roll out one and a half of the pie doughs to a rectangle approximately 11-by-15-inches. Repeat with the remaining one and a half pie doughs. Line the bottom of the pie pan with one swath of dough, spoon in the filling, and cover with the second swath. Crimp the pie on all four sides, brush with the egg wash, if using, and vent with a few slashes. Bake as instructed above.
If making turnovers, you’ll need four pie doughs: Roll each pie dough into an 11-inch circle. Divide the circle into three equal triangles. Place a generous one third cup of filling on one half of a triangle and fold the other half over the filling. Crimp the open edges and vent the top. Brush with egg wash, if using, and repeat with the remaining dough. Bake at 400 degrees until the filling is bubbling, about 25 to 35 minutes.
Calories: 374; Total Fat: 20g; Saturated Fat: 9g; Cholesterol: 69mg; Sodium: 446mg; Carbohydrates: 29g; Dietary Fibre: 3g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 19g.