- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My sister Susan’s gift to new neighbors or needy friends is her signature potpie. It’s packed with freshly cooked chicken and veggies she likes, such as yellow squash, and it is baked easily using prepared pie crusts from the supermarket.

In cooler months, Susan relies on frozen veggies, but come summer, she adds sliced fresh summer squash, carrots or asparagus tips. Feel free to add the vegetables your family prefers and to make your own crust, if you like.

To brown the crust, simply place it under the broiler until it becomes deeply golden. (Keep a close watch.)

Round out this comfort fest by adding a green salad or coleslaw, and be sure to whip up your best comfy dessert. We adore banana pudding, but there is also rice pudding, coconut cream pie and carrot cake.

Five time-shaving ways to use chopped chicken

Cooked and chopped chicken is a time-saver, whether you cook it ahead yourself and refrigerate, or buy a roasted chicken to chop and chill for cooking later in the day. Here are some ways it can help you get dinner on the table.

• Add chopped celery, a little onion, fresh parsley or tarragon, salt, pepper and enough mayonnaise to pull the salad together. Stuff this chicken salad into a ripe, cored tomato for a healthy and hearty meal.

• Add sauteed onion, pepper and tomatoes, along with broth, cumin, salsa and some crushed corn chips for a fast tortilla soup.

• Pile the chicken on top of cooked pasta, followed by hot sauteed mushrooms, shredded Parmesan cheese and a splash of cream.

• For a quick casserole, fold chopped chicken into prepared Alfredo sauce, add seasonings of your choice, then top with crushed soda crackers and melted butter before baking until browned and bubbling.

• Toss the chicken with chopped red onion, cucumber, Kalamata olives and enough yogurt to pull the mixture together. Add chopped fresh mint if you have it in the garden, then salt and pepper to taste and add a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese. Pile this into pita pockets and enjoy.

Susan’s chicken potpie

The preparation time is 15 to 20 minutes, and the baking time is 27 to 34 minutes

1 12-ounce package frozen deep-dish pie crusts (2 crusts), or 1 15-ounce package refrigerated pie pastry rounds (2 rounds)

2 tablespoons butter

1½ cups cooked vegetables of your choice

2 cups (packed) shredded cooked chicken

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and black pepper

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Remove packaging from frozen crusts or pastry rounds and set one crust aside. Place a crust or refrigerated pastry round in a 9-inch pie pan that is 2 inches deep. (If using pastry rounds, press 1 into the pie pan and crimp edge with a fork.)

Prick bottom of crust a few times with a fork. Bake crust on center rack of preheated 450-degree oven until it is well browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove pie pan from oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

While pie crust bakes, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add chicken and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and chicken, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until flour is incorporated, 1 minute longer. Add broth to skillet, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour chicken mixture into baked pie crust. Cover top with remaining pie crust. (If you are using a frozen deep-dish crust, it will have thawed by now and will be easy to lay over top of pie.) Turn edge of top crust under crimped edge of bottom crust with your fingertips. Press around edge with a fork to seal two crusts together.

Make several vents in top crust with a sharp knife. Bake pie on top of a baking sheet until pie crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pie from oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then slice it and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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