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The Best Meat Pies in Lansing …


Synchronicity. Sometimes, it all comes together in life in the strangest ways…and leads from cannabalism in 19th century London to a tasty spontaneous dinner in the Midwest. Unless you are interested in musical theater, or have a deep and abiding interest in my personal history, you may want to skip down to the recipe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you….

I love musicals, and I love Sondheim most of all. Nearly 30 years ago, during my first week of college, I sat entranced in a practice room as my new friend Bob Ingari played and sang “Johanna” from a brand new musical called “Sweeney Todd.” It was haunting, and beautiful, and (as is often the case with Sondheim) far more interesting than the Surry with the Fringe on Top, or that Enchanted Evening business. I eventually got to see “Sweeney Todd” on the stage, bought the record (yes, the record) and put in the “good” pile near “A Little Night Music” and “Evita,” and far away from Boy George and Gary Neumann.

By the time the movie came out last year, I was too busy to make it to the theater. Our Netflix pile is growing dusty as it is, and I’d honestly just forgotten about the whole thing until yesterday. Sam was home sick, and he asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with him. He picked “Sweeney Todd,” and because I am a totally negligent parent I agreed to let him watch the throat-cutting and live-burning so that I could ogle Johnny Depp and hear Sondheim. (Note to employees of protective services agencies: he appears to be unscathed). As we watched, I kept thinking about the meat pies, and about the fact that we had nothing firm planned for dinner. (Note to horrified readers: I was thinking about this in connection with the meat pies towards the beginning of the movie that are made of, well, regular meat. Not the other ones).

We had the following odds and ends in the house: 2 bone-in chicken breasts, 1 surplus pie crust from a quiche making day earlier in the week, about a cup of peas left over from making Topopo salad, and carrots for Sam’s lunch. It seemed likely that I could construct some sort of pot pie from all of this, with the addition of various hosehold staples (shallots, milk, flour), but there was a problem: I have always, always hated pot pies. I believe it stems from my childhood abhorrence of un-flavored white sauce; I hated Tuna Noodle Casserole, Chicken a la King, Creamed Chipped Beef…and pot pies. I do, however, like things with flavored white sauce like Macaroni and Cheese and Turkey Tetrazzini, I didn’t want cheesy pot pie (literally or figuratively) but I figured that a splash of the dry sherry that made the white sauce palatable to me in Tetrazzini might also work in the context of pot pie. We paused the movie mid-murder, I put the chicken breasts on to poach, and eventually this is what I made:

The Best Chicken Pot Pie in Lansing

(A title which is immodest, but related to my “Sweeney Todd” Theme)

  1. About 2 cups of cooked, cubed, white meat chicken (I poached mine, but this would be a great way to use up left over cooked chicken or turkey)
  2. 1 single purchased or homemade pie crust (although you could certainly add a top crust – I just don’t like crust that much)
  3. 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  4. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  5. 3 shallots or 1 small onion, chopped
  6. 2 large carrots peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into thin half-moons
  7. 1 cup frozen peas
  8. 2 cups milk or low-fat half & half (I used the latter, which made the filling very rich)
  9. splash of dry sherry
  10. salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pie crust in pie tin or 8-inch round baking pan with excess crust draped over outer edge.

In a large, shallow pan, heat oil over medium high heat; cook carrots and onions, stirring often, until they are tender (about 10 minutes). Add flour, salt and pepper and cook about 3 more minutes. Gradually add milk or half & half and stir constantly until sauce thickens, mashing out any flour lumps.

Turn off heat under pan and add peas, chicken and sherry, stirring to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Pour mixture into crust and fold edges up and in to form free-form edge. Bake for about 25 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and filling is bubbling.



About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

8 responses »

  1. Frankly,dear,forgive my Candor
    Family Secret, All to do with herbs.
    Things like being careful with your coriander.
    Thats what makes the gravy grander.

    More hot pies! More hot! More pies!
    MOREarrghhfff,,,,,,,,, (silence)

  2. Love the sherry idea in the pot pie. Wonderful addition to it.

  3. well, i’ve never seen sweeny todd, so any references to it are completely over my head……..but……your pot pie looks insanely good! what a lovely meal to put on the table on a crisp cool night!

  4. I love the ida of no top crust. I make a “pot pie” too, but I have adapted it to my allergy inflicted family and use organic chicken broth instead of milk. Sometimes my it too “crusty” if that’s a word. Mine also has ground mustard, no sherry, maybe I’ll make that switch too. . .we have Sweeny on DVR right now ready to watch, I had communicated my distaste for this to Todd but maybe I need to give it a shot now? You’ve got me curious

  5. Ann,

    It the social commentary that makes ‘Sweeny’ admissable.

    People, ruduced to no longer asking (or possibly caring) about what it is they are fed. If it tastes good, swallow it.

    I just close my eyes when the squirting begins,,,,,,,

  6. Ann, not only does that look insanely scrumptious, but when I make it back to East Lansing sometime to see my dad, I want to come over to your house for that exact meat pie–I mean it–I’ll give you plenty of notice, but I.WANT.THAT.MEATPIE.

  7. Robert – I refuse to believe that you are SO perfect that you know the lyrics to “Sweeney Todd” by heart. If you are, I have married the wrong man. (Although Mr. Annie did consent to watch ST with me the second time through, and was quite tolerant of the Depp-ogling).

    Mary – I think it really did make a difference. Just a little depth….

    jayedee – I love you, but only someone living in Florida could think that it was “crisp and cool” here in November. There is snow in my yard!

    Michelle – the chicken broth is healthier, though. I know most people go for the double crust thing, but we (at least Sam and I) preferred more middle and less crust. I honestly don’t know if you’ll like ST or hate it – it’s VERY violent. I just love the music enough that I can, as Robert says, “close my eyes when the squirting begins.”

    Eric – you got it. I would be so happy if you came for a visit. Bring Dale, too, and I’ll make two meat pies.

  8. Pingback: Economy.Class III: What’s For Dinner? « Forest Street Kitchen

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