Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Creamed Chicken (without Cream)

When I was growing up, my mother made a dish she called "creamed chicken". She'd cook chicken and create a stock (chicken, salt, onions, celery, etc.) She'd also make pie crust dough and place disks of it over the backs of muffin tins to create small shells. The chicken was removed and cooled. Meanwhile, peas and carrots were added to the stock to simmer. 

The baked shells were carefully removed from the muffin tins and placed on a tray that would soon go on the table. The cooled chicken was shredded and re-introduced to the stock. A flour and water slurry, already made and waiting, would be poured into the pot of now boiling broth to thicken it into a rich creamy mix of goodness.

By all accounts, you could also fill a two crust pie with this, but Mom never did that. The only dinner pie she'd make was meat and that was made with leftover stew. Dad would always say, "It's a shame we have to have stew in order to have pie." He preferred it in the crust. Honestly, so do I.

You could also eat this with baking powder biscuits. It's very much like Chicken Ala King in appearance, but no pimentos, no mushrooms and, yep - you guessed it, no cream!

I was answering a discussion on another site today about what meals the writer could make, family classics if we had them, that would break her from her cycle of fried chicken and pork chops all the time. I don't cook as often as my mother (who simply LOVED all aspects of homemaking - a genetic trait I didn't receive), but I do remember those "classic" meals I grew up with (and fried chicken and pork chops weren't among them). This recipe was one of them. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. Finally, this afternoon, I decided I WOULD have it! We had chicken, we had pie crust mix, we had peas & carrots and we had dehydrated onions and celery (we're due for some grocery shopping, it seems).

My mother swore by Pillsbury Pie Crust mix. As good of a cook as she was, she never felt her pie crusts were acceptable, but once she discovered that, she would stock up on it to be sure to have it on hand. That's what I had on hand, too. Unfortunately, because of that gene thing I already mentioned, my pie crust, despite all the ingredients being contained within that box, just wouldn't obey. I floured the counter, I floured the rolling pin, and it stuck to everything it touched, including my hands. I even added flour to the mix to keep it from being gummy (actually MEASURING the correct quantity of water that the box called for doesn't seem to mean anything if I'm the one behind the spoons) to no avail. 

Finally, I got out my flattest, longest spatula, patted the rounds out by hand and lifted them from the counter with that spatula before placing them on the back of the muffin pan. Of course, they still cracked and separated, so I used leftover dough to make patchwork versions of the original. I then put them in the oven at the required heat setting and proceeded to set off smoke alarms throughout the house. Yep - the required heat setting baked them faster than the time stated and two of them were a very toasty brown. I'm not sure where all the smoke that poured out of the oven was actually coming from, but the pastry shells actually looked pretty darned good, despite their haphazard appearance and visible patches.

I should have known. Every single shell crumbled the moment human hands touched it. My son clarified that to "turned to powder". Despite that, though, we used those crumbled, powdery shells and applied the creamed (with no cream) chicken to the no-longer-shelled shells and enjoyed our meal intensely. There was plenty to go around, enough that I could make at least one chicken pie out of what's left (which I plan to do as soon as I can BUY some ready-made pie crust.) I think I understand why Mom began using puff pastry cups towards the end.


Despite the comedy of errors that took place tonight, the dish was a hit! And, I have a quart plus one serving leftover. I think I'll make a chicken pie with the quart, but I'm going to freeze it for now. 

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