Pie guys

George, the pie editor

The Saturday meeting of the Pie Guys — Brian Dowd and Lucas Thors, with a minor role for Rich Saltzberg — is all my doing.

It all started with some boasting by Brian that he was a blue-ribbon, Ag Fair–sanctioned, Morning Glory Farm–trained baker. There was a lot of talk, and no tasting — for two years.

He produced a photo of the ribbon and the check he received at one point. Not the kind of evidence I was looking for, especially with pie involved.

I pushed. I prodded. And yet Brian always came up with an excuse about why he didn’t bake a pie that weekend.

Then, a few weeks after Thanksgiving, there was a discussion in the newsroom about pot pie and peas (Minute readers will remember we did a crucial survey affirming the Island’s love of peas). That prompted similar boasting from Lucas about his pot pie and shepherd pie prowess.

Believing the proof is in the (pudding) pie, I challenged the two of them, in my best Taylor Swift singing, to “bake it off, bake it off.”

I do have to say it’s one of the best assignments I gave these two young men. They proved themselves to be quite adept around crust, pie filling, and baking sheets. 

Rich’s pizza? Let’s just say as a pizza maker, he should stick to being an awardwinning reporter. (Who uses turnip as a pizza topping? And his dough? It was thick and gooey.)

Back to Brian and Lucas, the true pie guys. Lucas made a delicious chicken pot pie with a rich, creamy gravy. And Brian’s blueberry pie gets my blue ribbon seal of approval.

Should you try these recipes — or better, yet get Brian and Lucas to bake them — you won’t be disappointed.

 

Lucas and his Chicken Pot Pie

Consider for a brief moment the concept of pie — you can throw absolutely anything you want in. It can be as simple or as out-of-the-box as you want it to be. When considering recipes for a steaming-hot chicken pot pie, the number of available avenues to take were endless.

Some recipes included potato and shallots, while others went with the classic celery, carrots, and peas.

My introduction to pot pies was in my college days, when making a massive meal with plenty of opportunity for leftovers to eat throughout the week was a necessity.

And since I lived with two roommates with hefty appetites, every pot pie had to be excessively large, in order to accomodate an excessive amount of gorging. 

When my editor asked me to make a pot pie to go along with my coworker Brian’s blueberry pie, I felt confident this pie duo would be one of The MV Times’ greatest culinary ventures (besides maybe the chicken doughnut sandwich).

This time around, there were no leftovers for rushed lunches in between classes, but there was plenty of silence and concentrated chewing (two sure signs of a job well done).

I chose to go with an old-fashioned pot pie, with fresh chicken breast coated in olive oil and garlic salt. And with such an original recipe, I tried to find only the best organic ingredients to toss in, including fresh chopped garlic, thickly sliced carrots, cubed celery, and chopped red onion. 

Besides the crust, arguably the most important part of a pot pie is the roux. After parboiling the vegetables and mixing them in with the chicken, the creamy deliciousness comes next.

Sauté the onions in butter, then gradually mix in a salt and flour mixture. You want the roux to cook hot enough so that it thickens, but not so hot that it boils — try to find that perfect in-between.

After pulling my pie from the oven, I could already tell It would be a hit. Now, it’s recommended, just as with any pie, to let the pot pie sit for a few and let it settle or “rest.”

In the end, our mouths were watering from the enticing smell of baked crust and pungent garlic, so we decided to waste no time, and dug right in.

Below is the original recipe, but I decided to add my own spin on things by coating the chicken breast in olive oil and garlic salt. I also added freshly minced garlic to the onions and sautéed it all before creating my roux.

 

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cubed

1 cup sliced carrots

1 cup frozen green peas

½ cup sliced celery 

⅓ cup chopped onion

⅓ cup butter

⅓ cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ tsp. celery seed

1¾ cups chicken broth

⅔ cup milk

2 (9-in.) unbaked pie crusts

 

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Brian and his Awardwinning Blueberry Pie

In my halcyon days as a young buck baker at Morning Glory Farm, I learned of the centuries-old cleansing properties a pie can have on the human soul. Specifically, blueberry pies. 

The first time I handed a customer a pie they had ordered, I saw their pupils dilate as they stared at my freshly boxed creation, the pie’s ethereal beauty almost too much to bear, taking the box in their hands as if I was handing them their firstborn.

Naturally, choosing which pie for this assignment was a no-brainer. I chose my tried-and-true method for a simple blueberry pie, with an added flair for the crust.

 

Crust

6 Tbsp. ice-cold water

½ lb. cold butter, diced into quarter-size pieces 

2½ cups flour

½ Tbsp. sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

milk to brush

turbinado sugar to sprinkle

 

Filling

2 cups fresh blueberries

½ cup sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

2 Tbsp. tapioca flour

 

Begin by preheating your oven to 375°F. Now when you think dough, think cold. Cold, cold, cold. Fill a cup with water, and put it in the fridge, preferably with an ice cube to really keep it chilly. Then dice your butter up into pieces the size of a quarter, and throw those in the fridge too. Mix your flour, sugar, and salt in a mixer with a flat beater attachment. Next, take out your chilled butter pieces and mix them into the dry ingredients, until your butter is about pea-size. Then pour your ice water in while the mixer is on. Don’t mix too long, but wait for the dough to form. If you see small pieces of butter in the dough, don’t be alarmed — this is a good thing. Separate the dough into two large discs, and wrap them and chill for another hour.

As the dough chills, you can begin your filling mixture, which is fairly simple. Toss all the ingredients in at once, and begin mixing by hand. The trick here is to massage the sugar juice and flour onto the berries — don’t attack it, but take care in your work. Hold one of the sugar-coated berries up to a light. The penumbra of the berry should be a deep violet.

Let the berry mixture cool in the fridge — remember, cold, cold, cold. Once done, pull your dough discs out and roll them into the size you want. Place in a pie pan and fill with the berry mixture. Place the dough cover on top and begin rolling the edges together to form your crust. Take some creative license and crimp your crust in any form you want. I went with a sunfloweresque design. It’s important to give your pie some ventilation. I went with a Vineyard design, but during my farm days I would always carve a smiley face. Don’t forget to brush the top of your pie with milk, and sprinkle it with turbinado sugar to give it a fine amber color and crunchy texture.

From there all you have to do is pop your pie in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes. You’ll know it’s done once the filling begins to bubble and pop.

Pull your pie out and bask in the glow of your culinary offspring (but don’t even think about cutting it until it’s nice and cool).