Now that autumn is upon us, it’s time to trade in the barbeque and fruit salad for heftier yet still healthy meals, such as homemade chicken potpie, using my grandmother’s piecrust.
As such, the piecrust calls for lard. For centuries, lard was a staple kitchen item, but in recent decades, it has developed an undeserved bad reputation.
Yes, lard is fat from the belly of a pig. It is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. However, it has less of both than an equal amount of butter by weight.
Lard is also composed of triglycerides, which are a natural type of fat. Our bodies need dietary fats, so long as it’s the right kind and we don’t overdo it.
Shortening was first invented during the Civil War to make candles. Cottonseed oil could be turned from a liquid to a solid through the process of hydrogenation, which breaks up the carbon bonds in the fat.
Partial hydrogenation results in trans fats, which are edible, but they’re low-density lipoproteins, which are so closely connected to heart disease that the Food and Drug Administration no longer recognizes them as safe to eat and has set a deadline of 2018 to remove all trans fats from American food production.
On the other hand, triglycerides, like lard, are a high-density lipoprotein, which are correlated with cardiovascular health. Lard is also high in vitamin D, an essential nutrient that’s harder to come by when the days get shorter and there’s less sun.
Bottom line? Listen to Grandma!
Grandma Walchuk’s Chicken Pot Pie
-5 c. flour
-1 T. salt
-1 lb. lard, room temperature
-1 egg, combined with water to equal 1 cup
-1 T. vinegar, apple or regular
-1 to 2 chicken breasts
-¼ c. diced fresh carrots
-¼ c. fresh or frozen peas
-¼ c. fresh or frozen corn
-1 T. parsley, dried or fresh
-1 T. Mrs. Dash Original Seasoning
-1 t. rosemary
-¼ c. butter
-¼ c. flour
-2 c. chicken broth
-Splash of heavy cream
Combine flour and salt. Add lard and blend with a pastry cutter until pea-size chunks form. Mix egg-water and vinegar together and add to the flour mixture. Stir and then knead until soft dough forms.
This will yield five piecrusts, but the extra one freezes well for later. Roll out two crusts to cover a standard pie tin.
Bake the chicken breasts topped with the Mrs. Dash, rosemary, and parsley until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of water for nice, moist chicken.
In a separate bowl, combine the peas, carrots, and corn. When cooled, dice chicken and add to veggies.
In a saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour until a soft paste forms (it’s called roux and is used to thicken sauces). Add in the broth and cream and simmer until thick. Pour desired amount of gravy into vegetable/chicken bowl. Pour into piecrusts and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.
You can also pour the mixture into individual crusts and roll into the shape of a pasty or calzone.