“And the women went quickly, quietly back into the houses and herded the children ahead of them. They knew that a man so hurt and so perpelexed may turn in anger, even on people he loves. They left the men alone to figure and to wonder in the dust.
After a time perhaps the tenant man looked about – at the pump put in ten years ago with a goose-neck handle and iron flowers on the spout, at the chopping block where a thousand chickens had been killed, at the hand plow lying in the shed, and the patent crib hanging in the rafters over it.” From The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I cannot imagine being told I had to pack up what I could and get out, being told “the plows’ll go through the dooryard” whether I’ve packed up or not, whether I’m asleep in my bed or not. The owner men are written as the sympathetic ambassadors of the Bank and “the bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it but they can’t control it.” And that monster needs to eat a mighty big profit in order to survive.
Thankfully, I am a real person, not a bank, and I survive on chicken goodness. I made my gravy ahead by cooking a butter and flour roux and then slowly whisking in the pan drippings (fat removed by a fat separator). I made my biscuit dough, in classic Depressioner fashion, with butter, flour, baking soda, and water, because I didn’t have any milk. I mixed in some shredded Sharp White Cheddar (Cracker Barrel). It was fine, if not quite as rich.
Biscuit Topped Chicken Pot Pie
About 3 cups cubed cooked chicken meat (leftover from your whole roasted)
About 2 cups of pan gravy (though it was brought to my attention that we could have used a little more and I agree)
1 medium onion sliced and cooked until translucent
3 carrots sliced and 2-3 small red potatoes cubed, both boiled in the same pot until tender
3 scallions snipped into rings
1 batch of cheddar biscuit dough
Heat oven to 450. Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl. Layer them in the bottom of a pie pan (I had enough for a pie pan and a small pyrex dish which Jessica got to bring home) Top with the drop biscuit mix (you might be more adept than I am at doing this in a refined way; I just ended up using my fingers to spread it over the filling – inelegant, perhaps, but efficient.) Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown and serve piping hot to rave reviews.
If you are like me and you can stomach a fair amount of the same leftovers, you will not mind taking the three leftover lunch packets to work this week. But even I have a limit to how much chicken I can eat at one time. There are still about 2 cups of meat that I was able to scavenge of my bird’s carcass, not to mention the carcass itself. I pulsed the last of the meat in my food processor and packed it away in the freezer to become a bolognese sauce in a week or two, and I packed the mutilated carcass into a ziplock to become some kind of comfort soup when I feel the need for comforting. You have not seen the last of this bird.
The only things I bought for this recipe were the vegetables, and the 5 lb bag of potatoes was on sale. I think, adding it to the original $7 cost of the bird, we haven’t even come close to topping my estimate of $25 yet. Of course, that’s assuming that you already have flour, baking soda, butter, and other incidentals in your pantry.
You could cut corners by using margarine instead of butter, or lard instead of margarine. You could also leave the butter out of your gravy and just make a flour and milk or flour and water thickening paste. You could even save a little more by omitting the cheese from the biscuit mix and using frozen or canned vegetable mixes, and any vegetable you like will make a fine contribution (Jessica commented on her appreciation for the lack of green peas – which I despise with every fiber of being). You could raise the cost as well by topping your pot pie with a store bought pie crust, canister biscuits, or a puff pastry the way they are doing in fancy Manhattan restaurants these days. Any way you make it, it’s still a cheap meal that is totally different from the roast chicken and rice dinner from a few nights ago.