Out in the Field with my Brother
My brother called to see if I wanted to ride along with him to take a measurement of an old cattle guard, so I grabbed my camera and headed to meet him. The wildflowers were blooming across the fields. Las Vegas has got nothin’ on springtime in Texas. The multicolored horizon is energizing. Even the horses were kicking up their heels in the clear yellow sunshine.
Wildflowers in Texas
In Texas, different wildflowers thrive in specific areas: one field might be bursting with bluebonnets, another hill might be covered with yellow bitterweed, ground cherry, or purple Scotch cotton thistles. The field we went to was full (and I mean FULL) of prickly poppy, in all of its hues, especially hot pink. The contrast with the green grass and blue sky was almost too much for me. Can a Texan’s heart be too happy? Mine was pushing the envelope.
Rose Prickly Poppy - Argemone sanguinea
A Savory Texas Pie
All of this heavy Texas nostalgia gave me a hankering for serious Texas eats, the way my grandmothers cooked. Even though sweet pies are way more typical of our Texas cuisine, savory meat pies are always a favorite of mine. Leftover chicken pie is a great take along for lunch at your desk, and truly delightful when you get home late, and want a quick nibble before hitting the hay.
This pie filling is even flavored with beer: Look for a good quality beer, nothing low calorie or “Lite.” You definitely want to pack this pie with humongous flavor, as we all know in Texas, everything is big and bold!
Yes, I know, springtime should be salads and dainty, picky food. Nuts to that…gimme a good piece of chicken pie, a beer, throw some cheese in the mix, and you’ve got a Texas meal fit for any Lone Star native. I can almost hear Bob Wills playing softly in the background.
Beer and Chicken Pie with Cheddar Corn Bread Crust
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow corn meal
1 stick plus 2 tbsp. of cold, unsalted butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Pinch of salt
¼ cup cold water
2 tbsp. butter
6-8 cups cooked chicken, chopped (about 1 whole boiled chicken, or even a store bought rotisserie chicken will do, bones and skin removed)
½ of a medium onion, sliced thinly (about ½ cup)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
½ cup frozen peas
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 beer, preferably a full-bodied craft beer
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the pastry, place the flour, cornmeal butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is a crumbly meal, then add the water a bit at a time through the feed hole. One the dough rolls together in a ball, turn off the food processor. Careful to not overwork the dough. Place the dough in a separate bowl, and then chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the chicken filling. Heat the butter in a 4 qt. Dutch oven or large frying pan. Add the onions, and brown for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add the chicken, onion, carrot, celery and peas. Stir and heat through for about 5 minutes.
Place the cornstarch in a small bowl. Add the beer, and stir well, until the beer stops foaming. Add the mixture to the chicken, and stir to combine well. Make sure all of the cornstarch goes into the pan. Heat for about 10 minutes, and then remove from flame.
Heat your oven to 350°. Remove the chilled pastry from the refrigerator. Divide the dough in half, and roll each half into a 10”-11” circle. Place one circle in the bottom of a 9” pie plate. Fill with the warm chicken mixture, and then place the other crust circle on top. Flute the edges of the pie, crimping well to seal.
Place the pie in the heated oven for 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown. If the crust edges are browning too quickly, simply cover the pie crust edge with aluminum foil after 30 minutes of baking, then continue to bake for the remaining 30 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven, and allow to cool about 20 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 generous servings