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Vine Pot Pie

For the record, I hate wine. I can't stand it. All I smell or taste when I'm exposed to it is rot and decay. Even with wines no one else has a problem with. I've come to conclude that I'm sensitive to a chemical in wine that most people either don't detect or don't admit to because of social pressure. As a result, I've had two bottles just sitting in my fridge waiting for a solution. I didn't want to just pour them down the drain, so I figured I should do something with them. One might be classed as a red (it was actually kind of brown) the other was a white. The red was expressly labelled as 'sweet' while the white was a 'dessert wine'. I couldn't stomach drinking either of them. Oddly, boiling the crap out of them destroyed whatever chemical bugged me and made something I could actually eat.

Whatever some people might tell you, the cooking times required to remove all of the alcohol from a dish are very long, and as such this dish will contain alcohol when it reaches your plate. I don't know how much, but it's there.

What you will need

In my case, my chicken came from leftovers, if you only have a raw bird, you will also need:

What to do

For the sake of safety, we want the chicken to be cooked before anything else gets started. If your bird is raw, section it into managable pieces while you wait for yout skillet to heat up. (I use cast iron for this, so there is some lead-in time associated with the process). Once you can feel heat rising off the pan from about an inch away from the surface, add some olive oil. There shouldn't be a sizzle yet (the sizzle is caused by water boiling and the steam forcing its way through the oil). Lay your chicken pieces on the pan and let it cook. If you want to season the chicken now you can, but it won't make much of a difference in the finished product. When it's cooked a decent way through and browning on the bottom, flip the chicken pieces over (Tongs work better than a spatula here). Some more patience should net you some fully cooked chicken. Remove to the cutting board and take the skillet off the heat.

Put the sauce pan on the heat and dump the wines in. Add the spices, garlic and the beef. Stir well. Cover and let it come to a boil. While it is cooking, remove the chicken from the bones, if there are any. Discard the bones. Cut up any large chunks and dump the chicken meat in the bowl. Set it aside. Start the oven and get it heating up towards 350.

Occassionally stir the mixture in the sauce pan, but leave it covered as much as possible. When the beef is cooked, remove it from the mix and cut it into small pieces. In the glass, mix corn starch with lukewarm water. Continue to mix in corn starch until the water can't accept anymore and grows saturated. Dump this slurry into the pan and stir constantly, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan for anything stuck there. The mixture should thicken up. When it stops doing so, leave it uncovered and turn your attention to the pie pan. Lay out the lower crust in the pan and make sure it reaches all the edges.

Your oven should either have reached 350, or be approaching it by this point. Add the chicken and beef chunks to the pie pan and pour the contents of the sauce pan in after them. Add any vegetables to the mix now. Lay the upper crust over the top and crimp the edges with your fingers - it doesn't have to be perfect. To catch any spills or splatter, put the pie pan on the baking sheet and put both into the oven. Don't forget to turn off the burner you used for th sauce pan (I almost did).

At this point, we're waiting for the pie crust to cook, since the rest of the components have already been cooked (or are edible raw). When the top crust has browned, remove the dish from the oven. (Turn off the oven, this too I almost forgot. My track record sucks.) The odds are the sauce hydrated the lower crust before it hardened in the oven, and the pie is structurally unsound. Just serve it like a casserole, it doesn't have to be pretty.

--Robert McCarroll