Sunday, 24 January 2010

Ham Pot Pie

There is only one way to describe ham pot pie: comfort food. This was my very first attempt making this family favorite and I'm pretty darn proud of myself! Up to this point, I would only eat it when I was at home and my mom could make it because it seemed so daunting. I mean, you have to make dough and roll things out. Mom would always be concerned if it was 'too stodgy' or 'the broth was too thin' or 'there's too much ham'. Yikes! My sister, dad, and I would just roll our eyes and pile up our plates. It always tasted good to us!

Now that the ham pot pie isn't quite as convenient to us and because I had a craving for it, I announced to the husband that I was going to attempt to make ham pot pie for dinner. Since being introduced to pot pie on his first trip to the US it is a new favorite of his, so he was all for it.

There are really only two steps to making ham pot pie: making the ham broth and making the pot pie dough. Oh, I should also point out that you can make this with chicken, beef, or any other kind of meat. Even squirrel if that's your thing. My mom always made ham, so that's what I prefer. Whatever type of meat you choose, you need to make the broth. I used a 1 kg piece of unsmoked, cured ham. Why 1kg, unsmoked, and cured? Because that's what the had in the store. Another time I made ham broth I used smoked ham. Honestly, I think it all tastes the same and I don't recall a particularly smoky taste. I still can't figure out ham in this country. So, I put the ham in a large pot, covered it with water, brought it to a slow boil, then turned it down to simmer. While the ham was boiling I peeled two large potatoes, cut them into 1/4 in slices, and left them in cold water until I was ready for them. I boiled the ham for a little over an hour, pulled out the meat, and cut it in chunks before throwing it back in the broth. After that was done, I made the dough.

The recipe for the dough comes from this cookbook:

The Granddaughter's Inglenook Cookbook was first published by the Church of the Brethren in 1901 and was updated through the years. This version was published in 1976 and includes recipes for things like American Chop Suey, Perfection Salad,  Eggs a la Goldenrod, and Baked Carrot Ring. Interesting... My grandmother gave each of her granddaughters a copy of the cookbook and as far as I know, no one has ever made a thing out of it other than pot pie.

The recipe for pot pie is as follows:

2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp shortening
3/4 c water

Mix as for pie dough but roll out somewhat thicker. Cut in squares or strips.

That's it. Oh, and if you don't have a rolling pin, a bottle of beer works as a pretty good substitute.

Once you have your broth with your chunks of ham in it, you bring the broth up to a boil and start dropping in your dough squares and potatoes. Mom always did one slice of potato per each slice of dough, so that's what I did too. I let that cook for about 30 minutes and that was it! Done!

It turned out pretty good and I will most definitely make it again, but I did learn a few things:

1. Make sure you take the plastic sleeve-thing off the ham. Yes, I took it out of the packaging, but there was this weird plastic thing around it that I found floating in the broth. Oops.

2. Know your potatoes. The red rooster potatoes that we have here break apart really easily. They're great for mashed or roast potatoes, but don't stand up to long periods of boiling. I put the potatoes in at the same time as the dough, which was too long for them to cook and they broke down. If I use those  potatoes again I will wait about 15 minutes before I put the potatoes in, which means they'll only cook for about 15 minutes.

3. I prefer the taste of Crisco over Frytex. Wes didn't notice a difference in the taste of the pot pie, but that's because he's an amateur. If I had never had it made with Crisco, it would have been fine, but 35 years of taste-testing this dish means I can taste the difference in my shortening. Unfortunately, we can't get plain Crisco here so I'll be importing some.

I guess that's how it works with these handed-down family recipes. You keep working at them until you get them perfect for you and your family. Fortunately, my mom has been making it perfect for years, so I can keep getting tips and tastes from her every time I go home!

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