Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life of (Chicken) Pie

When I came home from work one day last week, and opened the door, the aroma wafting throughout the house was ... was ...


Kim was in the kitchen, cooking.

OK, hold on for just a minute. I know what you are thinking. No, she is not chained to the stove. She's not barefoot. She's never been pregnant. She simply likes to cook. I daresay, she loves to cook. She's passionate about it. And she's very good at it, when she does it.

But because of a lengthy career in the work force, and because our jobs were very much like ships passing in the night — her 31-year career in banking was from 9 to 5, while mine as a sportswriter often took me out of the house around dinner time (or about the time she got home) — our meals often involved the microwave or, at best, take-out. MRE's.

But not on this particular day (which was her day off).

Kim was putting together one of our favorite all-time meals, chicken pie. She was thoughtfully doing this for a neighbor who was scheduled to have some surgery in a day or two, and I was a bit jealous. I hadn't had her chicken pie in months — maybe longer — and now a neighbor was going to get some.

Except that Kim had made enough for us, too.

I almost buckled at the knees when she told me this. I thought we were going out for dinner. Again.

Within moments, came the words I long to hear from her: "Come and get it."

I went to the stove and dished out a generous helping of chicken pie, along with several scoops of cream potatoes and green beans. I was in comfort food heaven.

Kim's chicken pie, seen here in its proper presentation.
Kim's chicken pie is not the Moravian version, which is without vegetables and is very crusty. Kim very seldom follows recipes except for the ones she sees in her head. She'll experiment with ingredients until it suits her taste. So her chicken pie involves cream of celery soup, a bag of Veg-All, and large chunks of white meat chicken that remind me of Cracker Jack prizes when I fork one out of the pie. All of this is covered by a Bisquick topping. There's probably a few other ingredients and seasonings that I'm not aware of that somehow all come together to make this feast.

She makes a sensational variation of her chicken pie during the cold and flu season, her famous chicken soup. I usually ask for this at the slightest sign of a sniffle. I pretend I'm on my deathbed, which tugs at her heartstrings, and Ouila! Chicken soup appears in unending bowls before me while I watch the basketball game on television. Cough, cough, sniff, sniff. May I have some more? This stuff invariably makes me feel better, every time, without fail.

Kim puts the finishing touches on her Kit-Kat birthday cake.
There are other items she does incredibly well. Her turkey dressing — following a long tradition taken from her mother — is often requested by family members at Thanksgiving. She brings a wonderful hashbrown casserole to family reunions and neighborhood gatherings. I've already written about her incredible five-bean chili, simmered for hours in a crock pot, that makes the Super Bowl worth watching.

Nothing seems impossible for her. One Saturday years ago I came home from covering an ACC basketball game in Durham, and Kim had a Seafood Newburg waiting for me, just because she wanted to see if she could make it. OMG. She once attempted — without a recipe and by memory only — an Arroz con Pollo that we always enjoyed at the now defunct Tijuana Fats. Yummm. Then there's that lasagna recipe she got from an Italian woman that she somehow improved...

And don't get me started on desserts. She loves to make brownies with a rich chocolate icing, and a few weeks ago she made a Kit-Kat cake (topped with M&Ms) for our birthdays. Then there's Christmas, when I plead with her (with real tears in my eyes) to make the time-consuming but always delicious Moravian sugar cakes.

My cooking skills, by contrast, usually involve hot dogs and hamburgers on the Weber grill, although I do make a pretty fair macaroni salad (my mom's recipe).

But nothing beats Kim's chicken pie. It ought to be featured on the Food Channel. Geez, I can hardly wait for another neighbor to be scheduled for surgery...

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