Chicken, Artichoke & Sundried Tomato Pi(e)

Happy Pi Day, everyone! Ever since I started cooking for myself, I've loved the idea of coordinating meals with holidays and fun events/occasions. It just makes eating more enjoyable, especially for me, right now, as I've been feeling a little bored by the meals I've been making (have you noticed the monopoly chicken breasts have on this blog??). Even though this pie does, indeed, contain chicken breasts, it's a fun (and phenomenal!) meal to serve on March 14th in honor of that wonderful, never ending number, Pi (3.14.....and so on).

I thought of the filling myself, using what I envisioned would be a light, refreshing blend of ingredients in a still heart-warming pie form, perhaps making the food bridge between winter and the ever-slowly approaching spring. I used lemon-baked chicken, a handful of vegetables, a light vinaigrette dressing and a touch of parmesan to create a refreshingly savory alternative to the usual pie fillings. For the crust, I used this opportunity to try out a recipe I have been dying to test out - an oil crust, without the fuss or saturated fat of butter or (dare I say it?) shortening. No cutting, no chilling - and, as I realized too late, no rolling. Originally, I had intended these to be hand pies, but when I realized that the dough was meant to be pressed into the pie plate and not rolled, I just made them into regular pies.

My only complaint is that I really should have let it be a one-crust pie, or maybe open-faced is the better term. Basically, I should have made it into two servings - I certainly had enough filling - when I only made one. My pie is a little crust-heavy, which makes it borderline dry when you get a bite of the edges without much filling. However, when you get to that filling and mix it with the warm, hearty-yet-crumbly crust? Heaven. Absolute heaven. The recipe below reflects the changes that I would make.

Chicken, Artichoke & Sundried Tomato Pi(e)
Yield: 2 servings
(printable recipe)

The Ingredients
1/3 pie dough recipe*
1/2 cup cooked chicken**, diced
1 tablespoon diced red onion
1 artichoke heart, rinsed if canned
1 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, not packed in oil
2 teaspoons parmesan cheese (or more if not using Kraft)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
dash lemon zest
1/2 cup spinach
1 1/4 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
dash sugar

The Method
Prepare the filling up to one day in advance: add all of the ingredients up until the spinach to a medium mixing bowl, and toss to combine. In a small dish or bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard and sugar together well. Pour the dressing over the filling, and stir to coat completely. Add the spinach to the mixture before assembling the pies.

When ready to assemble the pies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the dough. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a lightly greased, personal casserole baking dish, allowing the dough to form up the sides. Add half the filling to each pie and place the casseroles into the oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until the edges of the pie look lightly golden and crisp. Allow to cool for several minutes before serving.***

*I used white whole wheat flour, olive oil, low-fat milk, and half the salt when preparing my dough.
**The night before, while making dinner, I threw some chicken breasts into the oven that had been marinated in lemon juice, zest, garlic and dried basil - 350 degrees, 30 minutes - and then sliced them down for the recipe. For a 2-person filling, I used 1 large (but thin) chicken breast, maybe 8 ounces.
***For a nice presentation, you might want to crumble a small amount of the dough, cheese, nuts, etc. on top. Because mine had the top layer crust, I didn't too much worry about that.

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