EVEN though some of us may be overfeeding on turkey these days, homemade turkey or chicken pie is so delicious you still have to admit it's about the most melt-in-the-mouth food there is. It can be made either from leftover meat and juices or from scratch as described below. What makes the old-fashioned everyday dish such a great meal is the filling: tightly packed tender morsels of meat, laced with rich broth, tucked under and in a buttery pastry - so tender it disintegrates at the touch of a fork.
There are no potatoes, onions, or other vegetables - just plain, good turkey or chicken meat, finely diced, under the flaky crust. And there's a smooth-as-silk gravy that goes over the slice once it's served on your plate.
At Old Salem village here the Chicken Pie served at the Salem Tavern is one of the best I've ever tasted. But this region of North Carolina is full of women who cook these delicious pies for their families and for fairs and church suppers. There's really not much difference from one chicken pie to another, but there's always some little way of putting them together that makes certain ones very special.
Beth Tartam, food editor of the Winston-Salem Journal says that nobody makes a better chicken pie than Mrs. Perry Cly, who does it the old Moravian way. In talking to Mrs. Cly, I could tell she's a good cook from the way she talked.
``I got my chicken recipes from my mother-in-law,'' she says. ``But it's only a question of using good pie dough and fresh chicken. I'm Moravian, and I go to church, and I make my pies the Moravian way - with just lots of good chicken meat, no vegetables, and a nice flaky crust.
``This week I've been making peach pickles, and it took me two days to peel those tiny peaches from our tree - awfully good, but too much work really, to do enough for canning,'' she continues.
Most all Southerners pride themselves on their pickled foods. Many kinds of vegetables are still put up in vinegar and spices or chopped and combined to make relish. Fruits, too, such as peaches, are especially good for pickling.
Chowchow - which has been known all over the country for 200 years or more - is also called piccalilli. Today's recipes vary slightly, but include finely chopped green tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers, and cabbage.
Here's a recipe by Beth Tartan Sparks, a Moravian and graduate of Salem College in Old Salem, widely known as a newspaper food editor and columnist.
``This is truly the way to make chicken pie,'' Ms. Sparks says, and she has included the recipe in her cookbook, ``North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery.''
North Carolina Chicken Pie (Can be adapted for turkey)
Dress and singe a fowl. Place in a saucepan with water to cover. Add a sliced carrot, one celery stock, sprig of parsley, and one sliced onion.
Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until fowl is tender, allowing about 30 minutes to the pound. When half done, season with salt and pepper.
Line a shallow baking dish with pastry, then a layer of cut-up boned chicken, then a layer of pastry. Boil chicken stock down to 3 cups, strain and skim off most of the fat.
Mix 4 tablespoons flour to a smooth paste with cold water and add to the stock. Bring to the boiling point, put stock into pie and pie into oven, and cook until bottom crust is nearly done. Then add remainder of stock, if any, and cook slowly until crust is brown.
Chow-Chow 1 medium head cabbage 4 medium onions 3 green sweet peppers 1 to 2 hot peppers 3 tablespoons salt 2 teaspoons celery seed 1 tablespoon mustard seed 1 tablespoon tumeric
Grind all vegetables and mix well. Heat to boiling 1 1/2 cups vinegar and 1 pound brown sugar with seeds and tumeric. Pour over mixture and seal.