An old hen, killed, cleaned, and simmered for three to four hours makes the best flavored chicken pie or dumplings. However, if all you have is store chicken, that will do. Put the chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Add a chopped onion, a stalk of chopped celery, several peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a small chopped carrot. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes to an hour for a tender young chicken.
Use the chicken broth to make the gravy. To measure the chicken fat easily, cook the chicken the day before and let the strained broth sit in the refrigerator for the fat to rise to the top. If you don’t have any chicken fat, use butter.
This chicken pie is just meat and gravy in a crust. If you like vegetables in your meat pies, or if you want to stretch the meat further, mix 1 cup of cooked peas, 1 cup of cooked corn, and 1 cup of diced, cooked potatoes with the meat and gravy. Double the gravy and crust recipes and make two pies.
Cook the chicken as instructed above. Drain the broth into a clean bowl. Let the chicken cool, then pick the meat off the bones. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces. Set the meat aside and make the gravy. (I wash the pot and use the same pot to make the gravy.)
9 tablespoons chicken fat or butter
9 tablespoons flour
3 cups chicken broth
Melt the fat in a large pot and add the flour, stirring until browned. Slowly add the broth while stirring rapidly. Use a whisk, if necessary, to smooth the broth. Bring to a boil and boil for one to two minutes, until thickened. Put the reserved meat into the gravy, stir to coat the meat, and set the pot aside. (If you have cooked a large chicken, you may not need all the meat. Put most of it in and save part back. You can always put it on top if you need it.)
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled lard (you may also use shortening)
1/3 cup cold water
Stir the salt into the flour. Blend the lard into the flour with your fingers until it is in large crumbs. Add the water a little at a time until the dough holds together. Divide the dough into half and roll out one crust. Place it in the bottom of a 10-inch pie pan. Roll out the top crust.
Pour the meat and gravy mixture into the bottom pie crust. Place the top crust over it. Trim so the crust hangs slightly over the edge. Tuck the top crust edge under the bottom crust edge. Crinkle the edges and make several slits in the top crust for the steam to escape. Bake the pie at 450F for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350F and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let cool slightly before cutting.