Everyone can love pot pie!

Published 3:44 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

On Oct. 18,1818, Robert Donaldson made a trip down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City, “Thought it the consummation of earthly bliss to live in one of those palaces on such a noble river under such a government.”


Things have changed some but the Hudson Valley in October is still a delightful place: fall color, beautiful views, magnificent homes (many overlooking the river) and much history. We sampled this with friends this past week from the Vanderbilt Mansion to more humble 17th century Dutch homes. Washington Irving, the author, lived at Sunnyside, his cozy home overlooking the river. John D. Rockefeller built a beautiful mansion, Kykuit, which seems livable even today. The family commissioned Matisse and Chagall to design stained glass windows for their church, nearby.

The Roosevelt family of Hyde Park gave us a president, Franklin, and his wife, Eleanor, whom Harry Truman called ‘the first lady of the world.’ We learned at her home Val Kill that she could only scramble eggs as far as cooking was concerned. She did have a cook and would tell her that she was having four or six or so for dinner. Eleanor then went about her day around town, etc. and invited various people she encountered. And 20 would show up for dinner. She lost several cooks this way but the one that lasted the longest took the order for dinner for six and then made dinner for the 20 that would probably show up. Mrs. Roosevelt would take orders from her in-house guests for eggs at breakfast: scrambled, over easy, poached? Give the orders to the cook (the one that lasted) and the cook would present a plate of scrambled eggs saying she was glad everyone had ordered their eggs scrambled. The former first lady used common china from the dime store, and made paper plates fashionable. She and President Roosevelt are famous for serving hot dogs to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Val Kill.

We visited West Point and their cemetery where we looked for the grave of the brother of the man who built our house. Col. Duncan McCrae was a Confederate. His brother, Alexander Hamilton McCrae, was a West Point graduate who was killed as a Union soldier at the Battle of Valverde in the Arizona Territory in 1862. He is buried at West Point.

We measured the huge Ginko at the Vanderbilt Mansion, touted to be one of the largest/oldest in the US. It was 11’10” in circumference as compared to ours in Mississippi which measures 16’4.” And on a visit to Rokeby we found another huge Ginko, but only 8’10.” Rokeby, built 1812, is a private home still occupied by descendants of the original owner. It was a real treat—elegance and decadence, due to the reduced finances of the present owners who feel a great deal of obligation to maintain and preserve. We got a special tour as our traveling companions are related to the owners by their son’s recent wedding.

A number of places were decorated for Halloween. One spectacular show of 7,000 carved and lit pumpkins we had to miss. No tickets. They need to be procured way in advance. I especially liked one display called the ‘scarecrow invasion.’ It consisted of scarecrows decorated for the season by school children in the area.

We stayed three nights in a B&B in Newburg where the hostess was an excellent cook. My husband especially liked her savory quiche with zucchini sans crust.

We tried to eat at the Culinary Institute of America in one of its three restaurants but were not able to make a reservation at any of them.

We had lunch one day at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, America’s oldest continuously operating inn from the 1700s. We had a nice turkey pot pie with a big cheddar biscuit in the middle rather than a crust. I decided this was a good recipe to do since it will make good use of leftover turkey from the Thanksgiving dinner coming up, or a hearty fall one-pot meal. I used chicken thighs since that was all I had on hand.

Turkey or Chicken Pot Pie

Makes 6 servings.

4 tablespoons butter

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 celery rib, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 ½ cups hot chicken broth

4 cups chopped cooked chicken (bite-size)

Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat, add the onion and celery, and cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes or until limp and lightly browned

Blend in the flour, salt, thyme, and black pepper, then whisking hard, pour in the hot broth. Cook, whisking all the while, for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Set the skillet off the heat, cool for 15 minutes, then fold in the chicken.

Make biscuits of your choice then ladle some of the chicken pie in a bowl and place the biscuit on top.

Serve hot! Delicious.