Just when I was beginning to think rhubarb was one of those vanishing ingredients that had fallen so far out of fashion that nobody cared about it anymore. Then I came to Maine and found out how wrong I was. Granted, it’s never going to match my love of strawberries, but I’ve enjoyed the tart flavor of rhubarb since I was a child. This summer it seems to be popping up everywhere in rhubarb cakes, bread, crisps and pies. I had a delicious rhubarb pie after devouring a chicken pie suppah at the Garland Grange fund raising event this weekend.
And, it’s also here in central Maine I’m developing an appreciation for a chicken pie suppah. (Don’t email me about the spelling, the signs advertised a suppah.) And they are a long standing tradition in these parts. Small town churches and schools hold chicken pie suppahs to raise money for all sorts of local causes. And, after attending one, really just because everybody seems to enjoy them. Best to arrive by 4:30 to get a place in line, too.
Maine remains, in many ways, a large small town. As I lingered over my suppah I listened to people talking and exchanging family stories. From the next table over I gathered the people talking just realized that they shared a great-grandfather from different wives! It had the feel of a large Norman Rockwell dinner set in a bingo hall.
It was explained to me that the surrounding towns take turns having these suppahs once a month. And everything is made from scratch and served in large servings, the chicken pies, mashed potatoes, breads and dessert pies. Another traditional side is Hubbard Squash. It’s quite possibly a pain in the neck to scoop because of the fibers, but it was delicious.
This recipe was given to me from a long standing chicken pie suppah participant:
1 3-4lb chcken
3 onions, quartered
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
Place the chicken into a stockpot and cover with water. Place onions, a few bay leaves, a dash of salt and several peppercorns into the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Let simmer gently for about 15 minutes and then turn off the heat and let the covered pot sit until it’s cool, about 3-4 hours.
Bone and skin the chicken, and tear into bite-sized strips. Place the strips into the bottom of a large casserole dish. With a slotted spoon, drain out the onions and place on top of chicken. Reserve about a quart of the broth.
Melt two Tablespoons of butter in a large skillet, then add two Tablesppons of flour. Whisk into a thick paste. Gradually add the remaining broth, a bit at a time, whisking the entire time. When it’s thickened but pourable, pour half of it over your chicken pieces.
Preheat oven to 425.
2 cups flour
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Teaspoon sugar
½ Teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons softened butter
2/3 – ¾ cup buttermilk
Stir all dry ingredients together and cut in the butter. Add milk until the dough is workable with your hands. Roll out to fit the top of your casserole dish but leave a little room around the edge for gravy to bubble up and around. Turn the over down to 350 and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
Gather your town together and enjoy!