Uncategorized

Patti Dunn’s Gumbo

I’ve had this recipe drafted on here for over a year. But I just couldn’t quite wrap my brain around how to start it. You see, the wonderful woman who shared this with me is a fellow BBQer.  I can’t even say I know her well. But I can say, what I know, I love. I so admire the love and adoration she and her husband share. I love that they have big hearts, margaritas after a competition, and dogs they love like family.  I love that they appreciate a good Bourbon as much as I do. And I hate that she posts amazing Tex-Mex and Creole dishes that I just can’t get here in Tennessee! She and her husband, Johnny, are just salt of the earth, good people.

So, I first asked Patty for this recipe to make Jay a superb birthday dinner in May of 2017. Not only was it a success, it became a family favorite. It’s simple and amazing all at the same time. You can make it spicy or kid friendly, or somewhere in the middle, with just the shake of a hot sauce bottle. And just as Patty taught me way back when, all good Cajuns eat their gumbo with a big ol glob of potato salad. And now, we never cook it without it. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb sausage, sliced
  • 1 lb chicken
  • 1 lb shrimp (optional)
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 32 oz. of chicken stock (or 32 oz water and 4 Tbs. chicken paste)
  • 32 oz. of water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Cajun seasoning (Tony’s is our favorite)
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 6 servings cooked rice
  • Crusty garlic bread and your favorite potato salad for serving

1. Cut your sausage and chicken into bite size pieces.

2. In a large skillet, brown your meats in 2 Tbs. oil or bacon grease.

3. Set aside.

4. In a large pot, make your roux. Over medium low heat, whisk 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup flour until it’s light brown and smells nutty. Do not walk away!

5. Add in your chopped onion and celery and cook until slightly wilted.

6. Mix in your meat, 32 oz chicken stock (Or 32 oz. water and 4 Tbs. chicken paste), and 1 Tbs. of Cajun seasoning.

7. Add in another 32 oz. of water or enough so that it’s about 2 inches over your meat. At the end, you can add more stock to make it thinner or a can of cream of chicken soup to make it thicker.

8. Bring to a boil.

9. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until your meats are tender.

10. While simmering, cook your rice.

11. To serve, fill the bottom of the bowl with rice. Ladle a couple scoops of gumbo, and top with a spoonful of your favorite potato salad and a slice of crusty garlic bread.

 

 

Uncategorized

Our Fire

OUR STORY

I always questioned if my faith would waiver in a time of tragedy. I wondered if I would cry out, “Why God?” I wondered if I’d feel abandoned or angry. I wondered if my relationship with God would falter. I wondered if I’d question what I’d poured my heart and soul into since my teenage years.

February 7, 2018 at 5:30 am, I got my answer. I woke up to the familiar ding of a text message from my Mom. I talk to my Mom, who is an hour behind us in Texas, every single day at 8am EST after I drop my kids off at school, so a message this early surely meant something was wrong. As I rolled over to read the message, I smelled the very faint smell of smoke. I looked around my bed, checked all the power strips close to me and then wrote it off as a lingering pit outside or a pair of my husband’s smoky overalls in the bathroom. We own a barbecue business, so I wasn’t immediately alarmed.

Since I was awake, I went ahead and started my morning like I do any other. I got up before the rest of my house. I love being a mom and a wife, but those few minutes without anyone needing anything from me are invaluable to my day. It was cold and raining outside, so I flipped on the heat to get the chill out of the air before the kids’ feet hit those cold wooden floors. I poured myself a cup of coffee that I’d set to brew the night before. I sat down at our island that was the absolute heart of our home to finish up my grocery list and respond to emails. Around 6:45, I poured myself a second cup of coffee and set off down the hallway to start waking kids up.

My boys got up, took showers and were dressed surprisingly early. As they ate breakfast, they perused the book fair pamphlet. Most mornings, I carry my girls to their carseats sleeping, but this morning they both came walking sleepy-headed down the hallway. It was 7:11 when I put my cup of coffee in the microwave to reheat (probably for the 3rd time) and started rummaging through my wallet to scrounge up enough money to send with my boys for the book fair.

That’s when the first smoke detector went off. My parents had visited at Thanksgiving and my Dad had changed every single battery in every single smoke detector, so I knew it wasn’t a low battery. But nothing was cooking and I saw no smoke, so I assumed it was a bug or dust clogging the sensor. I calmy walked through the house….still no smoke. I walked across the living room to the glass French doors that connected to our garage, peered around the corner and saw a wall of flames. Not a flame. Not a smiggen of smoke….a 20 foot tall, 30 foot wide, wall of flames reaching towards the front of the garage where I stood at the doors.

I ran to the back of the house and hollered at my husband, who was in the shower, that the garage was on fire. I grabbed my phone and the kids and gathered them at the front door. I dialed 911. At this point, there was still no smoke in the house. Jay came running out, naked, mind you, to those same glass doors. I got all the kids out of the house and told them to get in my suburban. Thank God, that in that moment, those little boogers actually listened. My boys grabbed my girls and 2 of the dogs and climbed in. I ran around the outside of the garage where our barn was attached to the house. My chicken coop was gone. But somehow all 11 of my chickens were out and huddled as far from the fire as their run would allow. I opened the gate, but they wouldn’t move. The flames were so big and outreaching, I didn’t think I could get to them without getting burned, so I had to leave them.

Around the corner, those same flames were reaching over the heads of my stalled horses. I ran around and opened their gates and shooed them out to the pasture. They ran, hell bent for election, away from the house.

I ran back around to the front of the house, still on the phone with 911. Jay was outside trying to put on a pair of overalls. The kids were in the car. My 5 year old daughter was screaming for her house pig. When I ran out of the house less than 2 minutes before, there was no visible smoke in the house. I ran back in to get her pig. I ran straight to her bed in the laundry room, but couldn’t see my hand in front of me for all the smoke. I patted her bed, felt she wasn’t there and started to run back out. My corgi dog, Ranger, was trying to come in but wouldn’t come to me, so I slammed the back door and ran out the front, closing the door behind me to keep him out.

Jay backed up the suburban as far back in the pasture as he could. Because of all the pits, we knew we had at least 4 propane tanks in danger of exploding. Ranger and our last dog, Cue both came running around the front and we piled them in my car too. Our house pig, the chickens and my son’s barn cat were unaccounted for.

There Jay and I stood, our whole lives in my Suburban, shoeless in the cold rain watching our house burn. Even in that moment, when I had no idea what was to come, I knew it my heart it was going to be ok.

Our neighbors and friends showed up before the fire trucks. My phone started ringing and dinging with texts and messages and calls before I even knew what to say. The look on our friends’ faces seemed to mirror the expression we must have been wearing. They hugged us. They put spare boots on our feet. They stood with us when none of us knew quite what to do.

My horses were running circles around us, and too close to the front gate for my comfort. Without a rope, or a halter, I tried to hold on to one of them. They’re a duo, and I knew if one was calm, the other would be too. Our kids and dogs were still in the suburban. My boys, who are normally rambunctious and antsy, were surprisingly calm and working hard to calm down their sisters. My 5 year old was still crying for her pig, Fiona.

The fire trucks arrived. They lined my driveway. They sank in my front yard. They backed my husband’s truck out of the driveway and our side by side out of the barn; both partially melted already. Every time I turned around, someone else was walking past us, many of whom I didn’t even know. As the firefighters began to put out the fire, our neighbors showed up to take my kids. It had been raining for days, so my suburban sank and was stuck in the mud. Thankfully, those same great neighbors are farmers, and were quick to drive a tractor over to pull us out. Even in that chaos, my kids were tickled pink to be hooked up to a machine that big.

About that time, friends came from the back of my house to announce they’d found Fiona! In true pig fashion, she’d taken advantage of the moments we were all preoccupied with the house burning to gorge herself on the dogs’ food on the back porch. Watching my daughter’s face change from fear and terror to relief and joy to see her pig again was indescribable.

Except for a few poignant moments, the rest of the day is a blur. I remember a fireman bringing out Jay’s bible and Smokin’ F hat that were sitting on his dresser. I remember him saying, “The bibles never burn.” I remember calling my mom. I remember my friend Chris saving all my chickens and my wedding and Aggie rings. I remember finally looking behind me and seeing trucks and tractors and trailers lining my road as far as I could see. I remember the smell. I remember everyone trying to take me away from the house but refusing to leave. I remember crying all day….Not because of my house, but because I couldn’t believe how good people were to us. And I remember someone saying, “You are all ok. You all made it out. This is going to be one huge inconvenience, but you’re going to come out better on the other end.” Even in that moment of chaos, I knew in my heart that was true.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The next few days were a whirlwind of insurance, red cross, donations, emotions, shopping and phone calls and the reason I’m writing this. Your head may be spinning like mine was. You may not have the support and guidance like we did. And you may be wondering what to do first or next. So here’s a practical list of the days and months following the day we lost our home.

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The Next 1 0 Minutes: The list of things to do when you’re all of a sudden homeless grows exponentially. Paired with the emotions and the exhaustion, it can seem insurmountable. My husband, who handled so much more of the business side of a fire, kept saying, “I just have to focus on what I’m doing in the next 10 minutes.” And when he finished that, he’d focus on the 10 minutes after that. And as the days went forward, it turned to the next hour. And then the next day, until we got to a place where we could stand back and see the bigger picture. Make a list. Tackle it one thing at a time and eventually you’ll be able to cross off more than you add.

The first list: Practically, think first about replacing prescriptions, toiletries, clean pajamas, comfortable clothes and cell phones. You’ll likely be sifting through the remains of your home in the coming days. The foam from the firetrucks and the burnt belongings becomes toxic and can cause skin irritation. Know ahead of time, everything that goes back into the home will come out black and smell terrible. Work gloves, tough hand soap, and rubber boots are invaluable.

Insurance: Read everything. And then re-read it. And then get an opinion from someone not in the same emotional state. The day after our fire, a very nice, older woman from our insurance agency showed up at the house we were staying at. She was comforting and spoke gently which was appreciated. She came with a stack of legal documents to sign and a big, fat blank check. I’m so thankful my husband had the foresight to question every bit of it, while I was gullible and trusting. He refused to sign one of the forms, even upon her threat of not being able to move forward without it. Long story short: That form would have taken some of the liability off of the insurance company. We would have forfeited some of our benefits. And despite what she threatened, they proceeded with our claim and never asked for it again. If nothing else, it set the precedent right up front that we weren’t going to be pushed around. Unfortunately, even in a homeless state, big business is big business. And no matter how sweet their smile, they have a job to do. Pay close attention, listen more than you speak and be aware that they’re not necessarily on your team.

Pictures: Take pictures of EVERYTHING! The longest, most grueling part of losing everything is trying to make a list of contents. For months (and I hear, years) you’ll think of things you used to have. Most of it won’t come to mind until you need it. Those post hole diggers, those nail clippers, that pair of winter boots, those fancy earrings you only wore for special occasions. Take pictures of absolutely every cabinet, every shelf, everything that is left to help you start your list. And then tell all of your friends to do the same as a precaution in the event they ever lose their home to a fire, a flood or a storm.

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Be Patient: No one is going to move as quickly as you’d like them to. The insurance, the contractors, the investigators, the contents crew….it takes lots of time.

Just Say Thank You: Donations poured in from every direction for us. We were so blessed to be surrounded by people who gave and gave and gave. People were so selfless that my husband and I had a hard time accepting such generosity. We felt like we needed to give back and repay the favors. The evening of our fire, our neighbor, Mrs. Becky, looked us right in the eyes and said, “Just say Thank You. Let them bless you.” I don’t think I said Thank You one time without tears in my eyes, but we learned to accept. We remain, to this day, overwhelmed with gratitude for all everyone has done for us. And we now actively look for ways to bless others in similar situations. Don’t rob someone of their blessing of blessing you. Just say thank you.

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Donations: On the other hand, it’s ok to say “No, thank you” sometimes too. So many people have the absolute best of intentions when they rummage through their closets to bring you clothes, but what they fail to realize is you might not have a place to put any of it. We no longer had a garage or a closet or an attic or even a bedroom, so the boxes and bags got overwhelming very quickly. I’m so thankful my parents and friends sorted bag after bag after bag of clothing for us. My husband and I were so busy trying to find a house and a place for my animals and deal with insurance and investigators that we never would have gotten to many of the bags. If someone has offered help however you need it, this is great to delegate out. They can easily weed out sizes and seasons you don’t need and help you get those to a donation center where they will go to someone else in need.

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Deciding What To Save: It’s tempting to scoop up every charred belonging you have with the intention of washing. I had 6 weeks to go through my home before we were able to start demolition. Almost every day, I walked through and pulled something out. My Granny’s china, 2 of my favorite tables, my Mom’s cedar chest. Some of it I was able to bring back to some extent and some of it I wasn’t. And some of it, I haven’t even gone through yet. The further we get from the fire, the less I can tolerate the smell of those few boxes. I feel guilty saying it outloud, but I wish I hadn’t saved some of it. Now I feel responsible for trying to clean it or refinish it, but I also feel so ready to put it all behind me. As hard as it is to let go of familiarity, both sentimentally and structurally, the stuff is not what it once was. It’s ok and even freeing to let it go.

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Perspective is Everything: A week or so after our fire, I found a picture of my girls from February 6, tucked in their beds, with matching pajamas and dolls. At first, it made me sad because it was the last picture we’d taken in our house. And then, I was overtaken with gratitude because it wasn’t the last picture of my girls. It’s so easy to see what was lost. It’s so tempting to focus on how hard life has been since that day. But it’s so much more rewarding to focus on the good. I look back and see how thankful I am my Dad changed all of our smoke detectors just weeks before our fire. I choose to see that my Mom’s uncharacteristic text message got me up and moving earlier than usual that day. I focus of the reminder that people are still good and still have such big hearts. I look back and see that God’s hand was on us long before that smoke detector went off.

View More: http://southernrootsphotographybybrittany.pass.us/frankovich-family--beauty-from-ashes

So did my faith waiver like I feared it might? Not one bit. We live in an imperfect world where bad things happen. But now, more than ever, I know God turns some of our biggest tragedies into some of our biggest blessings. Somehow I feel closer and more in alignment with God’s provision than I ever have. I am sure that we are in the right place doing the right thing. We still have ruts outside our gate from the trucks that skid in to help. And I don’t mind seeing them. Because every day that I pass them, I’m reminded how many people came to help us. I’m reminded how good people really are. And I’m reminded that God wasn’t surprised when our smoke alarms went off. He’d prepared us and the people around us long before we had any idea what was fixing to happen. I literally wake up every morning now thinking, “I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do today.”

Recipies

Chicken Spaghetti

Hands down, one of the comfiest comfort foods around. Creamy, cheesy, packed with veggies, and warm pasta. It’s perfect for a cold winter night or a quick prep before a summer baseball game. It’s also excellent (Jay argues better) frozen and reheated. So make lots and freeze some for later!

From our table to yours, Chicken Spaghetti!!

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz thin spaghetti
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 Tbs. chicken paste
  • 1/2 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped finely
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms, rough chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped finely
  • 3 T. butter
  • 1 jar pimentos
  • 2 cans cream of mushroon soup
  • 1 can rotel
  • 2 c. + 1 c. sharp cheddar
  • 2 c. monterrey Jack
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off the bone and rough chopped

1. In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water and 2 Tbs. of chicken paste to a boil. Cook your spaghetti al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta and return to pot.

2. In a large skillet, melt your 3 T. of butter. Saute onion, celery, mushrooms and green pepper until tender.

3. Add sauteed veggies, and the remaining ingredients to your cooked pasta and mix until creamy.

4. You can serve it straight from here or spoon into a casserole dish. Top with additional 1 c. of cheddar and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until cheese is bubby.

5. Can be frozen up to 6 months. To reheat, thaw in fridge for 24 hours, then bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes until reheated and cheese is bubbly.

 

Recipies

HEB Jalapeno Artichoke Dip

My first three stops when I cross the Texas state line are Whataburger for a number 1- add jalapenos, Bucees for all things Texas, and HEB for veggie chips and jalapeno artichoke dip.  (And that’s just the beginning of my quest to eat my way through the state.)  Now, I won’t claim that this recipe is quite as good as HEB’s but it’ll definitely do until I get back home!

So from our table to yours,

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can of artichokes, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup of pickled jalapenos (mild, medium or hot, depending on your preference); drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup of shredded fresh parmesan
  • 2 green onions, chopped

Mix all ingredients.

It’s amazing cold or hot!  Cover and refrigerate or pour into a glass baking dish and bake at 400 for about 10 minutes until bubbly.   I love it with veggie or pita chips but tortilla chips are never wrong.  Serve with your favorites and dream of all things Texas.

 

Recipies

Kolaches

Every good Texan knows two things about Kolaches:  One,  you never drive through West or Caldwell without stopping to get some, and two, you always get enough to share.  At the holidays, coordinating who will bring kolaches is just as important as coordinating who’s making turkey and dressing.  (At our house, we count on Aunt Cindy and Uncle Paul.)  There are lots of chain restaurants and donuts shops that sell them, but nothing beats the little hole in the wall kolache shops with stained tile floors, a leaky faucet in the bathroom and the same three laminate booths that customers have sat in for 50 years.

This Czech/Tex pastry is sweet, but savory; fluffy; but filling, delicate, but hearty.  So I knew when I decided to tackle the art of making them, the chances of getting it right the first time were slim.  My first batch was too dense and the filling ran out.  The second batch would have been perfect….if I had been making danishes.  The third batch was a charm.  It took me the better part of a day, but they were so worth the wait.  They were glorious.  So for those of you, like me, too far away from home to get our fix….

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Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of yeast
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 7-8 cups flour
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • your favorite fruit preserves or filling
  • Cream Cheese filling (recipe below)
  • Crumble Topping (recipe below)

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 egg yolk

Crumble Topping

  • 1 Tbs. butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar

1. Stir your 2 Tbs. sugar into 1/2 c. warm water.  Sprinkle in 2 packages of yeast.  With the back of a spoon, I gently dunk the yeast into the warm water.  Let it sit until the yeast is foamy.

2.  Meanwhile, mix milk and sour cream.  Add in yeast mixture.

3.  Add 2 c. of flour.  It should be pretty runny at this point, like pankcake batter.

4.  Mix in 1/2 c. melted butter, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt.

5.  Slowly add in 5 to 6 more cups of flour.  Too much flour makes it dense and tough, so it’s better to have too little than too much.   Add 1/2 c. at a time until your dough is smooth and tacky.  I used my dough hook on my kitchen aid to get it started, but kneading it in by hand really proved to be the best route for me.

6.  Set your oven to 350 degrees, and let preheat for 3 minutes.  Then turn it off and your light on.

7.  Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray or butter.  Place your smooth ball of dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.

8.  In your oven that is OFF but warm, place your bowl.  Let it rise until doubled in size, an hour to an hour and a half.

9.  Punch your dough down, and pinch off dough to make 1.5 ounce balls.  I fight extra steps when I cook, but weighing the dough out gave me uniform kolaches with just the right consistency….no small, burnt ones or big, raw ones.  You can get a scale for less than $10 at Wal-Mart.  Worth. It.

10.  Using a silicone brush, butter your cookie sheet or glass baking dish.  You can certainly make more at one time on a baking sheet, but I’ll be so honest and say, I prefer my glass baking dishes for cookies, pastries and breads.  There’s no science behind it and hard core bakers may shudder at my confession, but I stand by it.  Everything just comes out softer.  With this batch, I made 1/2 on my cookie sheet and 1/2 in a baking dish.  We unimously voted for the baking dish version.

11.  If you want the traditional rectangle shaped kolaches, your balls have to placed very closely together on your baking sheet.  You want them to rise up, not expand out.

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12.  Brush the tops with butter, and gently cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.

13.  Return to oven until doubled in size.  Oven off, but light on.

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14.  While they rise, prepare your fruit filling or cream cheese filling.  Mix all of your crumble topping ingredients in a separate bowl until crumbly.

14.  Using your fingers, make an indentation in the middle of each dough ball just big enough hold a couple of tablespoons of filling.  Gently drop in your filling, and sprinkle with topping.

15.  Cover one last time with a tea towel or plastic wrap and return to warm oven and let rise again.

16.  Once they have returned to big and fluffy, remove from the oven.  Preheat your oven to 375.

17.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until they’re fluffy and lightly browned.  Watch them closely, though….I’ve had some batches finish quickly and some took a few more minutes.

18.  My kids circled me like vultures as they finally came out of the oven for good.  And we sampled all of ours immediately.  Vanilla Pear, Jalapeno Apple and Cream Cheese.  Our next batch will definitely include my personal favorite…Poppy Seed!

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Recipies

Cheddar Chicken Pot Pie

Think Cheddar Bay Biscuit meets Chicken and Dumplings.  Yeah, no introduction necessary.  A cheesy pie crust with a traditional pot pie filling…. It’s pretty much the epitome of all things comfort.

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The Crust:

  • 5 c. flour
  • 2 c.  butter
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar

The Filling:

  • 1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 purple onion, chopped
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 2 cups chopped fully cooked chicken or turkey (rotisserie chicken. leftover turkey, etc.)
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 tsp. chicken paste
  • dash of hot sauce
  • 2/3 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 1 egg, beaten

1.  In a large mixing bowl, cut your butter into your 5 c. of flour.  Add in the milk and a pinch of salt.

2.  On a well floured surface, divide your dough in halves.  One half at a time, knead in more flour until smooth and no longer sticky.

3.  Knead in 1/2 cup of shredded cheese into each half.

4.  Roll out each half into a circle large enough to fill the bottom and sides of your pie pan.

5.  Carefully lift and place in your pan.  Repeat with the second half of your dough, but save it for the top of your pie.

6. In a dutch oven or large saucepan, melt your butter.  Add in all of your veggies, except the garlic.  Saute until softened.

7.  Add in garlic and peas, and cook about 1 minute more.

8.  Stir in your flour.

9.  Add water, chicken paste, and heavy whipping cream.

10.  Continue to stir until you’ve got a thick sauce.

11.  Add in a dash of your favorite hot sauce and chicken.  Mix well.

12.  Pour into your pie crust.

13.  Top with the second half of crust that you have reserved.

14.  Cut off excess crust around the edges.  Press edges together with the back of a fork to seal in all of that chicken goodness.

15.  Cut 4 slits in the top of the pie for venting.

16.  Brush the top and edges with beaten egg. (I completely forgot this when I made this last night…so yours will be prettier than mine!)
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17.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until your crust is golden and flaky.

18.  Let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.