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Who doesn't love a bubbling, steaming bite of pot pie?

Pot pies are easy to prepare, especially if you use refrigerated dough. And they can soothe your soul as quickly as they fill your belly with meat-and-crusty goodness.

Carrying a whiff of comfort and home (even if Swanson, rather than mom, did most of the work), the trusty pot pie of the 1950s has been on the rise ever since the recession of 2008.

"My mom would make pot pies and freeze them," said Phil McGauley of Santa Rosa, who launched his own line of frozen pot pies this fall. "She would pull them out and say, &‘Here's what's for dinner.' I grew up with that, and I brought that back."

Jeff Mall, chef/owner of Zin Restaurant in Healdsburg, still has fond memories of the frozen pot pies of his childhood, and impatiently waiting for the pie to bake.

"The pot pie was always molten on the inside, so I burned my mouth being too anxious to eat it," he said. "I always ate the crust first."

At Zin, Mall gives the chicken pot pie his own creative twist, baking individual pies in a small, cast-iron skillet with two biscuits on top.

"We use dark-meat chicken, because it holds up better for braising," he said. "And we use fresh vegetables ... baby carrots and onions and root vegetables."

At the Petaluma Pie Co. in Petaluma, open for just over a year at Helen Putnam Plaza, owners Lina Hoshino and Angelo Sacerdote enjoy tweaking their savory pies with interesting global flavors.

"We did pie because it can be savory ... it's got more staying power," Sacerdote said. "And pie is an easy thing to be creative with."

At Petaluma Pie Co., you can sample about a half-dozen savory hand pies, baked in flavor combinations like Bratwurst and Sauerkraut, Samosa (potatoes and peas), Spinach and Feta, Mushroom and Goat Gouda.

The cafe also bakes a Broccoli and Cheddar Pot pie, which tastes a lot like a mac 'n' cheese, only healthier. There's also a classic Chicken Pot pie, baked with a flaky crust on top and a sturdy crust on the bottom.

"The bottom crust has eggs and less butter, which makes it sturdier," Sacerdote said. "That's what we use for our hand pies."

For the filling, Sacerdote uses organic, dark-meat chicken, fresh carrots and celery, and organic frozen peas.

"We didn't have Chicken Pot Pie for a long time," Sacerdote said. "But people would order it anyway."

On weekends, the small pie shop with 20 seats also serves "brunch" pot pies that come in classic flavors like spinach and cheddar, or smoked salmon and fromage blanc.

"It's like a quiche with just a top crust," Sacerdote said. "The bottom crust is Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin and roasted in the oven ahead of time."

Of course, the secret to baking a delicious pot pie is to source the very best ingredients you can find. Petaluma Pie Co. buys cheese locally from Cowgirl Creamery and Spring Hill Dairy and uses butter, milk and cream from Straus Family Creamery.

It takes orders for take-and-bake frozen pies and carries a line of sweet pies as well, in classic flavors like Chocolate Cream and Banana Cream.

The cafe tends to attract a lot of customers from countries that are the pie centers of the world: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Great Britain and Latin America.

"Everybody gets excited and gives us recipes," Hoshino said. "We like the potential of embracing diverse cultures."

McGauley, who serves as the executive hospitality chef for Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, started his own pot pie business this year on a dare from his wife.

"My wife called my bluff," he said. "People liked my pot pies, so we said, &‘Let's make a few different ones.' "

The start-up company is called 3/P's — Phil's Pot Pies — and offers five fresh-frozen pies in a 6-inch pie plate. Inspired by his mother, McGauley experimented with some unusual flavors before coming up with his unusual pies.

"My mom made a shellfish crepe, and we used that filling for a pot pie," he said. "We tweaked it with a tiny bit of curry in it."

He also invented his own Pot Roast Pot Pie, taking two comfort foods and combining them into one, hearty dish.

"It's a slow-roasted pot roast, with fresh herbs, peas, carrots and Yukon golds (potatoes)," he said. "We do it in a slow cooker."

For his Roasted Veggie Pot Pie, McGauley roasts vegetables like corn, mushrooms, peppers, onions and garlic in the oven on high heat. He also bakes a smoky BBQ Pulled Pork Pot Pie with red peppers, carrots, celery and parsley.

"It's a really meaty pot pie," he said. "We make a good pulled pork with apple juice, cinnamon, cumin, chipotle barbecue sauce, beer and brandy."

And, of course, he also makes a classic Roasted Chicken Pot Pie, featuring a double crust.

"There's crust all the way around," he said. "You take it home and bake it yourself."

For ordering information, go to 3ps-philspotpies.com.

This recipe is from chef Jeff Mall, executive chef at Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar:

Zin's Chicken Pot Pie

Makes 4 individual pes

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1? cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

? cup heavy cream

? cup pearl onions, peeled and blanched

? cup carrots, peeled and diced, blanched

? cup fresh peas (if you can find them)

? cup celery root, peeled and diced, blanched

1? teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

? teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2? cups chicken, cooked and shredded

1 recipe biscuits, cut in 8 pieces (see recipe below)

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan slowly melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and mix with a whisk. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. (this is a roux, the base of the sauce.)

Whisk in the chicken stock and heavy cream. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently with the whisk.

Add the blanched pearl onions, diced carrots, peas and diced celery root. Add the thyme, sage, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir adn cook vegetalbes in sauce for 5 minutes. ADd the cooked, shredded chicken. Heat.

Season to taste with herbs. salt and pepper. Divide the mix with 4 individual skillets or 4 6-ounce ramekins. Set the individual pot pies on a sheet pan and set in the oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling.

While the skillets/ramekins are heating, brush the biscuits with heavy cream and bake on a sheet pan until golden brown and well rise, 14 to 16 minutes.

Once the pot pies are hot, remove from the oven and top with the biscuits.

Jeff's Biscuits

Makes 8 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder (without aluminum)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup milk

1 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir with a whisk to blend.

Using a pastry blender or two dinner knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the cream and the milk. Stir just until the mixture comes together. On a floured board, knead the dough a few times and then form it into a ball.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a ?-inch thickness. Cut out rounds with a 2-ound round cutter, pressing the cutter straight down without twisting it.

Re-roll the scraps and cut out more buscuits. PLace on an ungreased baking sheet; brush the tops of the biscuits with heavy cream. Bake until golden brown and well risen, about 14 to 16 minutes.

The following two recipes are Petaluma Pie Company. Use your favorit epie dough recipe, or buy refrigerated dough, phyllo or puff pastry for the pie top.

"This is an easy pie to throw together for breakfast, lunch or brunch," Sacerdote said.

Brunch Pie with Smoked Salmon, Fromage Blanc, Capers and Dill

Makes 1 9-inch pie

1 small Yukon gold potato

Olive oil for roasting potatoes

1/3 cup fromage blanc

4 ounces smoked salmon, or to taste

3 tablespoons capers

2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped

6 eggs

1 cup Half & Half

? teaspoon pepper

? teaspoon salt

1 refrigerated pie crust

1 egg, beaten with a little milk, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and thinly slice the potato and toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. In a 9-inch pie pan, arrange the potato slices to cover the bottom of the pan. Place pan in oven and bake for about 10 minutes or so. Remove from oven and place spoonfuls of fromage blanc around the pan, followed by capers, dill and smoked salmon. (We use a thick-cut smoked salmon, which is not soft like lox, but you could use lox if you like.)

Mix eggs, Half & Half, salt and pepper with a whisk and pour over other ingredients in the pie pan. Cover wtih a pie crust brushed with the egg wash. Cut vents in top, and bake on a sheet pan for 35 minutes, or until browned on top and puffed up. Be careful not to overbake.

"This is a simple pie," Sacerdote said. "It's very comfort food-y and great for a cold, rainy day."

Broccoli, Cheese and Peas Pot Pie

Makes 1, 9-inch pie

3 tablespoons butter

? teaspoon nutmeg

? teaspoon pepper

? teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons flour

1? cup whole milk

1? cup cheddar, grated

1 small, red onion, chopped and sauteed

1 bunch broccoli, chopped in small pieces

? cup frozen or fresh peas

1 square refrigerated pie crust

1 egg, beaten with a little milk, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, add nutmeg, salt and pepper, then flour, and cook briefly while stirring. Add milk, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom until mixture thickens. Add cheese and sauteed red onions. Mix in broccoli and peas and place into pie pan. Cover with pie crust, brush with egg wash, cut vents in the top. Bake on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

This recipe is from Phil McGauley of 3/Ps Phil's Pot Pies.

Roasted Chicken Pot Pie

Makes 8 individual pies

For pie filling:

4 tablespoons butter

? yellow onion, diced

1? cup carrots, chopped

celery stalks, chopped

2 bay leaves

? cup flour

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup frozen peas

4 cups roasted chicken pieces

? cup flour

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

For dough:

4 cups flour

1 1/3 cup Crisco

2 teaspoons salt

Cold water, as needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For filling: Saute butter, onions, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaves for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add ? cup flour, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add corn, peas and chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

For dough: Mix throughly until a dough forms, adding cold water 1 tablespoons at a time, to form a ball. Line bottom of the ramekins or tins with dough. Add about 1 cup of filling to each ramekin and cover with remaining dough. Cut four slits in top.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until bubbbling and nicely browned.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com