Tag Archives: dinner

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie. Now that’s a blast from the past.

With the most recent cold snap in Minneapolis and a drawer full of vegetables from the last of my CSA, I’ve had chicken pot pie on the mind.

When I think of chicken pot pie, I reminded of the summer I spent taking care of my great-grandmother (the one who inspired this milkshake). I must have been 14 or so and my great-grandmother was living with my grandparents. My mom would drop me off on her way into work in the morning and pick me up on her way home. I would spend the day cleaning up my grandparent’s house, which meant dragging the 95-pound vacuum cleaner over the shag carpet and running the laundry, as well as making sure that my great-grandmother took her medications. I also got to pick out which pastel sweatsuit Grandma would wear for the day. During the in-between-times we would watch old episodes of game shows like Family Feud and the Price is Right. Well, I would watch the game shows and Grandma Pete would doze off in her chair. Other times I would dig through her jewelry box in awe (Grandma could rock the ugliest sweatsuit with a fabulous pair of pearl earrings).

I was responsible for making sure the old women ate – which was no easy feat. As a 14-year old in the kitchen, my skills were limited. I would poach eggs for breakfast and boil hot dogs for lunch. But for dinner, I would roll up my sleeves and make chicken pot pie. I think I must have made it at least once a week that summer. (Here’s my exact recipe from over 15 years ago, complete with girlish handwriting and mispellings…)

As a young person, my great-grandmother’s extreme old age scared me. I certainly didn’t take advantage of the time we spent together the way that I would today. She had an entire lifetime prior to that summer. And aside from my early childhood memories of banana milkshakes and grilled cheese, the only thing that I really know about her is that she was sent home from school (she was a teacher) for wearing pants to work sometime in the ancient past when such an action was deemed inappropriate for the fairer sex.

I regret that I wasted such precious time with somebody who had such gumption. I also regret that I made chicken pot pie with canned cream of broccoli soup, frozen vegetables and refrigerator rolls. At least I can rectify one of those regrets…

Chicken Pot Pie

serves 4-6

2 chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 medium carrots, diced
4-5 small potatoes, diced
1/2 head cauliflower (or broccoli)
2/3 cups frozen peas
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Biscuit topping
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg yolk

1. Cook the chicken in a large, deep sided frying pan over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add onions to the frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes more. Add cauliflower and frozen peas. Season with thyme and salt and pepper and continue cooking until vegetables are not-quite soft. Take off heat and add chicken back.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for a minute before adding the milk. Cook until thick, about 10 minutes. Whisk in nutmeg and parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese is melted. Stir into the cooked vegetables and pour into a large, deep-sided pie dish or 9 x 13 glass casserole dish.

4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in cold butter until it resembles cornmeal. Stir in cheddar cheese. In a separate bowl, beat egg and buttermilk together and then pour into the flour mixture and mix until dough comes together.

5. Knead a couple of times and pat out dough on counter to ~1/2 inch thick. Cut into biscuits, either with a glass or cute cookie cutter and place on top of pie filling about 1/2 inch apart. Brush biscuits with egg yolk.

6. Bake at 425º for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are a golden brown.

Cooked with Love

This morning I was listening to an interview with Dan Barber on NPR. He was discussing how food tastes better when it is cooked with love. And how often our favorite culinary memories are reflections of happiness and love. Of course great-tasting food also helps. I know, it sounds cheesy, but I think there is a kernel of truth to it.

Most of the time I cook because I find pleasure in it – the whole process of transforming ingredients into something delicious. I like trying new recipes or coming up with my own. I also use it as a useful and practical diversion to keep my mind off that fact that Scott lives in Florida, my family lives in the Pacific Northwest and most (but not all) of my friends live elsewhere. Most times my cooking is infused with loneliness and not with love. I usually find this layer of wistfulness adds a nice depth of flavor.

But I wasn’t lonely this weekend. Scott managed to squeeze a quick visit to Minneapolis between trips to Durham and Salt Lake City. As always, it did my heart good to have him around. I really wanted to have a lovely home-cooked meal – one infused with all the love I was feeling. So I curled up on Saturday morning with my coffee and cookbooks while Scott slept off his travel fatigue and put together a three-course menu.

It started with a salad. Radish and frisee, dressed with red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, shallots and olive oil, and accompanied by garlic-herbed goat cheese toast.

It continued with a pork chop with bourbon-mint sauce, sugar snap peas and garlic and olive-oil yukon gold smashed potatoes.

And finished with a triple berry tart with vanilla pastry cream.

I am not even kidding, you could really taste the love in that meal. There was something magical about spending the day with your loved one, having conversations about work, our loved ones and upcoming plans. We perused the bookstore (me for cookbooks, Scott for math books), followed by an afternoon indulgence of ice cream and danced in the kitchen while I was cooking. I was feeling so loving that I didn’t even feel too bad when I let Scott beat me in bowling.

The recipes (or links to):

Frisée and Radish Salad with Herbed Goat Cheese Toasts

Pork Chops and Sugar Snap Peas with Mint Julep Glaze

Garlic and Olive Oil Yukon Smashed Potatoes

Fresh Mixed Berry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream

from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything App

makes 3 small tarts

Sweet Tart Crust
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
5 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice water
Vanilla Pastry Cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
~2 cups assorted fresh berries
1/4 cup raspberry preserves
1 teaspoon water

For sweet tart crust:

Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter and process for about 10 seconds until mixture is uniform. Add the egg yolk and process again. Transfer to a bowl and add water until dough comes together in a ball. Divide into three small disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for half an hour. Roll out dough, transfer to tart pans, making sure to press dough into all the nooks. Pierce dough with fork and pre-bake at 425º for 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350° and bake for ten more minutes. Let cool before filling.

For vanilla pastry cream:

In a small saucepan, combine sugar with the flour, cornstarch and salt. Mix together the egg and the cream. Whisk the cream-egg mixture into the sugar-cornstarch mixture over medium heat. Whisk occasionally at first to minimize lumps, then constantly until the mixture just begins to boil and thickens, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Let cool to room temperature before using.

To assemble tarts:

Spread vanilla pastry cream into pre-baked tart crusts. Arrange berries on top of cream. Melt preserves and stir in water. Brush over berries.

Back in the Kitchen

It hasn’t been a secret that I have been less than thrilled with winter.  To add insult to injury, my stove was shut off for a week due to a gas leak.  While it was out of commission (during a record-breaking snowfall) all I could think about was all of the things that I wanted to cook and bake.  Due to all of the craziness from the last snow storm the public transit system has been crippled and it’s taking me on average about an hour to make a 4.5 mile commute.  Needless to say, when I finally get home, I am not in the mood to cook.  Until last night.  All day I had been craving some super-duper comfort food and decided that I would whip up one of my all time favorite (and easy) dinners.  Pasta with bacon and asparagus.

Now that a happy kitchen ...

Pasta with Bacon and Asparagus

It starts with bacon, as all amazing things do.  I went ahead and chopped up and fried an entire package, although you probably only need about half a package (as for the other half, I have plans for a baked potato soup).

While the bacon is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta (I prefer penne).

Chop a onion and cut asparagus in 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces.

Once cooked, remove bacon and drain off some (but not all) of the fat.  Add the chopped onions to the remaining bacon fat and cook until soft.

Add asparagus to the pasta pot after the pasta is cooked halfway through and cook until asparagus is tender, about 5 minutes.

Drain noodles and asparagus and add to the onions.  Add about 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese and cook until cheese melts.

Top with bacon crumbles.

I enjoyed mine with a cranberry martini.  Add that to a Skype date with my beloved and it was a pretty fantastic end of the work week.