Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Pie Parade, Part I

I was just writing about Halloween and now, somehow, it is dangerously close to Thanksgiving. How on earth have I not yet written about pie?? Aside from the turkey and stuffing, it is the quintessential Thanksgiving food. Pumpkin, pecan, apple, sweet potato: the list could go on and on. And in my family, it does. My aunt who hosts the turkey holiday each year is a whiz with a spatula. I have never tasted better cheesecake, even since moving to the city that famously bears its name. Rich chocolate brownies, almost indistinguishable from fudge, and spiced pumpkin cheesecake, are among my favorites that she serves up for the holidays (or any day, really). Add pumpkin pie, Tollhouse pie and chocolate bourbon pecan pie (that I started making a few years ago) and I think we’ve only covered a portion of the dessert menu.

This year, my Thanksgiving will be far away from my Aunt’s idyllic woodsy home and welcome parade of pies and goodies. I’ll be watching a parade of different sorts amidst 2 1/2 million faces, towering skyscrapers and floating cartoon heads. I know I’ll miss my family and the slow pace of home, but I hope to whip up enough confections that I won’t be suffering from sugar withdrawal here in the Big Apple. I’ll be starting the baking marathon this weekend and hopefully have enough steam to share some of the goods with you in time for the big day. Until then, you can enjoy this savory pot pie that I made on a cool weekend evening, the kind that made me wish I could curl up and sip hot cocoa in front of a fireplace that isn’t merely decorative.

The recipe came from The Newlywed Kitchen a fun and romantic cookbook I discovered via this blog and is something I like to gift to my newly-wedded friends (I’ve stolen a few recipes here or there along the way). Part recipe collection, part love story, it is packed with delicious anecdotes from newly married or long-time married folks, many of them professional chefs, all of them passionate about food and each other. The combination of two is so addictive that I just may have to nab myself a copy one of these days. So today, I present to you a little twist on a classic from the author: Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Thyme Crust.

My version varies slightly from hers. I would like to say my reasoning behind certain ingredients being swapped or left out all together (read: bacon) stems from my desire to create a more heart healthy version. But I know that wouldn’t be true. One, because anything involving puff pastry really can’t be healthy no matter how many vegetables you throw at it, and two, because I know the truth of the matter is that I just didn’t feel like running out for more ingredients I didn’t have. So if you want the bacon in yours, be my guest. The original recipe calls for 3 slices, chopped, to be browned and crisped before adding the onions and olive oil. Minus the meat, I still wanted my pot pie to have a bit of a smoky flavor, to distinguish it from your run-of-the-mill homey dish. And so I substituted smoked paprkika for plain. Again, you may do as you like. I also swapped light cream for heavy, chopped haricot vert and broccoli for a quantity of the frozen peas. There’s something about those little green orbs that has never quite grown on me. Of course, the boy loves peas, so I had to include a few…that I strategically scattered in his portion of the filling.

The puffed pastry crust thats sits atop the pie is a nice addition, hovering, unscathed, above the bubbling filling. Speckled with cheddar and thyme, brown and flaky and crisp, it is so unlike the usual gummy gravy-soaked pie crust that accompanies the dish. With a mix of different herbs, the pie is more fragrant and flavorful than most. It was a welcome change, a dish I plan to make again soon–perhaps even for the upcoming holiday. A 20-lb bird is an awfully daunting feat for five people and a little kitchen in the big city.

Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Thyme Crust
Adapted from The Newlywed Kitchen

For the Filling
3/4 cup onion, diced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup carrots, diced
3/4 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) cremini mushrooms, diced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary leaves
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
1/3 cup light cream
1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 cup pulled rotisserie chicken
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped frozen green beans (haricot vert is preferred)
1/2 cup broccoli, chopped

For the crust
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Add onions and oil to a large skillet and cook over medium high heat for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Add the carrots, mushrooms and broccoli and cook for 4 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, marjoram, rosemary, and paprika. Add the butter. When the butter melts, stir in the flour. Add the cream and chicken stock, and let the liquids simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until they reduce slightly. Add the chicken and the frozen peas and green beans, and turn off the heat.

Transfer the filling into a small casserole dish or individual ramekins. Unfold the puff pastry sheet, place it over the ramekins and trim any overhang.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and milk to combine. Lightly brush the top of each pot pie with a bit of the beaten egg mixture. With a knife, cut a few vents in the puff pastry to let the steam escape.

In another bowl, mix the cheddar, pepper, and thyme. Distribute the cheddar mixture evenly over the top of each pot pie. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet.

Bake the pot pies for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling.

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Who needs Halloween?

Halloween escaped me this year. I’m normally the first one vying for a pumpkin to carve or dreaming up my costume. Last year I proudly crossed town in my mustard yellow tights and matching ballet flats, white skirt and orange tank as none other than Halloween’s hallmark treat, candy corn. I’ve also been known to don toilet paper rolls (sans paper) in my hair to help replicate princess Jasmine’s voluminous hairstyle. I was in fourth grade and man, was I proud of that costume. I’m typically a sucker for the costumes and candy, but somehow, this one creeped up on me and stealthily slithered beneath my radar. And I have to admit, I was a little disappointed.

That’s not to say I’ve skipped out on Fall decorations, alltogether. My fireplace is swathed in crimson, green and gold leaf garland, wonderfully lumpy goards and a few stems of those delicate orange plant pods I believe are known as japanese lanterns. A row of baby pumpkins proudly marches across my coffee table and a pile of speckled Indian corn, papery husks and all, graces my window sill. The whole scene is so lovely, I couldn’t bear to disturb it by butchering my tall twisty-stemmed pumpkin to craft a jack-o-lantern. And so the holiday went by without so much as a flickering spooky face, which also means I can’t serve up the recipe for candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds) I had planned for this week. Don’t worry, though, I candy walnuts in much the same way for a tasty salad of apples, pears and blue cheese that I will share with you in the weeks to come.

In the absense of those little pepitas, I will offer you, instead, some lovely views of Central Park, alive and beginning its Autum blaze. That, and a shot of the most delicious waffle I have ever tasted. Seriously. Better even than the mile-high malted belgian waffle that I thought was the best kept secret of a little coffee shop back home. Even piled high with fresh fruit and real whipped cream, it doesn’t hold a candle to the one I had last weekend.

Have you ever had a real Belgian waffle? I thought I had–dusted in powdered sugar and served to me in cracked vinyl booths alongside small pitchers of hot syrup. Little did I know that there is nothing really Belgian about those sugar-soaked confections, tasty as they may be. Enter: Wafels and Dinges, the waffle truck that changed my waffle perception forever during a random stroll in Central Park.

Apparently, there are two types of truly “Belgian” waffles–referred to as the Brussels and the Liege, named for their city of origin. You can read more about their distinctions, here; I am sticking to the Liege waffle since that’s what Wafels and Dinges serves up. While the Belgian waffles we are accustomed to here in the States are thick, fluffy and deliberatly shaped, a Liege waffle is thinner and sort of mishappen with a surprisingly hearty chew and a distinctive springiness not unlike a good raised donut. The outside is cripsy and studded with tiny pockets of caramelized pearl sugar, the sweet charcteristic of this Belgian snackfood.

As for toppings? No syrup or whipped cream for me, thank you. I’m a speculoos girl, now. And if you taste this creamy spread that “looks like peanut butter and tastes like graham crackers and ginger” (according to friendly Wafels & Dinges Dude), you’ll be converted, as well. There’s really no other way to describe it–he hit the flavor profile right on the money. With my new favorite waffle slathered in spice, a rocky seat in Central Park and the boy at my side, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer Sunday. Hallo-what?

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