Wednesday, January 25, 2017

white chicken potpie.

I have a running iPhone list of foods I want to make.  Sometimes these foods remain on the list for the better part of 2 years without still being tackled (I'm looking at you croissants) and other times they last 2 days before being made (tahini chocolate chip cookies).  Some dishes get added to the list because Tyler mentions them offhandedly (which is why I'll be making pierogi's next weekend) and other times its because I stumbled across a recipe that is made up of my favorite things (the best Sicilian pizza).   There is no rhyme or reason to the list and that's why I love it.    

Chicken pot pie somehow made it's way on to the revolving list a couple of months back.   I don't remember what triggered me adding it, but this past weekend, knowing we were heading into several days of cold, rainy, and dreary weather, it felt like the appropriate time to finally make one.  

Chicken pot pie has a lot of variations and people have vastly differing opinions on how it should be prepared.  Should it have both a bottom and top crust?  Are peas cool?   Can you use white and dark meat?  The list goes on.   This version incorporates my favorite things (lots of peas and chicken) under a biscuit like crust.  The resulting dish is full-blown comfort food and the perfect thing to eat this time of year.

*On a not food-related note, call your senators if you are unhappy with how things are going.  I called mine this morning because the climate change changes that have gone into effect the last couple of days leave me feeling queasy.  Do the same if you feel un-happy about something.  There job is to listen to you!

White Chicken Potpie
Recipe adapted from the NYTimes

Ok - I liked this recipe in theory but edited a decent amount.  First off, I wanted to make this a one pan affair so I used my 10 inch cast iron.   You will want to do this to, it will make your life a lot easier.

The initial recipe made a LOT of biscuit topping.  Way more then seemed logical to me.  So I reduced the topping by 1/3 (my edits shown below) and feel this was a more "normal" ratio of biscuit to filling.   

After speaking about chicken potpies with my mama, I decided  to add in some mustard.  I find this to be a welcome addition as the accidity offsets the richness of the dish nicely.   I also made peas mandatory because peas below in a potpie.  

Last but not least, this makes a lot of chicken potpie.  You've been warned.   

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 pounds) or 2 1/4 pounds of chicken parts (I used half chicken so I got a mix of white and dark meat)
Kosher salt
Black pepper
3 cups chicken stock or water
1 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
3/4 cup unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), chilled, additional for greasing pan
2 leeks, thinly sliced, white and light green parts
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, more as needed (or 1/2 cup heavy cream + 1/2 cup whole milk)
2 small carrots, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups)
1 medium potato, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups)
1 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup buttermilk

Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Let rest 15 minutes. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine chicken, stock or water, wine, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook chicken gently until no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate to cool completely. Strain and reserve cooking liquid (you should have about 2 3/4 cups). Once chicken is cool, shred into bite-size pieces.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 10 inch cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Add leeks and shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Melt in 4 more tablespoons butter. Stir in 1/2 cup flour and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the strained stock and the milk (or milk and cream). Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer. Stir in celery root or carrot, and potato; simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas if using and mustard.  Remove from heat and set aside.   

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, the baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut the remaining 6 tablespoons butter into cubes; using a pastry cutter or two forks, mix into flour until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk. Dollop mixture on top of potpie filling (it’s O.K. if there are spaces between biscuits). 

Transfer casserole to oven; bake until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

zatar and parmesan popcorn.

When you're a child, snow days are a magical thing.   But as an adult, they loose a lot of their allure. Snow days mean schlepping to work even if the skies just dumped 8 inches of snow. 

Much of the joy I have for snow days stems from the tradition my mom started of making my siblings and I Parmesan popcorn (recipe form the Kids Cook Cookbook!) and hot chocolate when we came in from playing outside.   This past weekend, while Tyler and I were taking Jackson to the park in the middle of a snowy Saturday afternoon, I got a sudden bout of nostalgia for such a treat.  And so I did what I always do when that happens, I returned home and set about re-creating such food memories.   

This is my ode to my childhood snow day treat.  Freshly popped popcorn covered in a dusting of Parmesan and Zatar.   Zatar, an incredible Middle Easter spice blend, provides just enough of a kick to the bowl of popcorn, managing to make the popcorn taste just a little more adultish while still fully embracing what I loved about it as a child (the cheesy bites).   It's great snack food on snowy afternoons though I could also see myself serving it as an appetizer for a party (Superbowl anyone?). 

Zatar and Parmesan Popcorn 
Recipe adapted slightly from Serious Eats

I used the popcorn from the Whole Foods bulk bins though I am really keen to order some of this popcorn since I hear it's so great! 

1/2 cup popcorn kernels, popped (about 8 cups popped)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup store-bought za'atar spice blend 
1/2 cup parmesan or Pecorino grated on a microplane 
Kosher salt

Place popped popcorn in a large mixing bowl and drizzle olive all over, tossing to coat evenly. Add za'atar and cheese, tossing to coat evenly. Season with salt and serve. Popcorn can be stored at room temperature in a zipper-lock bag overnight.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

pasta e fagioli.

To counteract the effects of me eating my body weight in oysters and ridiculously good local beers while Tyler and I were in Charleston (oh and all the cookies I consumed before then), I've been on a bit of a soup kick.  

I've talked a lot about soup on this blog because I love it.  It's up there with cheese and peanut-butter as one of my favorite foods. It's satisfying and filling and it's my winter comfort food.  Most people think of comfort food, especially winter comfort food, as food involving cheese and butter.  But for me, brothy soups filled with pantry staples like beans, pasta, and carrots, is my kind of belly-warming comfort food.

This soup is about as basic as it gets but somehow all the basic ingredients come together to create a beautiful cohesive soup that makes cold January evenings all the more bearable.  

Pasta e Fagioli 
Recipe from Tasting Table

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 ounces pancetta, minced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups dried white beans, soaked overnight
10 cups chicken stock
1 - 1 1/2 cups small pasta shells
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to tast
Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, for garnish

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, carrot, celery and onion, and cook until golden brown, 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, rosemary and garlic, and cook until the tomato paste is caramelized and the rosemary and garlic are fragrant, another 2 minutes.

Drain the soaked beans and add to the pot along with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Add the pasta and cook another 10 minutes.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Divide the soup between bowls and garnish with grated cheese. Serve.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

pasta with brussel sprouts, cheese, and sweet potato.

Hi 2017.

I debated endlessly over doing my yearly end of year life/blog/things of note re-cap but if we are being honest, 2016 took a lot out of me (I have so many more grays then I did a year ago) and I just didn't feel up to re-living it. 

But 2017, I have goals for you.  Finally (I mean it) making homemade croissants, traveling again (Charleston this weekend!), being a more mindful person and asking myself why (Why do you need this shirt?  Why do you need another cookie instead of an apple?).  Listening more to my gut, giving more hugs to my husband and dog, being a better consumer, trying new recipes that utilize new ingredients.  Go and visit my parents more often, throw a dinner party at least once a month, find a nightstand and bedroom table lamps, learn how to keep a plant alive, take more walks, listen more. Spend more time reading.  Watch some new documentaries. Learn more about wine.  Take a yoga class at least once a month.      

One of my goals is also continue to figure out ways of how to do something out of (what feels like) nothing. Being a cook means you look for ways to use what you have instead of always relying on some ingredient (you may need to buy) to make a meal.  Making something out of nothing is an art and it's an art I hope to perfect.   

This recipe is one of those turn leftovers into a meal kind of recipes and I feel its genius.  Roast some vegetables, turn a small bit of ricotta into a sauce, throw in some pasta, and suddenly, you have dinner.  Its magical and delicious and such an easy way to clean out the fridge.  Here's to more kitchen magic in 2017.   

Pasta with Brussel Sprouts, Cheese, and Sweet Potato
Adapted from the NYTimes 

I loved the idea of this recipe (pasta bake!  lots of veggies!) but felt it could be improved upon.  I roasted my veggies instead of boiling them because roasted veggies are far superior.  I swapped the white potato for a sweet potato because that's what I had on hand and because I love sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts together.   I grated the cheese over cubing it since I find grated cheese disperses itself more easily.   Regardless this is a stellar recipe that lends itself to endless variations (mushrooms and white potato anyone?). 

1/2 - 3/4 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if large)
1 (8-ounce) sweet potato, peeled and in 1-inch dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound pasta (NYTimes recommends whole wheat or spelt tortiglioni or penne)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 - ½ cup ricotta
4 ounces Gruyère, parmesan or pecorino romano grated 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Additional parmesan or sprinkling on top  

Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, place the sweet potato.  Drizle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.   Roast about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and add the bruseel sprouts to the same sheet pan, drizzle sprouts with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and return the pan to the oven for another 12 minutes or until everything is roasted and browned.    Remove from the oven but keep oven on.   

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously, then the pasta, and let water come back to a boil. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Just before draining, remove 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Return pasta to the pot.  Add brussels sprouts and sweet potato, then add ricotta, Gruyère (or parmesan) and 3/4 cup cooking water, and toss well. Taste and additional salt and pepper if needed. Add more liquid if you think the pasta is too dry.

Pour the pasta into an 8x8 square pan.   Sprinkle with Panko, Parmesan,a and additional black pepper, and bake for 20 minutes, by which time the surface will be scorched a light gold. Let stand for at least 15 minutes before eating.