Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chicken Pot Pies

I know I should be focused on spring, but I have to share one last winter recipe before I let go of the cold weather. This recipe has been in my draft folder for months, and because it is really amazing and wonderful, I don't want to wait until next year to share it!

On the rare occasions that my mother was out of town when I was a kid, my dad would always rotate through a handful of easy dinners. Corned beef and hash, pork chops and rice, hot dogs and frozen pot pies. It wasn't until I was an adult that I had a homemade pot pie, and they are a far cry from those frozen ones. This recipe is a little time consuming, but it's not difficult and it is definitely worth it. They are the best homemade chicken pot pies I've ever had. The crust is buttery and flaky and the filling is rich and velvety. 

I spent a Sunday evening making these, and for old times sake, I turned on Swiss Family Robinson. Did anyone else watch the Sunday evening Disney movies with Michael Eisner every week when you were a kid?

Chicken Pot Pies

For the lid:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
13 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons sour cream or Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup very cold water
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

For the filling:
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (breasts, thighs and drumsticks are ideal)
1 to 2 glugs olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch slices (About 1 1/2 - 2 cups)
1 large onion, diced small
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional - I left this out)
3 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas (no need to defrost)
2 large carrots, diced small (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

For assembling and baking:
4 - 6 oven proof bowls

To make pastry lids:
In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is closer to uncooked couscous.

In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball (I needed to do this). Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Meanwhile make the filling:
Generously season all sides of the chicken parts with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If the chicken breasts are particularly large, you can half them to ensure they cook at the same pace at the other parts.

Heat first glug of olive oil over medium-high heat in the bottom of a large Dutch oven (minimum of 4 quarts). Brown chicken in two parts, cooking until golden on both sides. Transfer to a plate and repeat with second half of chicken. Set aside.

Heat second glug of olive oil in the same pot. Add onions and leeks, season with salt and pepper, and saute them until softened, about 7 minutes. If using, pour in sherry and use it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer until mostly cooked off. Add milk or cream, chicken broth, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Nestle the browned chicken and any accumulated juices into the pot. Cover and gently simmer to 30 minutes, after which the chicken should be fully cooked and tender. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to cool slightly.

Discard the bay leaf. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon; reserve it for another use, or this: In a medium bowl, mash butter (feel free to replace any part of it with skimmed chicken fat from the previous step) and flour together with a fork until a paste forms and no flour is still visibly dry. Pour one ladleful of filling over it, and whisk until smooth. Add a second ladleful, whisking again. Return this butter-flour-filling mixture to the larger pot, stir to combine, and bring mixture back to a simmer for 10 minutes. The brothy base should thicken to a gravy-like consistency. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Add carrots and peas to stew and simmer for 3 minutes, until firm-tender. Shred or dice the chicken, discarding the bones and skin or saving it for another use. Return chicken to stew and re-simmer for 1 minute. Stir in parsley.

To Assemble and bake pies:
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Ladle filling into oven proof bowls, filling only to 1 to 1 1/2 inches below the rim to leave room for simmering. Depending on how big your bowls are, you will be able to fill 4 to 6 bowls. I filled five.

Divide chilled dough into a equal sections depending on how many bowls you have to cover. Roll each section of dough out into rounds that will cover your ovenproof bowls or baking dishes with a 1-inch overhang. Cut vents into rounds.  Whisk egg with water to make an egg wash. Brush edges of bowls with egg wash, or if you like lids that easily lift off your bowls and are willing to risk that they may slip slightly into the bowl when baking, you can skip this. Place a lid over each bowl, pressing gently to adhere it to the outer sides of the bowl. Brush the lids with egg wash.

Bake until crust is bronzed and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes.

Do ahead: The dough for the lids can be made up to 3 days in advance and chilled. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and re-warmed before assembling and baking the pot pies.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maple Granola

I love having jars of homemade granola around the house both because it tastes good and because buying bags of it can really add up. Making granola at home is easy and affordable, and it's a good way to use up things from the pantry like flaxseed meal, sunflower seeds, chia seeds and various nuts.

This recipe isn't too sweet, and if you like a sweeter granola you can add more maple syrup. This recipe makes about two quarts of granola. I use this recipe as a base and the measurements are for reference, but when I'm making this I just estimate.

Maple Granola
From Smitten Kitchen found here

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white, whisked until frothy
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, chopped if large pieces (I leave this out because I don't like it)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Combine all ingredients except the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Stir the egg white into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. Spread it in a single layer on the lined baking sheet.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible. Rotate the pan if granola is baking unevenly. When it is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to the cooling rack. Cool completely. Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters you want. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

The granola keeps at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mélisse Bourbon Sour

I normally like to drink my bourbon neat, but this winter, I've experimented with some bourbon mixed drinks. This is my favorite - it's light and frothy from the egg white, a little tart from the lemon and just the right amount of sweet to balance it all out. An added bonus is that we almost always have all the ingredients on hand. It is made with bourbon, lemon juice, egg white, simple syrup and Angostura bitters. While it's easy to whip up, it feels like a special treat.

The recipe calls for Buffalo Trace specifically, which delights me because of its connection to our wedding, but I think you could use any bourbon you have on hand.

Mélisse Bourbon Sour
From Saveur

2 oz. Buffalo Trace bourbon
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
White of one large egg
Angostura bitters

Place bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Tap glass bottom to disperse air bubbles. Once foam gathers on top, garnish with 4 drops Angostura bitters & carefully swirl them into a design.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

February 2015 // Finding the Best in the Worst

Even though we are already more than half way through March, I feel like I'm still just coming out of the cloud of February. February is the worst. We have made a mental note to plan a beach vacation for February 2016. But even though it was the worst, a lot of wonderful things happened too.

I walked and explored, I started training for the Santa Fe Century, I wore loud leggings and even got Andrew to join in on the fun, I went to jury duty, I skied harder and harder runs, I cuddled and I forced Elsa to spend quality time with me by barricading her in the family room.

For the second month in a row, we ended the month with a powder day, and even though February was the worst, good snow is the best.
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