Saturday, October 8, 2011

No Kitty! That is MY Pot Pie!

Thank you South Park. I really don't think anyone of my generation will be able to hear the words pot pie and not think of the scene with Cartman yelling "No Kitty! That's my Pot Pie!"

Now seriously - let's think about this. Chunks of chicken, carrots, pearl onions and peas in a creamy sauce and topped with flaky pastry. Does it get any better? Does anything satisfy you more on a cool fall night? And hot damn if they don't smell god while baking in the oven.

My first foray into pot pies came as a child when Mom would mix up the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers - turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roasted white potatoes with peas and onions and carrots all together with a can or two of cream of mushroom soup and toss the whole thing into pie shells.  Something about the combination of those flavors pulled out of the freezer and baked up into a warm rich pie makes my heart go pitter pat.

Yesterday happened to be a perfect fall day. The sky was a gorgeous crystal blue, the air was cool but the sun was warm.  I got out of work a bit early and went for a run along the Hudson River side of Inwood Hill Park.  Feeling great (and figuring I deserved the indulgence after the run) I decided I'd go for it and prepare a pot pie.  I picked up a chicken, some bacon, carrots, potatoes, peas and pearl onions along with some cream and butter and headed home.

First things first - I soaked the chicken in a big pot of salted water and then cut it up into 8 pieces. Salt, pepper and olive oil and into the oven at 400 to roast for about 40 minutes.  Meanwhile I made a basic pie crust in my food processor with flour, baking powder, salt, butter, vegetable shortening and ice water.  Form into a disk and allow to chill for 30 minutes.

While the chicken finished roasting and dough chilled, I prepped my other ingredients. I cut a few slices of thick cut bacon into lardons and rendered out the fat. I pulled out the crisp bacon and added a few tablespoons (ok ok, it was a stick of butter....but I ran two miles so I needed the calories....) and let it melt. I sauteed two cups of chopped yellow onions in the butter and bacon fat and then added about 3/4 cup of flour to that and it cook for about two minutes.  I added about 5 cups of warm chicken stock that had been warming on the stove and then added the chopped carrots, potatoes, pearl onions and peas.  By this point the chicken was out of the oven and cooling so I pulled the meat off the bones by hand and added it to the mixture. Finally I added about 1/2 cup of cream and the crispy bacon back into the mix. 

I pulled out my ramekins and filled each one to near full with the chicken, veggie and sauce mixture. I rolled out the pie crust and cut it into rounds just larger than the pie crust.  A brush of beaten egg around the rim of each ramekin and then I placed the crust on top, crimping the edges so it would stick.  A quick brush of egg wash over the crust, some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and 3 small slices with a knife into the top to let out the steam. Into a 375 degree oven for an hour to bubble and bake.

And then finally? It's time to eat.  I curled up on the couch with my pot pie, a Gritty's brown ale and caught up on the DVR I had missed while away at a database conference this week. Was it work? Yes! Was it worth it? Hell's yes!

While I ate Meatball perched on the edge of the couch with his whiskers twitching as he sniffed the deliciousness.  And it gave me great pleasure to look at him and say "No Kitty! This is MY pot pie!"

So here's today's question: What's your favorite fall indulgence? Is it a warm apple pie baked with fresh picked apples? A thick and hearty chowder? Meatloaf and gravy? Post in the comments below and let me know what your own autumn culinary adventures will include!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My own form of torture...

It's a perfect fall Sunday morning.  The sky is a gorgeous bright blue and the air is crisp and cool. I'm wearing my favorite flannel pajama pants with a huge mug of coffee sitting on the couch watching back to back episodes of Top Chef: Just Desserts while using my picture-in-picture feature to keep tabs on what Bobby Flay is making on Brunch at Bobby's. In my head I'm making mental lists of everything I want to try including these FABULOUS little chocolate cups made from dipping small inflated balloons into perfectly tempered chocolate and then popping the balloons. In my head I could fill them with zabaglione and fresh berries or crushed cookie crumbs and chocolate custard or peanut butter mousse with caramelized bananas....

I'm also thinking of how perfect it would be to roast a chicken today or make an apple pie and fill the house with that gorgeous warm smell perfect for this time of year. My brain is in overdrive and I'm getting so excited I'm ready to run out and hit the market in my PJ's....

And then my little heart sinks as I realize I can't actually do any of this today. Tomorrow morning at 6am I'm going to be heading off to a somewhat less delicious conference in Washington, DC and I'll be there until Thursday. So no playing with chocolate, no apple pie baking in the oven, no chicken roasting and filling the house with that warm wonderful smell. Just me, some brisket leftovers from the other night and lots of packing and sorting through conference papers.

Seriously....torture.  But just wait until next weekend! It's going to be an all out cooking/baking extravaganza here at Chez Nigro! Unless of course Mother Nature throws me a curve ball and brings the temperatures back up again. Stay tuned and see what happens.

And in the meantime - let me live vicariously through you! Leave a comment and let me know if you're going to be celebrating fall with your own culinary creations today!