Thursday, October 23, 2008

What I cook on my day off: The Thank God It's Fall edition...

Maybe next year I'll have a So Happy It's Summer edition, too.

Today the low was 33. Wahoo! The guy on the radio mentioned that it would be a chilly day, with highs only in the low 70's. Everybody in Colorado and Minnesota is laughing right now. Everybody in Maine and North Dakota is crying.

So today I cooked a pot pie. Pot pies are easy and basic: all you need is a sauce and some biscuit dough to go over the top of whatever you put in the sauce. You can make 'em with a cream-based sauce and chicken and call it chicken pot pie, or use leftover stew meat and a thickened beef broth and call it shepherd's pie. Here are the very basic basics of the dish:

First, preheat your oven to 400 (200C or Gas Mark 6) and butter a  9" x 13" pan (largish; I don't know what the metric equivalent is).

For the sauce:

Two cups of broth--your choice of chicken, vegetable, or beef. (call it 500 ml.)
Four tablespoons of butter (half a stick)
A half-cup of flour (115 g)
About a cup and a half, give or take, of whole milk or half-and-half, if you want to make chicken or veggie pot pie with a cream base. (you metricians can figure that one out)

(If you don't want to use the milk, you'll need a little extra broth.)

Melt the butter in a largeish saucepan. Add the flour and stir it in with a whisk, then cook over medium heat for a minute or two so it'll lose the floury flavor.

Dump in the broth. Continue to cook over medium heat, Without Boiling, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat. Add milk products if you're using 'em. Stir well and set aside.

Now. From here on out you can play around. The pot pie I made today included white mushrooms, carrots, onions, and baby peas sauteed in the ass-end of some bacon I had lying around, plenty of black pepper, and some seared portabellini mushrooms (baby portabellas). It's vegetarian except for the addition of the pig. 

For a real vegetarian version, you could roast carrots, garlic, and parsnips or turnips along with some nice firm mushrooms, (everything cut into big chunks) and then combine it with the peas and onions and use a thyme-seasoned cream sauce.

For chicken pot pie, you can cook chunks of chicken in the broth prior to adding it to the flour and butter mixture (and remembering to skim the ook off the top of the broth, please), then add peas/carrots/onion/mushroom to the whole shebang. Chicken pot pie traditionally uses the cream-and-broth sauce.

For shepherd's pie, you can use beef broth without cream and add turnips and carrots to the mix, topping the whole kaboodle with some nice garlicky mashed potatoes.

The only important thing is that the innards of the dish be fairly highly spiced. As for topping, you can use a drop biscuit recipe or a good pie crust recipe. Please do not use those awful lardy soapy-tasting unfoldable pie crusts you can get at the store. Drop biscuits are easier. To wit:

Mix two cups of flour (460 g)
two and a half teaspoons of baking powder (12 g)
a teaspoon of salt, and (5 g)
six tablespoons of butter (3/4 of a stick)

in your food processor. Process until it gets sort of sandy.

Add enough milk or half-and-half until the mixture is wet but not batter-y. You don't want the traditional dry biscuit dough you can roll out, but you also don't want it soupy. About a cup will be fine. 

Then you drop your non-soupy biscuit dough on top of your giganto pan of nummy soupy goodness and bake it for 30 to 45 minutes or until the biscuits are a nice golden brown.



Penny Mitchell said...

Quorn nuggets are FABULOUS in a "chicken" pot pie! True comfort food. One of my favorite autumn things to eat.

Nancy said...

That sounds really good. It gives me the idea to post my dinner idea tonight-calico beans. It turned out good and it's nice to have something warm and hearty when it gets so cold. I'm in MN and it was about the same here today, now it's 45 with light rain. yuk

SClubBethan said...

Sounds lovely. Might make the vegetarian one next week. Fab blog by the way.