Sunday, April 14, 2013
A few months ago, my sister shared a video on facebook. I look at everything she posts, cuz she's my sister, but when I clicked on the video and saw that it was 35 minutes long I said, gaaaahhhh, no way man. I figured I'd just watch a few minutes to see what it was about, but I got sucked in. I watched it (a few times), I researched its claims (thanks, Al Gore!), and in the end, this video (though it is certainly on the alarmist side) made a huge impact on me.
If you haven't seen it and don't care to, let me just sum it up by saying that the video is about peak oil, and how we're set to run out of fossil fuels in the next 40 years or so, and how renewable forms of energy (sun, wind, geothermal) will not be enough to allow us to maintain our current lifestyle based on crazy cheap goods (and foods!) from around the globe.
The video offers a pretty bleak outlook on what this means for the human race, and I think (and hope) that things won't ever get as bad as they say. But one thing is for certain: in my lifetime, and certainly in my children's lifetimes, we will have to start moving back to local economies and local agriculture.
I mentioned (shortly after watching this video in January) that I was trying to spend more of my weekly grocery budget at the farmers market and less at the grocery store. One easy change was switching from grocery store olive oil (shipped from Spain) to olive oil from the Texas Olive Ranch in Kyle, TX (20 minutes from my door). And! a gallon of their cooking olive oil ($40) costs about the same as the equivalent amount of my old Central Market oil and produces way less waste. At the grocery store, I have started paying attention to the country of origin in the produce section and I don't buy stuff from outside the US or Mexico (basically the only produce I buy from Mexico are my beloved mangos).
Foraging is the next thing on my list. I have always found the notion of eating off the land to be romantic and fun, but now I feel strongly that learning about native edible/usable plants and teaching my son (and his future sibling) about them is a parental obligation. To that end, my family and my sister Joanna's family spent last weekend with Grandpa Art and Grandma Mary at their home in the Wimberley countryside. We got a late start, but for dinner on Saturday night we all went a-foraging! Here's what we found:
(Disclaimer! Please don't use my images as references in your own foraging adventures. I am new to this and by no means someone to look to for advice about what you can eat from the wild without getting sick. Check out a foraging book or two from the library, or, if you're in Texas, use Merriwether's fantastic website: http://www.foragingtexas.com/).
Greenbriar. There was tons of this stuff, and the young tender leaves are great for salads. We picked what felt like a lot of this though, and only ended up with a few tiny handfuls, so we had to supplement our salad with some lettuce that Mary harvested from her classroom garden.
Agarita! Unfortunately we were too early to harvest the berries (which you do by putting a sheet under the plant and shaking it a bit so the ripe, red berries fall off- the leaves are crazy sharp and picking the berries by hand would be really unpleasant). We're hoping to head back in a month or so to get our hands on some berries and make agarita jam.
Yaupon! You can dry the leaves and make tea with them- the only native source of caffeine here in central Texas. Air-drying (which takes about two weeks) will result in the caffeine-iest possible yaupon tea. More info here.
Mustang grapes! We were too early for the grapes, but you can harvest the leaves any time and use them like you would any grape leaf (dolmas, grape leaf pie). We picked a few, but I ran out of time to think of a way to use them for our dinner :/
Dewberries! Like the grapes, we were too early for dewberries (will check back next month!). But you can make a(n apparently good tasting) tea from the young leaves, and can make a blended tea with dewberry and yaupon leaves that's vitamin-rich (don't ask me which vitamins!).
Cleaver! AKA bedstraw. AKA stick-ems (Joanna's name). This is the stuff that sticks to your socks when you walk through it. Apparently, it's edible! They feel sticky because they're covered with tiny hairs- boiling them is said to remove this problem.
After our long foraging walk, it was getting late and we had babies to feed, so dinner was a bit rushed. Even so, we were able to produce a meal using 90ish% local ingredients! Here's what we had:
Our greenbriar and classroom lettuce salad, dressed with local olive oil and not-local lime juice. The greenbriar was nice- tender and citrusy. Just allow lots of time for picking- you need a lot to make a salad.
Pork sausage and venison backstrap, from animals Grandpa Art hunted on his property. Both were delicious! There's more venison in the freezer, and I'm hoping we'll be able to serve it with an agarita jam next time around.
Handmade pasta with cleaver and local pecan pesto. I mixed eggs from our backyard chickens with non-local flour (left my Richardson Farms whole wheat flour at home :/) and cut the dough into fat noodles. We dressed them with a pesto made from boiled cleaver, pecans from Andy's grandparents' tree in San Antonio, local olive oil, and garlic. It turned out well, but I didn't feel like the cleaver had much of a taste. Also, I boiled the cleaver for ten minutes, like the books say to, but the hairs were still noticeable (though not at all after being processed into a pesto), which made me wonder if I could have left them raw and ended up with a more strongly-flavored and brightly colored pesto? Maybe a greenbriar pesto next time.
This ended up being a pretty modest first stab at a foraged dinner (as evidenced by the lack of green in the food pictures above), but you've gotta start somewhere. I'm proud that we tried, and that at least we got together to enjoy a meal with mostly local ingredients.
In the next month or so, I hope to get back to see about the agarita berries, mustang grapes, and dewberries. We should also be able to harvest some young cactus pads and I hope to try my hand at making a vegan jerky with them (mentioned here). I'll let you know how it goes!
Sunday, March 31, 2013
If I had to describe my online persona in one word, it would be lurker. One might get the impression from my sporadic facebook posts that I'm rarely online, busy planting trees and bettering mankind, but that's unfortunately not true. I read every post! I know everything about you! I'm super stealthy/creepy.
The same is true of my beloved food52. I haven't posted a recipe there in months, but I'm all over that site. I visit it daily, and am constantly inspired by it. One of food52's features, Halfway to Dinner, inspired this post. In that series, a talented recipe developer will share five or more recipes all using the same base ingredient (one loaf of bread, one bag of wheat berries, one tub of yogurt...). I love the frugality, creativity, and lack of waste in this type of menu planning and I wanted to try my hand at it. But I took the cheater's path and cooked five of my favorite recipes from talented cooks instead of developing the recipes myself. And I loved it! One mammoth 5-pound head of organic cabbage fed us happily for a week, with enough variety to keep us interested. Cabbage is pretty swell.
Peanut Soba, Cabbage, and Chicken Salad. (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)
I love this dinner. For all its components, it's really simple to put together, and tastes amazing and fresh. The cabbage salad was a revelation for me too. What a difference a little lime juice and salt makes to shredded cabbage! A couple notes: I have never made the chicken part of this recipe as written. Instead, I toss a little leftover roast chicken with some of the peanut sauce and put that on top (you could easily omit the chicken or sub crumbled firm tofu- I have). Also, the recipe calls for 3/4 pound of soba noodles, and all the packages in my grocery store are closer to 1/2 a pound. Get two packages and cook it all- you'll have plenty of peanut sauce to dress the noodles and you'll be happy for the leftovers.
Vegetable Okonomiyaki.(Dairy Free, Gluten Free if you have GF breadcrumbs)
[Be sure to click through to the original recipe to see an example of how to properly drizzle your honey-sriracha mayo. Do not attempt to duplicate the wormy toothpaste-y squiggles I've showcased here.]
These cabbage and scallion pancakes are easy, delicious, and have only a few ingredients. They're also wonderfully flexible- you can toss anything you've got into the mix (leftover meat bits, carrots, what-have-you) and they'll still come out tasty.
Roasted Sesame Winter Slaw. (Gluten Free (the slaw, I mean, not the baguette), Dairy Free)
This beautiful slaw is a lovely way to eat your cabbage (and kale, and carrots, and another type of cabbage). The dressing is what really makes it great. It's creamy and rich, but gets that way from tahini instead of dairy or mayo so it's unabashedly healthy. It also keeps in the fridge (undressed) for days without showing any signs of fatigue. We ate it with roasted sausages (put them on a sheet pan in a 400 degree oven for 14 minutes and they'll come out perfectly juicy) on baguettes with whole grain mustard.
Salvadoran Pupusas con Curtido. (Gluten Free, Can easily be dairy free if you change up the filling)
Have you had pupusas? My sister and I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity (for, ahem, one single day. woeful.) in LA, and my strongest memory from the experience is the taste of my first pupusa. They are the greatest! They're just masa cakes stuffed with meat, cheese, or beans, but they taste like so much more. This recipe doesn't quite capture the magic of real Salvadoran pupusas (i.e. from a work-site food truck in LA or an unassuming restaurant in north Austin), but they're still delicious. The curtido, a cabbage/carrot/onion slaw, is great and goes perfectly with them. It gets a bite from apple cider vinegar that cuts through the richness of the griddled pupusa.
Smothered Cabbage Risotto. (Gluten Free, Incredibly Cheap)
I am certain that I've mentioned this risotto on my blog before, but I love it so dearly I'm going to talk about it again. It starts with smothered cabbage, which is delicious and easy, and would be great on lots of things (sausages!), but which melts seamlessly into this silky risotto. I always cook the cabbage in the oven at 300 degrees for around 2 hours, stirring once or twice if I remember, instead of on the stove top. The risotto is simple too. And perfect for me because you don't have to have wine on hand (I never do)- the recipe gets its subtle tang from a bit of red wine vinegar instead. I like mine to be closer to soup-y on the risotto spectrum. If you scoop a ladle-full out into a bowl, the risotto should slip gently to the edges of the bowl instead of remaining where you put it.
So, yes! Cabbage! I really do love all of these dinners. If the idea of a week of cabbage sounds pretty grim and Charlie Bucket-y to you, I hope you'll consider picking up a wee head of green cabbage from the farmers market and trying just one of these recipes. I bet it'll make you hungry for more.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The contest over at food52 last week was for your best cheap feast, and I really wanted to enter it (I love kitchen thrifty-ness challenges!), but I couldn't think of anything that would be better than these fantastic potato tacos, which are sadly not my own invention. So I thought I'd share them here instead! They are dead simple: boiled potatoes cooked in fat with onions, roasted peppers, and cheese until golden and crispy. Piled into warm corn tortillas with guacamole and a side of beans, they make a mean, and cheap, meal.
For south Austinites, I have been buying my corn tortillas from Tortilleria Rio Grande #2, which is in the strip mall with the (terrible) HEB at the corner of S.1st and William Cannon. The tortillas are much better than anything you can buy at the grocery store and so cheap. And! And! This place sells our favorite tacos in the world. The desebrada is particularly transcendent- juicy stewed beef with little else, but I've really loved everything I've tried there. To me, it is on par with the much-hyped (and deservedly so) Taco More, but so much closer to home.
Potato, Poblano, and Cotija Tacos
adapted from Rick Bayless's Papas con Rajas recipe in Authentic Mexican
- 1 lb yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 3 medium poblano peppers (you can substitute any large green non-bell pepper)
- 1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil, plus extra as needed
- 1 small onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 1 cup crumbled cotija cheese
- kosher salt
- corn tortillas, warmed
- guacamole and limes, for serving
- Put the potatoes in a medium-sized pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender (a knife inserted into a potato should slip right out).
- While the potatoes are boiling, roast your peppers. Place an oven rack in the highest position, turn your broiler to high, and put the peppers directly on the rack under the broiler. Broil, turning occasionally, until the outsides are charred and crackly, about 10 minutes total. Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover with a dish cloth so they can continue to cook in their own steam for 5 more minutes or so. Then peel the charred skin from the peppers, remove the stem and seeds, and chop the flesh into 1/8-inch strips.
- While the peppers are in the bowl steaming, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add the lard or oil. When hot, add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, but not letting them get too brown.
- When the potatoes are tender, drain them and add them to the pot with the browning onions, using a thin metal spatula to scoop and flip the potatoes often, so that they and the onions get brown and crispy-edged. I usually splash in some extra oil at this point too, because I like the potatoes to get really crispy, and I like fat, but it's not necessary. I keep half an eye on the potatoes while heating up the beans and tortillas and making guacamole, but I probably cook them for 10-15 more minutes in the pan. When they look done to your liking, mix in the poblano strips and the crumbled cheese and let them hang out in the pan a minute more, so the cheese gets melty and a little brown in places. Season with kosher salt to taste.
- Serve the potatoes in warmed corn tortillas with guacamole and limes and a side of beans.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
It's always tricky figuring out how to start a blog post after ignoring this site for three months. But now I have recipes that I want to share and so I'm here. And I am sad that I've been away for so long again, but c'est la vie! Let's press on as if we've been together all along! Also, I'm pregnant!
Anyhow! My dear and darling sister-in-law Joanna threw a tamalada for her sweet baby Lucy's first birthday today. Joanna and her family are gluten-free and dairy free, and so I offered to make the cake, because it would be well near impossible to make 400 tamales and a GF/DF cake in the same day. Oh, and the theme of the party, invented by Joanna's older daughter, was Moo-sical, so I wanted to try to fit that theme if I could. So I researched.
My normal approach for gluten free baking is to use my favorite gluten-y recipes, and just substitute the very best gluten free flour blend in place of all purpose (and of course make sure everything else, like the cocoa powder, is GF). My favorite GF flours are Cup4Cup, which is awfully pricey and only available at Williams Sonoma (in Texas, anyway) and King Arthur's multi-purpose GF flour, which you can get at Whole Foods. I have heard not so great things about Bob's Red Mill GF flours and baking mixes, which rely on bean flours and end up making things taste bean-y. But this cake had to be dairy-free as well as GF, so my favorite butter/buttermilk-heavy yellow and chocolate cake recipes wouldn't do. Searching for GF, DF recipes online is so tricky. There aren't many that look promising (to my mind at least), and those that do (like this recipe from Babycakes in NYC) require a ton of random flours and xanthan gum, which I had no idea where to buy.
And then I remembered a recipe from one of my food52 favorites, Oui Chef, for GF vegan chocolate cupcakes without any crazy ingredients. Huzzah! His recipe did call for garbanzo bean flour though, and I was worried that the cake might suffer from the same bean-y problem that plagues the Bob's Red Mill stuff, so I subbed in the King Arthur GF flour in place of the two the recipe called for. All that remained was finding a good vegan frosting, and a quick search yielded this recipe for vegan fluffy buttercream frosting, which sounded promising. After reading the comments, I decided to start with half of the amount of sugar the recipe called for (many complained that it was too sweet) and taste from there. Half was plenty! I also omitted the soy milk, because the frosting had a nice consistency without it. Whew!
The verdict? I was pretty pleased with it! Yes, you can tell you're not eating a standard gluten-y buttery cake. It was very dark and chocolatey, and not as sweet as a normal cake (you use maple syrup instead of sugar). But it was moist, baked up beautifully, and had a texture resilient enough to allow me to carve it into the (approximate) shape of a cow. The frosting was sweet and simple and tasted a lot like the standard frosting you'd get with a grocery store birthday cake. But it paired nicely with the cake and I think the whole thing worked out pretty well. So, if you've been on the lookout for a gluten free and/or vegan celebration cake, I hope you'll give this one a try!
Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake
adapted slightly from Oui Chef, who in turn adapted it from Jennifer Katzinger's "Flying Apron's Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book"
- 2 1/2 cups GF all purpose flour blend (I used King Arthur's multi-purpose GF flour)
- 1 1/3 cups cocoa powder, sifted (make sure this is GF! many aren't)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 cup EVOO or canola oil
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups maple syrup
- Heat the oven to 350℉.
- Grease two cake pans with Earth Balance or a similar vegan margarine and dust with GF flour (I used a 9" round and an 8" square for my cow, but you could do two rounds or make cupcakes instead, which should bake up in 15-18 minutes).
- Combine the GF flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; whisk to evenly incorporate the ingredients. In a separate large bowl, combine the oil, water and maple syrup. Slowly whisk the flour mix into the liquids and mix until well combined.
- Pour the batter (yes, it is very runny) evenly into the two prepared pans. Place the pans in the oven and cook 35-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out with just a few cooked crumbs attached.
- Let the cakes cool completely in the pans, then remove them to a cooling rack for frosting.
Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero via Chow
- 1 cup nonhydrogenated shortening (I used Spectrum organic vegetable shortening)
- 1 cup nonhydrogenated margarine (I used Earth Balance vegan buttery spread)
- 1 lb powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.
- Add the vanilla and beat for another 5 minutes or so, until fluffy.
Friday, January 4, 2013
Starting in the first week of 2012, I saved every scrap of paper I used to record my weekly menu plan. At the time, I didn't really know why I was saving them. As each week passed, I'd just take the old list off the fridge and add it to the pile on the bookshelf. Now it's 2013 and I'm looking through my lists for the first time and, for me, it's fascinating.
These lists are records of how I spent much of my free time this year. They show Henry's first snacks and meals, the dishes I cooked for my loved ones' birthdays, our weekly Downton Abbey suppers last winter, Henry's first birthday party, the time Helen asked me to try to recreate a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich with local/from scratch ingredients, and the meals I cooked to comfort my family after our beloved dog, Snuggles, died this fall. They also show, quite plainly, how much my cooking-style has evolved over the course of the year. When I flipped back to the first menu (the one in blue ink on the left side of the picture above), I was shocked to see that 4 out of 6 meals contained meat, and each used a different kind of meat too. For the past several months, I've limited myself to only one, maybe two, meat purchases a week, and these are usually spread across at least two different meals. A whole chicken is great for this, because I can roast the chicken for one dinner, pull all the remaining meat off the bones for a second dinner, and turn the carcass into stock for a third dinner. A pound of ground breakfast sausage is a runner-up favorite, because I can use a little for breakfast tacos one night, some more (mixed with cheese, herbs, and breadcrumbs) as wee little meatballs on top of spaghetti the next, and the rest as a special weekend breakfast of sausage and biscuits.
I am really proud and happy of how much I've grown as a cook in the past year. For 2013, I'm going to work on these things:
- Strive for a zero-waste kitchen (our new flock of backyard chickens are enormously helpful in this respect, because they'll eat most anything, like the woody peelings of broccoli stalks that I use for my new ultra-favorite broccoli soup)
- Flip the ratio of farmers' market to grocery store purchases. I currently buy about 1/3 of our groceries from the Saturday market at Sunset Valley and the rest from Central Market, but I'd like to try to make the majority of our meals from farmers' market ingredients
- Do more canning! My sister and I canned 25 pounds of tomatoes this summer, and it has been so much fun to cook with them this winter. I want to do more of this in 2013.
- Expand my vegetable garden and actually use the stuff that comes out of it. I've got a couple lovely kale plants that have been ready to harvest for weeks now, and I keep buying kale anyway. I don't know why. Also, we didn't chicken-proof the garden well enough and those clever broads climbed under the fence and devoured most of my young winter crops. So, room for improvement!
Here's to a happy new year!
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Have you read Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal? It is an inspirational book, to be sure, and is one that has given me countless ideas for how to use up the "ends" of meals and ingredients to minimize waste and maximize thrift in the kitchen, like a leftover pasta frittata, chard stem and broccoli stalk pesto, and the most delicious kale gratin of all time. But that book also planted the seed of my greatest food fear: homemade, whisk-only mayonnaise. Adler's prose is absolutely beautiful, and florid, and sort of mesmerizing. It makes you feel like you can and will duplicate every recipe she describes in her book. The section on the joys of homemade mayonnaise, made exclusively with good olive oil, was no exception. I have made mayonnaise successfully in a blender, no problem, using canola oil. When you try to do the same thing with olive oil, though, the mayonnaise comes out noticeably bitter. Adler describes the bitter olive oil phenomenon scientifically, which I can't replicate here, but essentially says that any time olive oil is processed with a mechanical blade (blender, food processor, immersion blender) it turns bitter. So an olive oil mayonnaise, the very best kind of homemade mayonnaise, must be done by hand.
Armed with her beautiful description of the process, farm eggs, and two cups of olive oil, I set about trying to make it. You're supposed to add the oil in the tiniest drops imaginable, and almost excruciatingly slowly, whisking like a maniac all the while to build an emulsion between oil and egg. Well friends, it didn't go well. I rushed the oil, lost arm strength far to quickly, and my mayonnaise never came together. You can try to save the mayo twice, by starting over with a fresh egg and whisking in your failure-sauce anew. I failed both times, my arm getting weaker and weaker as I went. I finally ended up adding the egg and olive oil mixture to a pot of freshly cooked pasta in an extravagantly rich attempt to not have all those lovely ingredients go to waste, but I was brokenhearted about the whole thing and determined never to waste olive oil in the attempt at homemade mayonnaise again.
Enter Abbie. Abbie is my friend and food hero, a passionate and tireless cook who is always coming up with new and wonderful recipes. A few months ago she emailed me and a few other local food52ers with a brilliant idea: let's have a meet-up to cook the things that scare us. Obviously, I didn't have to do much soul-searching to come up with my contribution to this get-together. Abbie copped to being scared of souffles and fried chicken, our friend Molly mentioned challah, and I agreed to take another stab at that damn mayonnaise.
We tackled Molly's challah first. And oh man, did Molly pick a doozy of a recipe for her first attempt at her fear! This fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah has a homemade fig jam tucked into the ropes of bread dough, which are then braided together to make a gorgeous round loaf. Molly brought the freshly made dough and the fig jam, and she and Abbie set to work:
A lovely swish of a lovely jam.
We might have been a little heavy-handed with the jam, but Abbie and Molly just swiped the excess off with a spoon before pinching the rope of dough closed and stretching it as far as it would stretch.
Tucking the rope ends in after a surprisingly simple weaving process.
I feel sorry for the accosted bread dough in this picture. Transferring to the parchment-lined baking sheet for an egg wash before the second rise.
The dough is brushed with egg again after the second rise, and then sprinkled with your flakiest sea salt. The double egg wash is what gives you this gorgeous mahogany crust:
Behold! Fear no.1: annihilated!
The taste was completely wonderful too! The salt on the outside was a fun, pretzel-y addition, the crumb of the bread was soft and supple, and the fig jam was lovely and not too sweet. Molly talked about trying her hand at an apple-butter filled variation, and Abbie envisioned a savory pumpkin-filled loaf for Thanksgiving. These girls are rad.
Next, it was my turn to try the godforsaken mayonnaise. Abbie poured in the olive oil while I whisked with all my gumption. You can't see the wires of the whisk in the picture above because I was a mayonnaise ninja! I channeled the force of Tamar Adler and gave that shit everything I had.
A million minutes later, we had done it!! I was beyond thrilled. And it tasted unbelievable too- velvety olive smoothness without a trace of bitterness. We mixed in a good amount with some turkey Abbie had roasted the night before (!?) along with diced apple, red onion, parsley, and lemon juice and ate our delicious turkey salad on bits of baguette. It was delightful. But is my fear conquered? I'd say yes, with the qualifier that I'm not scared so long as Abbie is there to pour the oil in for me.
Last up was the chicken, which (spoiler alert! because I neglected to take ANY process pictures) turned out fabulous. We used Michael Ruhlman's genius recipe for Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Abbie brined the chicken pieces before we got there, and together we breaded the chicken in a flour/spice/baking powder mixture, dipped it in buttermilk, and then dredged it a separate pan of the flour mixture. We fried half the pieces in Abbie's giant cast iron skillet, which had been filled halfway up with peanut oil and heated over medium until bubbles formed around the bottom of a wooden spoon when you held it in the oil. The first four pieces looked pretty nice, but the crust wasn't quite as shaggy as we might've liked. I mentioned that my go-to fried chicken recipe (yeah, I've made it a lot :/ ) has you mix the baking powder and an egg into the buttermilk, so that the mixture becomes thick and foamy, and helps more flour stick in the second dredging. We tried this method with the second batch, and all agreed it was a bit better than the first, though both were totally delicious. That rosemary brine is a knockout too! The meat was succulent and herby, perfectly seasoned (even though there's only 3 tablespoons of salt in the brine!), and just fantastic.
So, Cook What Scares You: Beige Edition was a smashing success! It was empowering to tackle my fear with the help of two accomplished cooks and I'm excited to do it again! Next time, Abbie's gonna make me butcher a rabbit. o_O
Monday, October 15, 2012
I thought about just jumping into this post without acknowledging that I haven't blogged anything in five months, but now I've gone and mentioned it, so some sort of explanation is in order. First off, I blame this guy:
Eeep! He's got salt on his face, because he eats salt :/
Kidding! It's really because I've been doing a ton of educational data contract work at night, and I've been too tired to do anything else. Tell me more about this fascinating-sounding educational data, you say? No. You don't say that because nobody ever says that. Anyway, I've just finished two of the three big projects I've been working on, and I can do fun things again! Last night Andy and I went crazy and watched 4 dozen (not really) shows on hulu while I ate leftover ganache with a spoon. This is living.
Anyway, despite the lack of blogging, I have been cooking as much or more than I ever did before. This means three homemade, largely unprocessed meals nearly every day, and I'm eager to share my favorites with you again. I've been trying a ton of new recipes, and I've been trying to cook healthier stuff too- much less white sugar and flour (don't look at the top of this post). But for my triumphal return to blogging, I want to share with you one of my very favorite, pre-health-focused, dinners: chicken pot pie with biscuits.
This recipe is a Frankenstein-ian mash up of Cook's Illustrated's pot pie (which is fast, but uses boiled chicken breasts and canned stock, blargh) and Ina Garten's chicken stew with biscuits (which uses too much of everything and requires you to blanch the vegetables individually). I've taken what I feel are the best elements of both, with an eye toward simplicity, and the result is a pot pie that has become a family favorite. It's infinitely adaptable: substitute any vegetables you like, lose the chicken, cover the top with pie dough instead of biscuits, drink the filling from a balloon snifter style cognac glass, what have you.
Chicken and Kale Pot Pie with Biscuits
For the Biscuits (from the Barefoot Contessa, Family Style)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
For the Filling (adapted from The New Best Recipe)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 medium-large onion, diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 small celery ribs, diced
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 cups chicken broth, homemade if possible
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 2 cups leftover roasted chicken, shredded
- 1/2 bunch curly-leafed kale, cleaned and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 3/4 cup frozen peas
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, if you've got it
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Make the biscuit dough: Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry knife until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half-and-half and combine with a fork. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and knead once or twice to bring it together. Use your fingers to pat the dough into a rectangle that's about 1/2 an inch thick. Cut out 9 biscuits with a glass or 2 1/2 inch round biscuit cutter. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until the filling is ready.
- Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl (or the casserole dish you'll be baking the pot pie in, if you're like me and want to dirty as few dishes as possible).
- Melt the butter in the now empty pan. When the foaming subsides, add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in the chicken broth, and then the milk (the gravy may have pockets of flour lumps- keep whisking and the big ones will break up, and the small ones will disappear when the pot pie is baked. you can avoid lumps altogether by heating your stock and milk, but i don't cuz of the same dirty dish aversion i mentioned earlier). Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer until the sauce fully thickens, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the sauteed vegetables back to the pot of gravy along with the shredded chicken, chopped kale, frozen peas, and the parsley, stirring to combine. Taste for salt and pepper again and add more if necessary. Pour the filling into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Top with the biscuits and brush the dough with the egg wash, if you're feeling fancy. Bake until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 25 minutes.