Friday, October 19, 2007

Chicken pot pie, how I've loved thee all these years...

A couple of visits to Victoria ago, my Mom presented me with the little red journal from Chinatown which she had kept as a diary of her first few years with me. It documents her adventures in learning how to deal with me and the peculiarities of my personality. Not surprisingly, food makes an appearance in several entries! She pointed out one hilarious passage that says it all:

Oct 26 [1983] The things you come out with Meg – a 3 year old already asking for gourmet dinners. We got home late this aft. after making Halloween cookies at Pegs, so just had cheese + crackers + veggies + dip for dinner. Jim said "Isn't this a nice dinner?" You replied "No, not really, I'm used to souffles and things like that!"

If you ask me, it's not really my fault that I was a snob about food right from the start. My mom cooked such delicious food every night that I think it's fair to hold her responsible for my high standards. She gave me my love of food – introducing me to everything from Chinese, Greek, middle-eastern, Thai, and Indian food, to west-coast hippie specials like homemade sprouts, peach-coconut fruit leather, and tofu-fudgesicles.

But occasionally, there would be a night when she didn't cook... In Oak Bay there used to be a restaurant called The Blethering Place which made the best chicken pot pies hands down, and on those rare nights we'd stop by there to pick up chicken pot pies to go. Mmmmm. They became one of my ultimate comfort foods.

So, when the idea of making chicken pot pie for Wednesdsay Dinner came up, I was super excited, having never made one myself before. Alisha hates chicken pot pie (why, oh why Alisha?) so we waited until she was out of town, and then Michelle, Laura and I got to it - armed with 2 (!) kinds of pasty and my trusty Donna Hay cookbook.

Here's how it went:

We rolled out the puff pastry (ghetto style, with a wine bottle)

We readied the pie pan – which turned out to be a lost relic from my childhood! Laura and Michelle had somehow inherited it and didn't know it was mine. Oh how happy I was to be reunited with it.

Michelle taught me how to successfully transfer the pie crust to its new home inside the pie pan

Meanwhile, the leeks enjoyed hanging out under water, and looked pretty while doing it

Those leeks eventually found their way into this pan of goodness, and after a while were ladled into the waiting crust.

And this came out of the oven!

Mmmm, look how flakey that pastry is. How could that not be comforting?

We did though feel the need to pair all this nostalgic comfort with something fresh and modern and healthy. So we made a frisee-orange-hazelnut salad from Giada's Everyday Italian. I would include the recipe here, but someone still has my copy of the book, so you'll have to be satisfied with just a few photos for now. Laura, maybe you can redeem yourself by posting the recipe in the comments... or you could just give the book back :)

Chicken Pot Pie
[from Donna Hay's Modern Classics – Book 1]
1 shortcrust pasty pie crust (I always used to use the recipe on the shortening box, now I use butter... but everyone has their own favourite pastry recipe, so use that!)
375 g puff pastry*
1 tbsp oil
2 leeks, chopped
2 lb chiken thighs, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
3 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup dry white wine
250 g small button mushrooms, halved
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten

To make the filling, cook the oil and leek in a pot over med-high heat for 3 min or until soft. Add the chicken, stock and wine. Simmer, uncovered for 45 min or until tender. Add the mushrooms and parsley to the pan and cook for 5 min. Blend the cornflour and water to a smooth paste, add to the pan and cook, stirring, for 5 min or until the mixture thickens and returns to a simmer. Add the salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Roll out the shortcrust pastry on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick and line the base of a deep 9 1/2 inch pie pan. Spoon in the cooled filling. Roll out the puff pastry to 1/8 inch thick. Cut a shape from the middle of the pastry as an air hole. Place the pastry top onto the pie. trim and press the edges together to seal and brush the top with a little egg. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40 min or until golden and crisp.

* Anyone know a bakery in Vancouver that will sell blocks of puff pastry they made themselves? I hate buying the packaged stuff from the grocery store... but don't have hours to make it either. Donna Hay says " a local patisserie and order a block in advance" but I've yet to find a bakery who will sell it to me. Help?


Leeeeesha said...

You know, I can't really justify why I hate chicken pot pie so much. I think it's just one of those remnants from childhood. Growing up, I seemed to have had a real dislike for stews - and really, anything with cooked carrots and peas in it - so I guess chicken pot pie fell into that food category, for me.

Meg, I loved that diary entry - it was so telling. Did you really know about souffles at age three? That's quite amazing. I'll have to thank your mom for passing on her love of food to you, because over the years, you have really inspired me to learn more about and to truly enjoy cooking.

Laura said...

Meg, what a great ode to chicken pot pie! I'm so glad you did this entry, because you brought such particular memories to it. The journal page you included was great - what a precious thing for you to have.

I will post the salad recipe! It's kind of long, so I might just do a quick post instead of including it in the comments, which might be better in that it can be labelled 'recipe' if we ever want to find it again. Giada sends her love.

As for puff pastry suppliers, I wish I could help! Perhaps we could ask some of the helpful people at Barbara-Jo's....

Anonymous said...

Blethering Place still exists in Oak Bay but the food is some of the worst available--unfortunately it's really changed over the years.
Laura: you are ordered to give Meg her book back by me who gave it to her--now without delay or the Italian M will be after you.