5 weeks ago
Thursday, October 23, 2008
One thing that I love about food blogging is that it forces me to push out of my comfort zone in terms of the ingredients that I buy. Before I started food blogging, I would flip through a cookbook and see a recipe containing, say, swiss chard, and think "next!" Not because I don't like swiss chard, but because I don't like wandering around a grocery store in search of obscure produce, and I CERTAINLY don't like wandering around multiple grocery stores in search of obscure produce. But when you've committed to a blogging group, you don't just NOT make the recipe just because you don't know what bok choy is. No, you sweetly email your husband and ask him to locate bok choy for you.
In fact, ever since we've been married, or at least since we've had three children whom both I, and my fellow shoppers, prefer that I not drag to the grocery with me, I've emailed grocery lists to my hubs multiple times a week. No matter how hard I try to menu-plan, or how thorough I try to be during my main weekly shopping trip, it still seems like we end up needing one or two or twenty more things during the course of the week. So David is used to getting emails from me like this:
Subject: We Need
diapers (size 3)
sliced sandwich cheese (2%)
Now that I am food blogging, he's still getting lots of grocery emails from me, but they look more like this:
Subject: Can you stop at Publix on way home?
diapers (size 3)
sliced sandwich cheese (2%)
sharffen berger bittersweet chocolate
And bless him, he never complains about the suddenly bizarre contents of my list -- all he asks is that I put it all in a single email and not send him a separate email each time an ingredient pops into my head. I'm working on that.
This week's recipe Barefoot Bloggers challenge for Vegetable Pot Pie, chosen by my favorite blogger-in-paradise, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, had a few of those exotic ingredients that would have caused me to skip this recipe altogether in my pre-blogging days. I did leave out the Pernod because I didn't have it, and now that I've been food blogging for a few months, I realize that nobody will send the police after you if you skip an ingredient. So I made a mental note to be sure to buy some Pernod to add to the Vegetable Pot Pie next time I make it when we are NOT in the middle of a global financial meltdown.
And I almost left out the fennel, because I am not big fan of the flavor, but in the end I went with it. I'm glad I did, because it added an instant "party!" element to my kitchen, in that 80s hair band kind of way.
The long-lost sixth member of Whitesnake:
And it actually tasted good in the pie too -- an added bonus!
First step in the recipe was cooking the onion and fennel in Ina's usual metric ton of butter. I'll be honest: Ina and I are having some "trust issues" where butter is concerned (she does not yet know that we are having issues). Here is my butter philosophy: if the quality of the recipe depends on copious butter use, by all means, butter away. But if the butter does not really add a whole lot in terms of flavor or texture, then why are we using it? I felt a little bit foolish after sauteeing my leeks in a stick of butter for the Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup. So many people omitted, or significantly decreased, the butter amount that Ina called for, and obtained equally good results. With the Butternut Squash Risotto, I left out all but a small amount of butter, and the dish could not have been more amazing. So forgive me when I got to the part in the recipe about sauteeing onions and thought: "really, a stick and a half of butter Ina? I don't believe you."
Problem was, this was the base of the sauce for the pot pie, and I probably really DID need more butter than I ended up using (2 tablespoons, rather than the stick and a half that she called for), because my pot pies were a bit on the dry side. A full stick and a half? Probably not.
Well, enough butter or not, I eventually assembled a little fleet of pot pie vegetables:
and started on the crust. I got a little "water happy" when making my crust, and I was pretty sure that I ruined it. I thought about adding more flour to it, but then I was afraid that I would just end up overmixing it, which might even be worse than overwatering it. I thought about wringing it out like a towel . . . anyway. Well, as it turned out, the crust tasted wonderful!
That's what I like, a recipe that can withstand my efforts to destroy it. None of this "leave the pan for five minutes and almost burn down your kitchen" business. The fact that this crust survived my little rainstorm earns it a permanent spot in my "keeper" column.
David and I enjoyed these pot pies. He said that he couldn't help but dig around in there looking for chicken, but you know how the old saying goes: "you can give a vegetarian dish to a carnivore, but you can't make him not dig around for the chicken." Or something like that. I actually enjoyed this more with every bite, which completely defies the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns, and also explains why I have a hard time with portion control.
Thanks for picking this one, Deb! It's a hearty, comforting, soul-warming dish -- perfect for fall!
VEGETABLE POT PIE
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.
For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.