Friday, February 18, 2011

Pretty Pity Pot Pie

I had a few moments of self pity the other day as south-bound neighbours dropped off their perishables for us to enjoy while they soak up the sun in the Dominican. 
With sniffles and a cough that just won't stop, I walked Bella along the frozen lake in the bitter cold wind and felt sorry for myself - thinking "Gee, why aren't we going south with the rest of Tantallon?!

But then - I realized I have leftover chicken and broth in the fridge and WE will have chicken pot pie for dinner!!

I decided to call this recipe "Pretty Pity Pot Pie". 
In the movie, Waitress, the heroine played by Keri Russell is a waitress and genius pie maker who names her pies as to how she is feeling. It is a quirky, sweet film and I highly recommend it! But enjoy it with a Coconut Cream Pie instead of popcorn!

This chicken pot pie is traditional except for the pretty top of crispy golden phyllo pastry. It is sooooo pretty and better for you than a pastry top!

Warning Type A's: amounts of ingredients are approximate according to what you have available and your preferences.

glug of Olive oil
2-3 stocks of celery, diced
1 onion, diced
Approximately 2-3 cups of veggies such as carrots, potatoes, sweet potato, peeled and cubed.
Approximately 2 cups Chicken broth
~ 1cup Cooked chicken, cubed
 1 tsp each dried oregano, rosemary, sage (improvise with herbs that you have!)
pinch salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
~ 2 cups of quick cooking veggies you have around: chopped broccoli (florets and stalks), frozen peas
1/4 cup flour or enough to thicken the broth

Pretty Top:
4-5 sheets of phyllo pastry
1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter

1. Heat a good sized soup pot over medium heat and add a glug of olive oil 
2. Add the onion and celery and saute for a couple of minutes.

3. Add the diced vegetables and stir. 

4. Add a couple of cups of chicken broth, cubed chicken, herbs and salt and pepper. Let the veggies simmer until almost soft, about 10-15 minutes.

5. Take out about 1/4 cup of the broth and put in a small bowl. Whisk in the flour to thicken. Add this mixture back to the broth and stir. Do this again if it does not thicken up to your liking.

6. Add the quick cooking veggies such as broccoli and peas. Simmer for a few more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

7. Ladle the filling into 1 or 2 pie plates or square pans. 

8. Preheat the oven to 425.

9. Spread 1 Phyllo sheet out on a cutting board. Brush with butter or olive oil

10. Scrunch it up with your fingers and place it on the pie filling. Repeat this step until the whole pie is covered.

Put it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until top is golden brown.

 Remove your pretty pie from the oven and give thanks for winter and all of its comforts!

"In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bacon-Scented Vegetable Barley Stew

Do I smell bacon??!

 Aaaah, the smell of bacon sizzling in a pan. Does it not bring back memories of Saturday mornings...of someone in a well worn housecoat and slippers... of someone who loved you standing at the stove tending bacon, eggs and toast?

No, seriously, do I smell bacon?

Smells can evoke vivid memories and emotions. Apparently, of all of the senses, smell is the one that brings back the strongest memories. And because you are on the edge of your seats with wonder, I am going to tell you the reason for this! When the nasal receptors in your nose pick up a scent, this information is sent directly to the olfactory cortex in the brain, which is linked closely to the amygdala, the 'emotional brain', and to the hippocampus, where memory is stored. So this is why smells, feelings and memories can be so intertwined.

Now, of course bacon is not exactly a 'health' food - we all have been told to stay away from the fatty, salty stuff. But, if bacon brings back so many happy memories and a surge of stress-relieving, 'feel good' chemicals ensue, then I think the negative effect of saturated fats will be cancelled out! Don't you?

If you look in my freezer at any given time , there will be a few slices of bacon in there, waiting to be a part of a healthy dish. It is a great technique to use a little bacon to get a lot of flavour.

So, this stew starts with a few strips of bacon.

Bacon-Scented Vegetable Barley Stew

2-3 strips of bacon
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 or more cups of a variety of diced root veggies (depends how many are being served) carrots,       parsnips, turnip, sweet potato, potato
1-2 cups of barley, rinsed. *
1-2 tbsp of dried herbs: rosemary, sage, oregano
App. 4-6 cups of broth or water
frozen peas
freshly ground pepper

* Hulled barley is more nutritious than pearl barley, but takes longer to cook.  In this recipe I used pearl barley b/c that is the only type that was available at my grocery store that day. If you use hulled barley, cook stew for 1 1/2 - 2 hours - or cook the barley before you make the stew.

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy bottomed pot until crisp. Drain off some of the fat and give a piece of bacon to your long suffering dog. Put the bacon onto some paper towel and set aside.
Add the diced onion and garlic to the pot and saute on medium low heat 2-3 minutes.

Add the veggies, barley, herbs and broth or water. Cook on medium heat til tender- 30-40 minutes.

I hate to be a 'snot', but look at my fine pot!

Add a cup or so of frozen peas, freshly ground pepper and the crumbled crisp bacon - if there is any left!

Taste, adjust seasonings, enjoy!

 A beautiful excerpt about smell, taste and memory from:
 " Remembrance of Things Past" by Marcel Proust

"But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection."