Just a few more week until Carlsbad opens its strawberry fields to the public. You’ve never tasted a strawberry as good as the one you pick yourself (although I assume if one knew how to actually grow strawberries, those would be even better. But in the Gonzo household that’s a moot point).
Growing up, chicken potpie meant a Swanson’s frozen dinner, pulled hot from the oven before my parents escaped for a night of freedom. Those nights meant freedom to my sister and me, too: babysitters! The Love Boat! Fantasy Island! Oh my, how we looked forward to watching Charo charm Captain Stubing and his merry crew, sharing a bowl of hot buttery popcorn balanced between our nubby, bandaged knees.
I wanted to recreate the sheer joy, if not the actual taste, of that childhood meal, with a crust that could be drenched in gravy and still retain a crunch, vegetables that stood on their own but melded well together, and chicken that added a savory layer of its own. I also wanted it to be easy.
Easy and homemade chicken potpie aren’t usually used in the same sentence, this much I know. And because I didn’t want to use too many premade ingredients, I had to pick my battles. Prepared puff pastry? Done (easy choice, since I’m a mess at baking). Rotisserie chicken, now that’s another sodium-laden story altogether; no. Pre-sliced mushrooms, frozen peas, organic low-sodium chicken broth? Yea, sure and okay, fine.
Traditional chicken potpie, frozen or otherwise, usually includes this vegetable trifecta: peas, pearl onions and carrots. I prefer my carrots raw, thank you very much, so those went out the window. I did test this recipe with pearl onions, and while my dad liked them (I suspect they reminded him of my grandmother’s first edition Joy-Of-Cooking-era cooking), I did not. So I opted to act like the child of my youth and pick my own vegetables. Cook’s prerogative, right?
Mushrooms, potatoes and peas made the cut; diced onions are the base of the gravy. I roasted the chicken with a simple salt and pepper rub. Obviously, something this nostalgic warranted the full-fat treatment: heavy cream made it into my shopping cart for the first time in ages.
You’ll notice I do cook the vegetables and the chicken separately before combining them with the gravy; don’t let this lure you into thinking the recipe is time-consuming or challenging, because it’s neither. In fact, I managed to prep the filling (once I’d roasted the chicken) in under an hour.
The result? A remarkably easy, make-ahead dish that also freezes well. Oh, and did I mention how delicious it is, how positively can-I-have-another-one fabulous? Just be sure to set a few extra places at the table, this one’s too scrumptious to keep to yourself.
Love-at-First-Bite Chicken Potpies
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
2 cups red potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 package pre-sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups red onions, chopped (about 2 medium onions)
¾ cup flour
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Prepare the Chicken (this step can be done the day before)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Place the chicken breasts on a rimmed baking sheet, brush the oil over each side, then season with salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Set in oven and roast for 30-35 minutes, cooked through until the internal temperature reaches 165°.
4. Let cool, then chop into bite-sized pieces.
Prepare the Vegetables
1. Steam the peas in the microwave per package instructions. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat a pot of water until boiling, add potatoes and a pinch of salt and boil for 10 minutes; potatoes should begin to soften but still have some crunch. Drain and set aside.
3. In a medium skillet, warm a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare the Gravy & Filling
1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Warm ¼ cup olive oil, then sauté the onions until soft, about 12-15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate small pot, heat the chicken stock over medium heat.
3. Once the onions are translucent, stir in the flour and reduce the heat to low, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture has begun to thicken.
4. Add the hot chicken stock to the flour mixture and bring to a simmer. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the heavy cream.
5. Add the chicken, peas, mushrooms, potatoes and parsley and mix well. Taste and season as needed.
Prepare the Pies
1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the puff pastry sheets, one at a time, until you reach a 12”x12” square. Cut each sheet into four squares; you’ll have 8 total.
3. Divide the filling between 8 ovenproof bowls (I used 10-ounce ramekins).
4. Whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon water; brush the rim of each bowl with the egg wash.
5. Cover each ramekin with a square of dough, crimp the edges, then wash each lightly with the egg wash.
6. Place on a baking sheet and bake for an hour, or until the crust has turned golden brown.
Adapted from various recipes by Ina Garten.
Updated on June 2, 2011: Find this post, and loads of other fun reads, over at Mama Kat’s Losin’ It Thursday writer’s workshop, here. Happy Thursday!
Last week at the Carlsbad farmer’s market I scored some awesome savory granola, there’s a hint of an earthy spice that I can’t quite identify. I paired it with fresh strawberries, a gift from my new neighbor, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Have you ever made granola? I’m inspired to try it out in an attempt to decipher the riddle of this granola goodness.
Now that the rain storm has passed and the ocean breezes are warming up again, I’ve got grilling on the brain. Or more specifically, I’ve got Mr. Gonzo doing the grilling on the brain (despite his heroic efforts to teach me to grill, I still can’t do it).
This marinade works for flank steak or any cut of meat that can stand up to some serious tenderizing. I clipped it years ago from a site called Tavolo, which I vaguely recall was absorbed into a larger site and/or never heard from again. At any rate, some of their recipes live on in my recipe file, including this one.
I like meat to marinade for a long time, at least half a day or overnight, when possible. Be sure to remove the meat from the fridge about 30 minutes or so before grilling to allow the meat to come to room temperature. (To learn more about this tip and other helpful cooking mistakes to avoid, check out Cooking Light.) Toss any unused marinade.
Grilled Flank Steak with Tangy Balsamic Marinade
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Bragg Liquid Amino (or reduced-sodium soy sauce)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 2-pound flank steak
1. Combine everything but the steak in a small bowl, whisk to combine.
2. Place meat in a Ziploc bag or a glass container with lid.
3. Pour the marinade over the meat, turning the meat a few times until fully covered.
4. Place meat in the refrigerator and marinade for at least three hours, or up to overnight.
5. Grill as desired.
Adapted from a recipe originally found at tavolo.com.
Tossed in everything but the kitchen sink…a few ounces of whole wheat pasta, four ounces prepared chicken, a couple of tablespoons prepared Tabbouleh, some sliced almonds and a handful of edamame. Lots of protein plus energy and some healthy fat, not to mention a ton of satisfying crunch. Happy Gonzo!
Plitvice Lakes in Croatia – That’s me & my mom on the left with the other moms & daughters on our trip
Growing up, I could always find my mother in the kitchen. She wasn’t necessarily cooking in there; it was more command central for afternoon cocktails with friends, list writing or perhaps (most likely) a place to escape from us kids.
That’s not to say she never cooked; believe me, she did. She was an early proponent of old school California Cuisine and taught my sister and me the importance of fresh, local, lean ingredients that could be simple or complex, but always delicious.
So here, in honor of my mother, is my response to Mama Kat’s Writing Prompt Ten Things I Learned from My Mother (in the kitchen):
1. Cocktail hour begins at 5:00 (time can be adjusted accordingly).
2. Grilling is a great way to get out of the kitchen (with the added benefit of making it harder for short people and hairy dogs to find you).
3. Buy regional cookbooks when you travel, even if you don’t understand a word of the native language.
4. Snack foods can be dinner, too. Ditto for cereal.
5. Eat fruit for dessert.
6. The best way to celebrate family and tradition is with a huge meal shared together in the dining room.
7. Drink low-fat milk but eat full-fat cheese.
8. When all else fails, make pasta smothered in butter and Parmesan cheese.
9. If you need comfort food while traveling, order pizza. It’s a taste of home no matter where you are (I’ve tested this theory in Cairo, Zagreb, Taipei and Tokyo).
10. There is grace in small rituals, from setting the table with candles to serving food on plates handed down through the generations.
Love you, Mom!
Yesterday I took little Gonzo Girl to the Carlsbad Farmer’s Market, hoping to inspire her to try new foods (she’s very vegetable averse, my little one). She tried bitter chocolate, licked a slice of Bartlett pear and made friends with the balloon clown. We spied these radishes early on but “forgot” to buy them on the way out. I did pick up some cosmetically challenged strawberries and a date and spice granola that will be perfect spooned into Greek yogurt.
Posh bar nuts are one of those cookery tricks that every girl should have up her sleeve. The first time I ever had fancy nuts was at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua in Maui, on a surprise trip with Mr. Gonzo (then a mere boyfriend). Served in a tiered silver dish, the nuts were meatier, saltier, richer than I’d ever had before, no offense to Mr. Peanut, whose roasted peanuts had been a family staple growing up.
Meet the hardest working pan in your kitchen: the cast iron skillet. With it you can grill, sear, roast, bake, toast…am I missing anything? Like cooking itself, I came late to the cast iron skillet party. When Mr. Gonzo and I first shacked up together, he had an ancient pan that was lovingly seared. At one point I tried to get rid of the pan (man, is it heavy!), but with a mere raise of his eyebrows Mr. Gonzo let me know the pan and the man would not be parting ways.
Today I happily cook all manner of things in his cast iron skillet, and even added a grill pan and mini-pan to the collection. Just this morning I pulled it out to stove-grill a steak for lunch (and by morning I mean 11:30am, because, honestly, who doesn’t crave a one-pound NY steak for lunch?!). A huge hunk of meat is not my usual lunchtime fare, but I’m taking little GG to her school’s art show tonight then out to dinner, and since Mr. Gonzo is dining in the OC I figured, why let a good steak go to waste?
Prep the pan by heating it over medium-high heat for five to six minutes; you’ll know it’s ready by flicking a few drops of water into the pan. If you hear a sizzle, you’re good to go.
Meanwhile, I spritzed the steak with a few squirts of olive oil, then did a quick rub of a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of freshly ground pepper per side. Not too spicy, not too salty. Once the pan is ready, cook per side the way you’d grill your steak. I’m a rare-steak kind of girl, so I did five minutes a side. Transfer the steak to a plate, cover in tin foil, and let rest for five to ten minutes while you pull together a salad, steam some edamame or simply wait for your steak to rest.
Then tear on in, lunch is on!