Bombay Chicken Pot PieIf you’re anything like me, despite your best efforts to exercise some amount of restraint amidst the grotesque hedonism of the holiday season, you find yourself now on the other side, sitting down in front of the computer, stomach distended, frowny-faced and farty, wondering what might be psychologically wrong with you. In truth, you didn’t really hold back. You just talked a big game. You swore that you would not indulge in second helpings, that you would refrain from multiple cups of grog, that you would remain mindful and aware of the great privilege that you were born in the big fatty, fat USA. And yet, at some point late in the evening, the day after Thanksgiving, you were there in the dining room with family and friends, slowly nibbling a cold sparerib, gesturing with it inappropriately, and gulping down a room-temperature glass of whiskey in which you didn’t even bother to toss an ice cube or a splash of water. Perhaps what is most abhorrent, but also undeniably true, is that in a day or so, you’ll be back at it. No, not with the same reckless abandon. Something will feel different. You will have taken a day to cleanse and detoxify your body with a juice fast. You will have done at least one vinyasa. 12 hours will have passed where hard alcohol did not touch your lips. And then, with little warning, desire will return. Craving will take you over. Your fridge will still be piled high with leftovers, and best not to waste them, you will make this recipe.

pan-seared chickenIf your Thanksgiving table this year was at all traditional, I’d imagine there was some variation on meat and potatoes. Perhaps your clan tried something new and went for roast duck or cornish hens. Maybe you opted for herb-roasted– in place of the gloriously buttery mashed–potatoes. Whatever the case, there are tons of ways to save your leftovers from an untimely death sentence to the trash. And the best way to enliven them is through the careful and considerate use of spices. If you’ve been around my kitchen lately, you know that I’ve been experimenting with indian food. You know that I’ve been reading the cookbooks of Madhur Jaffrey, a well-respected voice of Indian cookery. Here and there, lulled into a quiet reflection, I find myself studying those pages intimately, as if they shared wisdom more precious than that of the Bhagavad Gita.

I have always had a deep love of Indian food. It is at once comforting and exotic, familiar and elusive, marked by a beguiling array of fresh and dried herbs and deeply fragrant spices. Truth be told, I have never been very good at making it. My early attempts seemed to have all the right ingredients, and yet the dishes never seemed to come together. Really good indian food, especially the kind that calls for myriad spices, is captivating and harmonious. It is alchemical.

IMG_7857But don’t you worry. The story of my own struggle with trying to understand indian food is not meant to scare you away from trying this dish. In fact, this one is really quite simple.

Bombay Chicken Pot Pie serves 4 or 5

Ingredients:

(for the filling)

4 cooked chicken thighs(or an equal amount of cooked turkey or duck)

1 very large potato, diced and cooked(you could also use leftover mashed potatoes)

2 carrots, diced and cooked

2 cups frozen peas

2 large onions, diced

8 cloves garlic, crushed

3 tsps whole cumin seeds

2 tsps whole coriander seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsps paprika

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

juice of half a lemon

 

(for the pie crust-from Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook)

9 oz ap flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tbsp sugar

1/2 cup butter, chilled and cut into small cubes

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 tbsp water

 

Preparation:

To start, we’ll make the pie crust. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add the very cold cubes of chilled butter and mix it using a pastry cutter. If you don’t have one, you can work quickly with a couple forks. But be sure not to let the butter warm and melt. When the flour and butter are the consistency of a coarse corn meal, add the beaten egg and the cold water. Mix just until the dough comes together, form it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and let it chill for an hour.

Meanwhile, coat a large pan with a good glug of oil. With the pan on medium heat, add the onion and garlic. Stir about every 4 or 5 minutes. As the onions begin to turn golden, turn down the heat. The onions will continue to turn a darker hue of brown. This is exactly what you want. In the last five minutes, add the crushed garlic and let it simmer.

As the onions and garlic cook, place the cumin, coriander, mustard seed, turmeric, and paprika into a mortar and pestle. Grind the spices until fine. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, give the spices a whirl in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, place all the spices in a plastic bag, place them on a hard counter top, and bang your head down upon them over and over, until the spices are ground or a large knot has formed on your forehead.

Add the ground spices to the pan of onions, raise the heat and let the spices sizzle for a minute or two. To the onion spice mixture, add the chicken, potatoes, carrots. Leave the peas for later. Stir well, removed from the pan, and set aside.

The key to a really good pot pie is a smooth gravy in which the filling luxuriates. To achieve that, heat a large pan on medium heat and toss in 2 tbsp of butter. Once melted, pour in 2 tbsp of flour and stir. Continue stirring and let the mixture cook until it turns a golden brown. To the roux, add the chicken broth, little by little, being sure to stir with a whisk to keep it smooth. Once a gravy has formed, pour the chicken/veg/spice mixture into the pan and mix well. Add the frozen peas. Let the mixture simmer on low heat.

Now we’re ready to roll out the dough. Before we start, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Depending on the size and variety of baking dishes you have, you can either make personal pot pies or one large pot pie. Keep that in mind when rolling out the dough. On a floured surface, roll out the dough, using decisive force with the rolling pin. Gently press a round of dough into the bottom of your baking dish. If you notice any tears or holes, patch them with any scrap pieces of dough. Once the dough has been pressed into the bottom of the dish, fill it with enough of the chicken/veg/spice mixture to come to the top of the dish. Roll out another round of dough and lay it over the mixture, gently pressing it into the top lip of the dish.

Before placing the pot pie in the oven, make an egg wash by beating one egg. Brush the top of each pot pie lightly with the egg wash, dust them with a little sea salt, and into the oven they go. Let the pot pie cook for about 30 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown. To avoid second degrees burns on the inside of your mouth, wait a good 10 or 15 minutes for the pies to cool.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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My first go at pasta was no success. The year was 2011. Gaddafi was dead, Casey Anthony was acquitted, Occupy Wall Street was on the wane. Winter had fallen upon the bluegrass and the time seemed ripe for a new culinary jaunt. On the docket was a little ravioli number, filled with butternut squash and nutmeg. I don’t remember where the recipe came from, but I know that it was my wife who found it, which means I blame her for the resulting failure. The pasta noodles didn’t call for eggs, and were made only with wheat flour and water. The butternut squash, which was certainly appropriate for Winter, was insipid and boring.  We spent an entire snowy afternoon roasting the butternut, mixing and rolling the pasta, and though we were left with a table of petite and soundly engineered marvels, we sat silently at the table, scratching our heads and wondering where we went wrong. It’s been three years since I have returned to ravioli. I came back to it with fresh eyes, swift hands, and a peaceful heart.

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Truth be told, when I recently decided to make a pumpkin ravioli, I hadn’t even considered my previous failure.Instead, I was at the market, eyeing the last of the pumpkins and thinking of ways to put one more to use. Initially, I was thinking about a spicy pumpkin curry with cranberries, toasted cashews, and coconut milk. I was thinking about serving it over a swath of clove- and cumin-scented quinoa studded with bright green peas. That happened. And it was delicious. But there was still a great heap of tender roasted pumpkin in the fridge. What to do?

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Make pasta, of course. Chop up some fresh sage, caramelize a handful of chopped onion and garlic, and mix it with the roasted pumpkin and grated bianco sardo cheese.

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Pumpkin Sage Ravioli (serves 4)

Ingredients:

fresh pasta (here’s the recipe)

2 cups roasted, pureed pumpkin

1/2 diced yellow onion

5 tbsp chopped fresh sage

3 cloves crushed garlic

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 lb Bianco Sardo cheese (any sharp, semi-hard cheese that grates well would work for this)

Preparation:

Cut into the pumpkin and remove the pulp and seeds. Cut the flesh into quarters. Oil a parchment-lined sheet tray and roast the pumpkin for an hour in a 400 degree oven, or until it is tender. If you’re making your own fresh pasta, now would be the time to do it. Once cooked, let the pumpkin cool in the fridge. When cool, remove the outer skin and gently mash the roasted flesh. Meanwhile, pour a good glug of olive oil into a pan on medium-low heat. Throw in the diced onion and garlic and cook until soft and slightly bronzed. It’s important when caramelizing to reduce the heat as more of the sugars are drawn out of the onion. In the last two minutes of cooking, add 4 tbsps of chopped fresh sage, the nutmeg, and the salt.

Add the onion-garlic-sage mixture and the grated Bianco Sardo to the pumpkin mixture. Mix well. Cut the past dough in two. On a floured work surface, roll out one round of pasta as thinly as is physically possible. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts,  I bear down on the pasta with my full weight using the rolling pin to flatten it out. If you are so fortunate as to own a pasta machine, you know what do to here. You should come out with a very large rectangle. Cut the pasta into 1 1/2 inch strips.

Place 1/2 tbsp portions of the pumpkin mixture onto one strip of the pasta. Be sure to leave enough space between each portion so that each ravioli can be crimped. Now place another strip of pasta on top of the first one, so that the pumpkin mixture is now covered. With a sharp knife, separate the ravioli and crimp them with a fork to close. It’s important to leave only enough dough on the outside edges to hold the pumpkin on the inside. Repeat the process with the remaining strips of pasta. Do not worry if you find in the end that you’re left with irregularly-shaped scraps of pasta and a few spoonfuls of the pumpkin mixture. Simply boil the scraps and spoon the heated pumpkin mixture over it with a bit of butter.

When the ravioli have been shaped, heat a large pot of water to just under boiling temperature. Season the water with a generous grasp of salt. When the water is just about to boil, pour in the ravioli and cook for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a wide pan on medium heat with butter and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. When done, drain the pasta and give it a quick minute or two to cook in the butter and black pepper. Serve with a little more grated cheese, more fresh chopped sage, and a couple drops of champagne vinegar.