If 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.
If 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.
Bombay Chicken Pot Pie serves 4 or 5
(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
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.