Chicken Pot Pie, but like a good one

Chicken pot pie, but like a good one, is a labor of love. If you’re going to make it, go all out and make a whole mess of little ones so you can pop some in the freezer. This is a pretty fool-proof method, thanks to chicken thighs which are ridiculously difficult to overcook and the genius of Smitten Kitchen, who discovered you can apply Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon thickening technique to chicken pot pie. Don’t skip the things that make this recipe lighter and brighter than your Grandma’s chicken pot pie: leeks, lemon zest, white pepper and just a kiss of sour creme fraiche. You’ll notice there’s also only one Tablespoon of butter. That’s because there’s already plenty of chicken fat in the cooking liquid to emulsify with the flour and make a creamy, thick sauce for the filling. Use whatever vegetables you like or have on hand, just make sure you chop them into 1/2” pieces so they cook quickly.

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Spring Chicken Pot Pie
-yields 8-12 small pies, depending on your ramekin size

3 to 3.5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 cups homemade vegetable stock
1/4 cup creme fraiche
zest of two small lemons (I used meyer)
about 8 white peppercorns, ground up with a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup AP flour
1T unsalted butter
4 to 5 cups 1/2” pieces of vegetables
your favorite pie dough or puff pastry (a double crust recipe is safest)
one large egg yolk mixed with a teaspoon or so filtered water

Do ahead: make and roll out dough until it is 1/8” thick. Cut out circles large enough that each one will have roughly 1/2” overhang. Pop everything on a cookie sheet and let it sit in the fridge.

1. Pat chicken thighs dry and generously salt them. Place them skin-side down in a large, cold skillet and turn the heat to medium. Cook untouched, until the fat has rendered from the skin and it is golden brown. You’ll know it’s ready because it won’t stick. You may have to work in batches. Just turn the heat off of the skillet for 5-10 minutes before adding the second round of chicken to the skillet- don’t rinse it out!
2. Place seared chicken on a plate and add leeks + shallot to the pan. Cook over medium heat with a pinch of salt until soft and just starting to brown on the edges, about 10 minutes. Add chicken stock.
3. Return chicken to the pan and bring everything to a simmer. If any scum rises to the top, skim it off with a slotted spoon.
4. Mix creme fraiche with white pepper and whisk in spoonfuls of warm stock until it looks like milk. Pour that into the skillet with lemon zest. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
5. Remove the cooked chicken and pull meat off, reserving the skin and bones for later. Preheat oven to 375.
6. In a small bowl, mash butter and flour. Start adding the fat from the top of the cooking liquid into it, one spoonful at a time, then add a little liquid. Whisk it together until it looks like cream, then whisk it back into the liquid in the skillet.
7. Return chicken meat to the skillet along with any vegetables that take a while to cook- in my case carrots and yellow potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add quick cooking vegetables like asparagus and English peas. Taste to see if it needs more salt or white pepper.
8. Spoon filling into ramekins or coquettes and let cool to room temp. Quickly top them with pie dough, smearing it down along the sides. Cut a vent in the center and glaze with egg yolk. Bake for 30 minutes or until they turn glossy, golden brown.

How to make a savory tarte tatin

Tarte tatin takes a little bit of finesse, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making one for dinner every time you have leftover pie dough or puff pastry. The only trick besides getting the dough on the tarte and the tarte out of the pan is this: have everything rolled, ready, chopped and chilled before you start assembly. Feel free to add whatever spices you like and get creative with the vegetables! This time of year I especially like endive, which is a little bitter- a nice compliment to sour dough, sweet glaze and tangy mustard.

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you’ll need:
-an 8” pan
-a sheet of pie dough or puff pastry
-1T whole grain mustard
-2t butter- enough to generously coat an 8” pan
-1T brown sugar
-enough vegetables to crowd the pan. remember they’ll cook down, so squeeze them in there! I used 5 small endive.
-about 3T-1/4 cup rich, homemade stock, depending on which vegetable you’re using


1. Roll out your dough to about 1/8” thick and cut it into a circle slightly larger than the pan- like 9-10”. Brush mustard onto an 8” circle in the middle and let it chill while you assemble the vegetables.
2. Preheat oven to 425.
3. Melt butter in pan and add sugar. When the sugar has melted, add the stock and a big pinch of salt. Give everything a whisk. Arrange vegetables cut-side down in the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce until the liquid looks syrupy, 3-5 minutes on a gas range. Remove from heat.
4. Flip pie dough mustard-side down onto the vegetables and tuck in the edges as best you can. Cut a little x in the middle of the dough. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is starting to turn golden and you can see the glaze looking dark along the sides.
5. Immediately run a small knife around the edge of the crust to loosen it from the pan. Let the tarte sit in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then place a plate on top and flip! Serve warm or at room temp.

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Falafel, a new obsession

Episode 7 of Pantry Raid started with a very important question, one that has been plaguing me since I began to write an episode about chickpeas: why are we not all making falafel all the time?

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I mean, truly, all you need is one cup of dried chickpeas, some aromatics, a food processor and some oil and you can make sensationally good, crispy, crunchy, salty, restaurant-style falafel at home with lightening speed. I promise.

Here’s what you do: soak 1 cup dried chickpeas in filtered water overnight, 8 to 24 hours. Make sure they are covered by about 1 1/2” water and add a pinch- let’s say 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the bowl.

Drain them. No, you don’t have to cook them AT ALL!!! Put half of them in a food processor, add your flavorings, then add the other half. You’ll need half of an onion- I used a red one and quick pickled the other half to use as a garnish. Use more herbs than you think is right- for me, 1/2 a bunch of cilantro stems and all + 3 whole green onions. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt is plenty and you can add whatever other dried spices you like- I used a dash of cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and coriander. You’ll also need about 2T to 1/4 cup binder- all purpose flour, chickpea flour and rice flour all work. Finally, and don’t skip this- add another 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Baking soda will help the falafel cook and brown in a flash!

Just pulse everything together until it kind of looks like…grits? medium or coarse grind cornmeal? It will hold together in balls when it’s ready. I like to cover it and pop it in the fridge while I get the oil ready.

Falafel is easiest to fry in 1/4 cup patties**- if you don’t already own a 1/4 cup springform scoop, get one! They’re great for making fritters and pancakes and cookies and two scoops is a nice hamburger. A 1/4 cup patty means you’ll need about 1/2” of neutral oil (grapeseed or peanut) heated over medium in a skillet. They don’t soak up much oil, but you want the oil to go halfway up the sides of the falafel so they cook evenly. They’ll need maybe two minutes on each side.

I’ve been eating them on salad with cucumber grated into Greek yogurt, the pickled red onions, extra cilantro leaves, a squeeze of lemon and some flaky salt. Please don’t send me hate mail for using cilantro. Just use parsley and mind your own business.

**Not pictured here because I have a weird habit of forming all small fried food into the classic egg-like croquetta shape. CROQUETTAS FOREVER.

Winter Endive Salad

Two weeks ago I was out for dinner on a Friday night with my friends from Boston, enjoying a fried fish taco and a margarita, when my body sent me a very strong message, marked urgent, respond ASAP or you’re fired: GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK. I sat there, continuing our conversation, clutching my exploding heart like it was a Southern strand of pearls.

So now I understand why everyone over 30 is on a cleanse in January.

I’m not on a cleanse, per say, but I am giving my body a break for the time being by eating vegan at breakfast, vegetarian at lunch, drinking less (which is so fun! don’t knock it till you try it!), and having whatever I feel like for dinner. And I usually feel like pizza, but my body is gracefully accepting that in return for our breakfast and lunch compromise.

I’ll tell you about breakfast another day, but right now I can’t stop thinking about, making, or eating tahini cream for lunch. I became deeply obsessed with it because of a photo I saw on The First Mess back in November and have been making it almost every week since. If you find yourself with random handfuls of extra herbs, tahini cream is a great place to put them. For this recipe, which I made a fussy finger food version of for a party last weekend, I think it’s best to make the tahini cream a little sweet to contrast with the bitterness of the endive. If you can’t find endive, look for another bitter green such as radicchio, frisee, or young mustard greens.

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You can absolutely fill individual radicchio or endive leaves with the tahini cream, herbs and pomegranate. The easier and lazier thing to do is to spread the tahini cream across the plate and pile the rest of the ingredients, roughly chopped, on top of it. Or, you can put the tahini cream in a squeeze bottle and drizzle it over the top of the salad. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the herbs!

Winter Endive Salad
-use about one whole endive and at least 1/4 cup tahini cream per person

For the tahini cream:
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 of a small to medium shallot, roughly chopped
filtered water
a couple Tablespoons honey
salt to taste
4-5 scallions, green and light green parts only

For the salad:
endive
plenty of parsley leaves (do not chop)
plenty of mint leaves (also do not chop!)
toasted sesame oil
pomegranate arils
flaky salt

Place the tahini, lemon juice and shallot in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Stream in water until it has like a…natural peanut butter at room temperature consistency? Somewhere in the ballpark of 1/3 a cup. You want it to be smooth and creamy, but thick enough to stay in place on a plate. Add salt and honey to taste, then pulse in the scallions until they’re very finely chopped. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

To make the salad: roughly chop the endive, then toss it with the herbs and just enough sesame oil to coat it. Place it on top of the tahini cream and top with pomegranate arils and flaky salt.