Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday in the kitchen at Chez Nancy

One of my blogging friends (Pam of Zoomie Station) has been trying to lure me over to the dark side of food blogging. I'm ready to expand this blog's topics and maybe get a bit more of a dialogue going with my readers. Everybody has to eat and some of us love to cook so I thought I'd post the occasional recipe here. 

My tastes in food, as in art, are wide ranging and a bit eccentric but as always, YMMV. I've lived all over the world, traveled a lot and picked up a taste for what a lot of people consider exotic. I live in SF, the epicenter of organic foods. We have several ethnic communities here and my apartment is on the edge of the Mission District  which used to be solely Hispanic but now has both Asian and  Middle Eastern stores to tempt the adventurous cook.

Today's Chronicle/SF Gate had an article on frozen pot pies. It's been ages since I was willing to spend my hard-earned money on any pie that came from the grocery store. Tiny chunks of mystery meat, soupy gravy and a few minuscule cubes of vegetables do not a pot pie make and SO SAY I! I do one major cheat (see below). That was the starting point for my Sunday Dinner.

There's a legendary Moroccan chicken dish called Chicken B'stilla, traditionally made with squab or pigeons or even chicken. It's an all day endeavor, staring with cooking the squab or pigeons, then layering onions, garlic, a few of the spices found in the Moroccan spice blend, Ras el Hanout, chicken broth, lemon juice, eggs, honey, parsley, cilantro, and toasted almonds. The filling is comprised of these ingredients, layer upon layer, baked inside a phyllo, or filo, dough crust. The cooked pie is lightly dusted with cinnamon sugar, sliced into wedges, and served.

I have made it and believe me, it's a great project for a rainy Sunday when you have nothing to do and just want to be in a warm kitchen. The clean up is endless, the end result is delicious but it's work, work and more work. I think it's best reserved for special occasions.

My chicken pot pie is much simpler - an imaginative use of  leftovers, yesterday's roasted chicken and no preservatives or extra salt.  Altered or inspired by several other recipes that I found on the Internet

Yesterday's roast chicken - breast meat and part of the back meat, skinned and chopped into cubes. Since I wanted to make enough for 3 meals, I used about 6 ounces (2 oz of meat per meal).
Firm Tofu - again, rubbed with a spice mixture and pan sauteed before cutting into cubes. I'm not a vegetarian but I do want to cut down on meat and I like the results of mixing tofu with the chicken. It's a delicious "filler" and the final result is a lot lighter than traditional pot pies. You can use only tofu and vegetarian broth if you want to go completely vegetarian.
1 cup sliced carrots - these were fresh carrots, quickly steamed to cut down baking time
1 cup frozen green peas
Several stalks of celery - I use the outside stalks, peel them of their tough strings, blanch them and chop into slices. That way, they are softened and don't go to waste.
One cup cooked onions
One cup or more of small onions (I do buy the frozen kind and cook them before putting them into the mixture)
Roasted sweet potatoes or yams. I have to watch my blood sugars and both are much lower on the Glycemic index than potatoes.
Seasoning as you want - I use a bit of kosher salt, pepper, chili flakes, tarragon, and other mixed herbs. OR, you can make this a curry pot pie by adding a generic Indian curry spice or the whole mixture of spices that make up curry (more in a later post). 
one tablespoon or so of whole wheat flour.
A lot of recipes call for you to make a roux. I didn't want the additional butter/flour/salt so I just used a small amount of flour and mixed my chicken broth with a bit of Greek Yogurt and low fat sour cream. The sauce will be thinner but just as tasty (IMHO). 

I saute the onions, garlic and spices together and then, sprinkle with with the flour until they are all browned and crispy. I then add my chicken broth/Greek yogurt/low fat sour cream until I think it's the right consistency, making sure that the sauce is not too lumpy. Next is my major cheat. After I layer all the items in a deep dish pan (an old round baking dish, vintage unknown but a regular standby in my kitchen), I top the mixture with a layer of filo dough. A lot of people think that you can only use filo with sweets but it's equally good with savory. Anyway, cover the fixings with a layer or two of the dough, brush with a bit of olive oil and bake until the top is crispy - 30 minutes or so depending on your oven. My oven is an ancient 1948 or so Wedgewood Stove so, while it's sturdy and reliable, the temperature gauge is a bit off. 

For me, this pie makes several meals. I always add a crisp green salad with a piece of fruit for desert. But it can be dressed up with wine, bread (although I don't like to add starch on starch) or maybe maybe another cooked side vegetable instead of the salad. If you really want to go middle eastern style, add olives, marinated carrots, a bit of humus and tahini and some pita chips. 

If you have never worked with filo, here's a good introduction plus some great recipes:


cookiecrumb said...

Two things: Here I am, so something's working.
And, I love your recipe-writing style. You give so much freedom to the cook, while clarifying tricky parts. What an artist!

namastenancy said...

Welcome! Come on in - and, you are making me blush! What a compliment!

Zoomie said...

You make pot pie sound like a treat! Wish I had some! I've never actually made a pot pie - guess I need to start!

namastenancy said...

You've never had pot pie? Well, you are in for a treat - whether you follow my modified recipe or find a more traditional one. If you don't want to make the pastry from scratch, you can always use the pie crust mixes from the store which work perfectly well. But I like the crispy crunch of filo.

Zoomie said...

I have eaten pot pie, just never made one myself. I'll use your guidelines and see what happens! I like Star Dough, so I'll probably use that for my crust.