Pork Pastries with Pickled Onions, or The Stuffed Cabbage That Kept On Giving


I barely know how to start this post, or write it. It was the story of the recipe that turned into three. Our saga begins with our protagonist (that would be me) adapting a Richard Olney recipe for stuffed savoy cabbage. Enter cabbage stage left. Enter stuffing stage right.  The audience gasps.

Now, I don’t know what kind of uber-cabbages Olney was eating in the south of France, but as my imaginary heckler would say, “zat stuffing will nevarre feet in zat cabbage! Zat ees not a vrai Franche cabbage!”

I had a lot of extra stuffing. I mean I had 6 pork pastries and a meatloaf worth of extra stuffing.  But like all good tales, our protagonist learned along the way and came to a happy conclusion. The learnings: that I prefer to stuff individual leaves to an entire cabbage, and that this stuffing makes a damn good meat pastry/pie!  Yes valiant readers, unlike a French movie, this tale ends happily (and with no cigarettes or accordian music either!).

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Rustic Provencal Galette; the new site

Before diving into the recipe, we want to welcome you all to the new home of Constables Larder.  Thank you for joining us here, and please let us know what you think. If you are an RSS subscriber to the old blog, please unsubscribe that one and sign up here (although if you are seeing this post, it means it’s working automatically, miracle of miracles).

Spring is finally starting to emerge, and my palette is very Mediterranean-focused. Last weekend, this manifested in the form of a galette — essentially an onion tart with the addition of zucchini, olives, garlic, and tomatoes.  Instead of a pâte brisée, I decided to try a Provençal pastry (pâte à l’huile d’olive) which Richard Olney describes in Simple French Food (my new flame). It is easy to make, quite tasty, and has a rustic personality and texture.

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Chicken Pot Pie, the Basics

chicken pot pie

On Saturday, we crawled through traffic back up the Eastern seaboard and returned from visiting family in Washington DC. There are few things more soul destroying than hours stuck traffic. Naturally, I needed to make a chicken pot pie to recuperate. Chicken pot pie is scientifically proven to pack high levels of emotionally recuperative bosons and gluons by the ounce.

It is a little known fact that they plan to test FermiLab’s Large Hadron Collider by accelerating a chicken pot pie to the speed of light and thus duplicating comfort food conditions at the origins of the universe. It will either cause the end of the world, or it won’t; there appears to be some debate, which is comforting in and of itself.

Below is a recipe for a simple pot pie, and a decent framework for elaborating upon with other ingredients (leeks, peas, turnips, parsnips) and herbs (parsley, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, etc). Note: I hope you’ll excuse the hack-job of the pastry edging in the above picture… I was moving fast in a race against the clock for Munchkin’s dinner time.

Chicken Pot Pie

1.5 lb chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes
1 white onion, diced
3 medium/large garlic cloves, peeled, woody end removed, and minced
3 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds or smaller
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 tsp ground savory (alternative: 1 tbsp parsley and/or 1/2 tsp dry thyme)
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper
olive oil
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken stock (or water)

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt + a couple more pinches
7.5 tbsp butter
approx 5 tbsp ice cold water

Egg wash: 1 tbsp water, 1 egg yolk

Making the Pastry
For this pot pie, I decided to work off of Alice Waters’ savory pastry proportions from The Art of Simple Food. I was only making the pastry for the top, so reduced the amounts from the 2 cups of flour in her book, keeping with her proportions (hence the extra pinches of salt to get to around 1/3 tsp).

Cut the butter into 1/4 inch cubes and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Fill a glass with ice water and place next to your food processor. Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter to the processor and add 4 tablespoons of the ice water, pulsing the mixture between each tablespoon.

Remove the mixture to a clean surface and gently work it together. If it is not holding together at all, add another tbsp of the ice water. When the crumbly mixture is just holding together (you do not want it sticky or wet, and it is ok to have a little still crumbly), form into a rough ball, wrap in plastic wrap, flatten, and place in the fridge for an hour.

Preparing the Filling

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Bring some lightly salted water to boil in a medium sauce pot and boil the potato until just tender, no more than 10 minutes given the small cut. Drain or remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon, and keep the sauce pot around for the white sauce.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat and brown the chicken, then remove to the bowl with the potato. Lower the heat to medium-low and saute the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes, then add the carrots. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the celery, ground savory (or other herbs), white wine, and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Cook for another few minutes then turn off the heat.

At this point, turn to the sauce pot: melt 5 tbsp of butter on medium-low heat, then wisk in the 1/2 cup of flour and cook for a minute stirring regularly. Theoretically, it is best to have your milk and stock (or water) already at a near boil, but if you haven’t had time or the energy to dirty another pot, it isn’t the end of the world just to add them directly now. Cook at a gentle simmer for another 5 minutes. (If you like your pie really rich, you can add 1/4 cup of cream too)

Stir the white sauce into the saute pan with the vegetables and taste for salt and pepper. Then stir in the chicken and potato. Spoon the mixure into your pie dish until it is near the edge.

chicken pot pie fill
Photo note: the mixture looks a little green-ish because of the ground savory.

Finishing the Pie
Remove the wrapped pastry from the fridge, and on a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out your pastry into a thin layer an inch or so bigger than you need for the pie dish. Lightly flour the top, to prevent it from sticking, and gently fold the pastry in half or in quarters to safely lift it in one piece to the top of the pie dish. Crimp the pastry around the edge of the pie dish, and then cut off any excess pastry hanging over the edge with a sharp paring knife. Make some vent holes in the top with the knife (or a fork).

If you have the time, it is nice to mix an egg yolk with a tbsp of cold water and brush this egg wash on top of the pastry. (I did not, this time around)

Place the pie in the oven (which was pre-heated to 375F) for 45 minutes, then let cool for 10 or 15 minutes before serving.

chicken pot pie

Onion, Leek and Taleggio Tart


My cooking tends towards comfort food in general, and when I’m stuck inside on a rainy November day caught between a cold and recovery from surgery, I don’t need any additional excuses to crave comfort food. At least I was back on feet and able to tackle something in the kitchen. My latest challenge is savory pastry, so I set my sights on making an onion tart. Over twitter, Kelly from Sass & Veracity suggested adding taleggio cheese, to which I whole-heartedly agreed, and Lisl was kind enough to pick some up for me today when she was out.

I decided to stick with Elise’s method for making Pâte Brisée (the pastry) since it worked last time and I’m new enough to pastry making that if it ain’t broke, I shouldn’t try to fix it (don’t worry, the tinkerer will emerge soon enough). I’ll note that both times I have made this, the pastry needed more than 3 or 4 tbsp of very cold water. Tonight it was more like 7 or 8.

I made the pastry first because it needed to rest in the fridge for an hour or so, and then turned to the onions.

Making the Tart
3 or 4 leeks, cleaned, halved and finely sliced
2 or 3 large onions (spanish or vidalia), peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 red (or green) jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
6 sprigs of fresh thyme (or a large pinch of dried thyme)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
a pinch of salt
fifth to a quarter lb taleggio cheese, cut into 1/2 cubes
1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp water for egg wash

Make sure your leeks are well cleaned. Remove the very bottom of the leek, and then cut off the top a few inches above where the white transitions to green. With your knife, halve or quarter the top several inches of the leek and place it under a running faucet, opening up the layers with your fingers to remove any grit. Then thinly slice. Prep the onions by peeling, halving, and then thinly slicing. (By the way, I once read that if you keep a piece of bread in your mouth while you chop onions, you won’t have as severe a reaction. As far as I can tell, it is true!)

In a large, heavy bottomed pot (a pot with a high edge is easier than a saute pan here so that you don’t spill as you stir), heat up the olive oil and butter over low heat. Add the leeks, onions, thyme sprigs and a pinch of salt and slowly cook, stirrying occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add the jalapeno, and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be soft and nicely caramelized. Turn off the heat and let cool. Taste for salt and pepper, but I found that very little salt was needed. You want the onions to be moist but not liquidy, so drain any extra liquid.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

When the onions are cool, chop up your taleggio cheese and have ready. Then take out a large baking tray and place parchment paper on top. Wisk up your egg wash (optional) and have everything ready for when you take the pastry out of the fridge.

On a floured surface, roll out your pastry into a thin 14″ circle. If it starts to stick to the surface below, lift it gently up (you can use the rolling pin to carefully “unroll” it from the surface) and dust a little more flour down. Carefully fold the pastry over onto itself (half) and then again (quarter), to move to the baking tray, and then unfold on the parchment paper.

Spread the taleggio cheese around, keeping within 2 inches from the outer edge, and then scoop the onion mixture on top. Fold the outside edge over, overlapping and gently pressing the folds onto the pastry below. Brush the egg wash on the top of the pastry and then place in the oven for 45 or 50 minutes. When golden brown, remove and cool on a rack (you do not want to leave on the tray and parchment paper or it might get soggy).

The dish was deliciously rich, and Lisl gave me a big nod of approval on the results of my pastry. Thanks for suggestion Kelly! It might not have been the prettiest pastry ever made, but comfort food isn’t meant to be some dolled-up, foam-covered, high-falutin’ thing after all!

onion tart


Taking on the pastry challenge, and thumbs up on a Gourmet Veg. recipe

I’ve decided that in my quest to make great comfort/peasant food, I must become good at pastry. Historically, I’ve always leaned on Lisl for that task, because really, what’s not to avoid? There is so much conflicting advice out there! Use butter, no, vegetable shortening! Food processor, no, scraper, no, hands! Rest and chill, no, use directly! 2 to 4 tbsp of ice water max!!! but don’t be surprised if you use more! Isn’t this part of cooking meant to be a science?

Anyone who has read the last chapter of The Man Who Ate Everything knows what I am talking about — he researched a zillion different permutations for the perfect pie crust, and ended up getting a master demonstration from a baking queen who threw it all out the window and took him by surprise with her technique.

I made two decisions. I decided to avoid Crisco and stick to butter, and I focused my reading on three sources: a Nov 2004 Gourmet article I had on the shelf, a post from Shuna at Eggbeater, and a post from Elise at Simply Recipes. Because Shuna’s site was down earlier for some reason, tonight’s attempt at flaky pastry focused on Elise’s approach.

It wasn’t pretty.

It was a bit stressful.

But it actually turned out quite tasty.

One small step towards conquering my discomfort with baking.

Lisl watched me work with bemused expression on her face, and some helpful advice. My target was a marvelous farro and mushroom pie recipe I saw in November’s Gourmet, in their vegetarian Thanksgiving menu. Most bloggers who tried this recipe agreed that it is wise to amp up the flavor a bit more than the original, but it is a good starting point and there are lots of different directions you can take the filling — I added spinach and parsley.  It was the first time I had worked with farro and I quite liked it.

Gourmet’s Farro and Mushroom Pie

farro pie