Chicken Poached in Milk

Serves 3 or 4

1 yellow or vidalia onion, diced
large handful of white mushrooms, sliced
3 chicken breast halves, sliced into 1 inch (or so) thick “tenders”
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 or 2 pinches of hot chili pepper flakes
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup of dry vermouth or white wine
approx 2 cups milk
1 cup of white rice

I winged this dish on Friday night and enjoyed it enough that I wanted to record the essence. The ratios are not battle-tested, but one of the prime purposes of this blog is to help me remember stuff like this.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter and olive oil on medium low heat and then add the onion. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add in the mushrooms, thyme, a pinch or two of hot chili pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper and saute until the mushrooms are soft.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the vermouth (or wine) and after a few minutes add the milk. I don’t know exactly how much milk I put in but I would guess about 2 cups. Bring the milk to a very gentle simmer, stirring fairly frequently, and control the heat so that it does not start to simmer more aggressively. Stir in the mustard and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, giving the sauce time to thicken and come together.

Don’t forget to start the rice.

Add the chicken, cover, and poach until they are cooked through (probably 5 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness of pieces).

Serve the chicken on top of the rice, heaping on the sauce.

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

Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk, Lime, and Cilantro

chicken braise

Over the summer, I discovered a Brazilian fish recipe destined to be one of my top-five fish recipes. The other day, I decided to try adapting the spirit of the recipe for chicken. Fast forward to me cutting extra slices of bread just to sop up the fantastic sauce, and you have the following…

6 chicken thighs (or more or less, depending on size)
3 limes
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 large vidalia onion
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced (double or triple if you want hot)
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes

Marinate the chicken in the garlic, 2 tbsp of the cilantro, the juice of 2 limes, and a healthy sprinkling of salt. Let it rest for 30 or so.

In a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, celery stalk, and coconut milk and puree.

Preheat oven to 325F.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of canola or vegetable oil in a dutch oven on high until very hot, and then brown the chicken thighs for a couple minutes on both sides, then remove back to marinade dish. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the white wine, lower heat and return chicken to the pot, adding in any garlic, cilantro and lime juice from the marinade dish. Pour the coconut milk puree over the top, and add the crushed tomatoes, the jalapeno, another 2 tbsp of cilantro, the juice of the last lime, and two more pinches of salt.

Gently mix the sauce around and spoon over the chicken thighs.

Place in the oven and after 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 300F. Let cook for another 45 to 60 minutes.

The one pain about this dish is that before you serve, you will need to spoon off the layer of oil (from the chicken fat).

This dish is best served with some white rice, lots of sauce poured on top, and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro (that last 2 tbsp).

I served this with some beet greens sauteed with sherry vinegar, a touch of red pepper flakes, half a small onion, and a clove of garlic (I had wanted to try this recipe, but had run out of apple cider vinegar). Still, this variation was still quite nice. In the chaos of my evening, I didn’t have time to make rice, so made do with some huge hunks of ciabatta bread. The meal went really nicely with a spicy, medium-to-full bodied red wine.

Now if only I had some of your cookies for dessert. Or, perhaps, some Zen insanity.

Fennel Gratin, Roast Chicken, and a night to remember

At 11pm, I felt relief. A few minutes later, I felt admiration for McCain showing his true colors by conceding with dignity. Then Barack stepped up and said what we all knew was true: tonight we have only opened the door — now the hard work truly begins. We shall see what kind of President Barack Obama really becomes, but I am glad this country chose hope and change. Americans believe that our country is a beacon, and it is time we earned that belief once more. This country has a lot to do and fix, but tonight, I am happy.

But wait, food what when how?

Tonight we made two dishes: a roasted chicken stuffed with olives and potatoes from Stacey at Stacey Snacks, and a fennel gratin from an Alice Waters recipe. Both were absolutely delicious.

Fennel Gratin, slightly adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food

2 large fennel bulbs
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup fennel cooking liquid
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of hot hungarian paprika
pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp of minced fennel frond

Cut the fennel bulbs in half and then into wedges. Mince up a small amount of the fennel fronds and set aside. Boil the wedges in salted water for 5 minutes. Remove the fennel with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking liquid.

Next, make a white sauce by melting the butter on medium heat, adding the flour, and cooking for a couple minutes, whisking constantly. Then slowly add the milk and fennel cooking liquid in small amounts, whisking as you go. Once the liquid is mixed in, lower the heat to a very soft simmer and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in a couple of pinches of salt, and the nutmeg, paprika, pepper flakes, and parmesan (note: Waters uses cayenne pepper instead of the hot paprika and pepper flakes).

Butter a baking dish and spread out the fennel wedges, and spoon the sauce on top. Bake in an oven set at 375F or 400F for 30 minutes or so (note: Waters calls for 375F, but we had the oven set to 400F since we were also finishing the chicken roast). When the tops are browned, remove, sprinkle with a little salt, pepper and the fennel fronds, and serve.

Comment: I found that the amounts for the white sauce led to a thick sauce that did not cover all of the fennel, but that actually ended up being a good thing, keeping the dish from being too rich and allowing you as the eater to choose what kind of mouthful you wanted.

chicken roast

The other part of the meal was a roast chicken with potatoes, olives, capers, rosemary and other good stuff. We spotted this recipe on Stacey Snacks (link), and Lisl prepped and cooked the dish. It was marvelous. Follow that link to the recipe, and listen when Stacey says to make sure that the potatoes are cooked before you put it all in the oven, because the potatoes stuffed inside the chicken will not cook all that much, even in the oven for 1 hr 15 minutes at 400F.

Happy election day.

Mom’s Thanksgiving Turkey

My mother took this recipe from the New York Times in 1973 (John Hess, 11/15/1973)

Making the broth
The turkey neck and giblets
3 cups water
1 large, quartered onion
1 sliced carrot
A few parsley stems
1 bay leaf
Take the turkey neck and giblets and cook with 3 cups of water along with onion, carrot, parsley, and a bay leaf.
Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hour. (optional: add chicken or veal broth)

Making the stuffing
The turkey liver, minced
1 pound pork sausage (without casing)
1 cup sliced onion
1/2 cup very thinly sliced celery
1/2 tsp thyme
1 loaf good bread
1 cup sliced black olives
1 cup broken walnut
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup of stock broth
2 tbsp of cognac or 2-4 tbsp madeira/port
finely chopped green apple
large handful of cremini or white mushrooms, chopped

1. Toast the bread and let it partially dry, then cut into small squares (or vice versa)
2. Brown sausage and then add onion, celery and thyme
3. Combine everything else

Cooking the Turkey
»Stuff the turkey then truss with heavy needle and thread. Bring wings close to body and tie legs up and together.
»Wipe bird and rub it with softened butter. Salt and pepper all over.
»Lay bird on its side in an oven-proof platter of same size.
»Roast a 10-12 pound bird about 2 hours. Roast a 15-16 lb. bird about 3 hours. Cook at 450 degrees (F) for 30 minutes then turn down slightly. Every 15 minutes flip bird to other side and spoon fat from pan over bird. If browning too quickly, turn down to 400 degrees (F) (or 350 degrees if still cooking too fast). Give yourself 30 minutes at end to finish sauce and further cook bird if not completely done.
»Place turkey on warm platter. Remove excess fat from pan with a spoon and then add remaining stock. Simmer over high heat and reduce (but not too far). You can also add 1/4 cup red wine.

Update 11/28/09:

Having just gone through another Thanksgiving, I thought I would write down what I did differently while it was fresh in my mind.

I wanted to make my stuffing completely from scratch rather than use store-bought breakfast sausage.  The key is making this ahead of time so that the flavors have a chance to meld, so I would advise making it Thanksgiving morning.

1 pound ground pork
1 large spanish onion, diced
3/4 to 1 cup celery, diced
3 cups country bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
1 cup black olives, diced
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup white or cremini mushrooms, diced
1 granny smith green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup chopped italian parsley
1 to 2 tsp fresh thyme (to taste)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 to 2 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup of stock broth
2 tbsp of cognac

In a large pot (I like using my big dutch oven), brown the sausage, adding the salt and thyme. Add the chopped onions and cook for a few minutes, then the celery, then everything else. Cook on medium-low heat on the stovetop for 40 minutes to an hour. Add more broth if it starts to dry out excessively and stick to the pan. Turn off the heat and let the flavors meld, and reheat prior to the meal.

I no longer stuff the turkey with the stuffing — you end up having to dry up the turkey to make sure the stuffing is fully cooked and safe.

For the turkey, we rubbed it all over with butter and liberally sprinkled it with salt and pepper, then stuffed it with onion and trussed it with kitchen twine.  We cooked it on its back for 30 minutes at 425F, and then lowered the heat down to 350F and kept on turning turkey every 30 minutes.  Remove the turkey when a meat thermometer reads 160F deep in the thigh (make sure the thermometer is not touching a bone).  Loosely cover with foil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving and serving.