Baby, it’s cold outside, but it’s so cozy its sweltering inside my 5th floor walkup. I just made Chicken Pot Pie and Cinnamon Sugar Cookies. So, my home smells like comfort but feels like Miami in July! You see, I have no control over the heat in my apartment, and in what must be my landlord’s only gesture that can be characterized as generosity, cozy has reached new heights (upper 90s, I’d say) on Christopher Street during this week of bitter cold. With my oven baking for nearly two hours and my steam pipes at a near constant whine and screech, I’m sitting down to dinner, in January in New York City, with my only two windows (neither of which are in the kitchen, of course) thrown open wide, wearing shorts and a white tank…ah, the joys of tenement chic!
Neveryoumind. You probably reside in far greater luxury, in apartments with cross breezes and thermostats, with technological miracles like the ceiling fan to keep you comfortable. Hell, maybe you even own a house in which the sheer expanse of space is too costly to heat at humane levels, so you wake up in the mornings dauntingly at peace with the fact that you can see your breath whilst lying in your own bed (Buffalonians, Mom, I’m talking about you!) Whatever your digs and wherever you find yourself this month, winter weather invites you to cozy up next to someone and share the warmth of freshly baked cookies and savory meat pies…in fact, these seem to be a bit of trend these days, what with Helena Bonham Carter as the Chef de Flesh on Fleet Street and Amanda and Celest off eating veal pot pies at Solex. I’ll be damned if I let a little thing like ungodly, nauseating home heating stop me from enjoying a winter comfort food trend! I’ve got leftover roast chicken and veg in my fridge, a head of winter perfect cauliflower in my in my pantry, a dripping wheel of stinky cheese calling my name, and an “I don’t care” attitude about my sweltering abode. Come what may (like sweat trickling into my cocoa), there will be pot pie aplenty ‘round my pad this week.
Chicken Pot Pie (serves 8 slices)
Pâte Brisée (a.k.a. Pastry Dough or Pie Crust) Ingredients:
· 2 cups all-purpose Flour, plus extra for rolling
· 1 1/2 sticks Unsalted Butter, very cold and cut into ½ inch cubes
· 1 1/2 T Kosher Salt
· 6-8 TB Ice Water
Have fun filling your pie. I ransacked my fridge and diced up some fresh veg I picked out at the farmers market (cauliflower, broccoli, parsnips, and greens are in their prime this month). Throw your favorite herbs, cheeses, and whatever you got lying around into the mix. You’ll need some heavy cream to make a sauce and some butter to leave a layer of sweet cream atop your pie, but the goodness is in the combo, so blend all your fave winter flaves together. This time around, I used: cauliflower, broccoli, parsnips, baby bok choy, carrots, cipollini onions, frozen corn and peas, a wheel of stinky French cheese, cumin, thyme, tarragon, pistachios, black pepper, and of course, salt. If I had stopped there, I’d have a gorgeous veggie pie, but instead, I added about a pound of chicken leftover from the roast I made last week. This already seasoned and ready-to-bake meat is a huge flavor boost; just peel away all the gnarly bits and beware of bones.
Since I’m without a thermostat or a cool breeze, I let the food processor do most of the heavy work when making pie dough, and no one’s the wiser.
Combine flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to sift. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add ice water 1 TB at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough doesn’t hold together, add a little more water and pulse again.
Remove dough from machine and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape into 2 discs. Knead the dough just enough to form the discs. Do not over-knead. You should be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These small chunks of butter are what will allow the resulting crust to be flaky. Sprinkle a little flour around the discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to 2 days.
After you’ve made your filling and it’s time to assemble the pie, remove one crust disc from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle, about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep it from sticking. Carefully place onto a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate and poke a few holes in the bottom to give it room to breathe. After you’ve filled the pie, repeat this process with the second disc and cover the pie. I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out decorative silhouettes in my crust that allow the steam to escape as the pie bakes, and stuck the cut-out hearts on with little smears of butter. Finally, trim the excess dough with a knife and roll the edge of the crust in to create a rustic trim. Crimping or molding is also an option, especially if you’re trying to show off! (Erin loves to do this!)
With the remaining scraps of dough, make cookies by once again rolling out your pastry, sprinkling it generously with cinnamon and sugar, cutting out your favorite shapes, and baking in a conventional or toaster oven until they lightly brown, about 7 minutes at 350 degrees.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Chop all your ingredients into bite-sized morsels. I didn’t bother parboiling or sautéing any of my ingredients with exception of the cauliflower and parsnip, which I dry roasted in just a wee bit of olive oil and a dash of cumin at 425 degrees, while I was preparing my sauce.
In a saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Slowly stir in about a cup of heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Once the cream begins to simmer (don’t let it boil) stir in all your cheese. Simmer over low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
Take out your blender and combine the cheesy sauce with cauliflower and parsnip. Blend until smooth then pour onto the chicken mixture and stir.
Place the chicken mixture in the bottom of the piecrust and add dabs of butter over everything. Follow the directions above to top your pie.
Bake in the preheated oven for about at hour, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
If you’re at my house, don a bikini and dig in!