Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

Mick Jagger has been eating chicken pot pie lately.  I hope he is satisfied.  According to the New York Times he is.  And so are his glitterati friends.  I predict that before long we will be reading about rhubarb pie being served at Paris fashion week.
Just remember - you read it here first.

These kind of stories just kill me.  In my stodgy, comfortable and practical Midwestern kitchen, chicken pot pie has always been in style. I am so happy that all those skinny high strung celebrities are discovering the charms of pot pie.  Maybe they will be able to cut back on stimulants, anti-depressants and mood stabilizers. 

You do not have to go to fancy parties in New York to enjoy chicken pot pie.  You can make it at home.  Here's how:

Chicken Pot Pie (serves six)
  3 cups cooked chicken, cut in medium sized chunks
 (buy a whole chicken and poach it in some water with carrot onion, celery, bay leaf, salt and a few cloves and peppercorns.  You will end up with not only lots of chicken for pot pie or chicken salad or other dishes, you will have some nice homemade chicken broth.)

About six cups vegetables cooked just until tender and not mushy - peas and carrots and maybe a few potatoes are a traditional choice.  But you can substitute your favorites or what is available and in season.  Asparagus and fresh mushrooms would be nice. Or a combination of root vegetables like parsnip, carrot and rutabaga.  Or spinach and green onions.

About 4 cups bechamel, or white sauce.
Don't know how to do this?  See this post.

Fold together the chicken, vegetables and bechamel.  Put into one large fairly flat baking dish or six individual baking dishes.

Prepare your favorite pastry.  Roll out into one piece big enough to cover the large dish or six pieces to cover the individual dishes.  Place gently on top, pressing the pastry against the edge of the baking dish to seal.  Slash the top in a few places to let steam escape.

Bake at about 425 degrees until pastry is lightly browned and contents are bubbling hot.  Serve.

Note - you can use biscuit dough instead of pie pastry for the crust.  Pat thin and place on top - leave a little space around the edges. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hands On: Spinach and Steak Salad

Spring is almost here - that means salads with fresh and local greens are almost here too.  Are you ready?  Do you have a good supply of your favorite kinds of oil and vinegar on hand?  And some Dijon mustard and maybe some shallots or garlic?  Kosher salt?  Fresh ground pepper?

Yesterday Frank and I attended the annual Local Food Expo in Winona, Minnesota.  There was a great winter farmers market and we got to do a cooking demonstration.  Frank showed different knife sharpening techniques and sliced up a beautiful pile of steak to add to the salad we made.  (The meat was purchased - frozen - at the Lanesboro Local retail store in Lanesboro.  It was raised at Hodgson Farm and cooked to medium rare perfection by Lanesboro Pastry Shoppe chef Brett Stecher the day before.  Who says corn fed tastes best?  Not me.)

I brought along a few bags of beautiful overwintered greenhouse spinach from Featherstone Farm and showed the audience how quick and easy it is to wash, dry and store fresh salad greens.  I also showed the group how easy it is to mix up some good olive oil, dijon mustard, salt, pepper and chopped shallots in a large bowl.  I tossed the oil mixture with the spinach right in the bowl and then added just a bit of sherry vinegar to finish the dressing.  And - I confess - I vehemently discouraged people from using bottled dressings of any kind.  I am sorry, but they are just not necessary.  They are also costly and none taste as good as what we can make at home.  We also talked about the importance of owning a salad spinner.  Do you have yours yet?

Then we made a composed salad with the dressed spinach as a base.  We added blanched fresh green beans from Whitewater Farm's greenhouse and julienned daikon red radish.  (I used a big Featherstone Farm radish that had been stored in my home refrigerator for about three months.  It was in perfect shape.) Everybody got an ample sample - including a few pieces of meat.

Locally raised grass fed steaks can be expensive - especially if you don't buy in bulk directly from the farmer.  Topping a fresh vegetable salad with a few strips of steak is a great way to stretch that expensive meat. Everybody gets a nice satisfying animal protein hit and you have enough money left over for some quality bread and wine to round out the meal.  Meat in moderation - that's my mantra.  And if the meat has been raised by someone you know on a farm that you could visit if you wanted to -  that is frosting on the cake.

Here is a link to a Winona Daily News article about the event.

And here are a few pictures that we took.

Peggy Hanson and Jenni McHugh, wife of Featherstone Farm farmer Jack Hedin

Frank Wright shows his Japanese sharpening stones to Tom VanderLinden, University of Minnesota Extension agent

Peggy Hanson (left) and Liz Heywood, manager of Bluff Country Co-op in Winona.  With spinach salad - topped with steak, winter radish and green beans.  Olive oil, sherry vinegar and shallot vinaigrette.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hands On - Buttermilk Scones

I just posted a video on You Tube showing how to make buttermilk scones.
Here is the recipe and a few comments.

4 cups flour (I like to use some whole wheat pastry flour for extra nutrition.  Or you can use all white flour.)
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 T. baking powder (that is the same as 4 1/2 t.)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt
2/3 cup butter (that is just about 11 T.  One stick is 8 T.)  -- cold and cut into 1/2 cubes
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (approx.  I often find I need an extra 1/4 cup or so depending on the flour I am using.)
Egg wash - optional - 1 egg, beaten well with 1/4 cup milk
raw sugar for sprinkling on top

Mix dry ingredients well in a large bowl.  Cut in butter with pastry cutter or two knives or work quickly with fingertips.  Add buttermilk and blend with a fork until dough clings together into a shaggy mass.  Put dough on to floured surface and knead a few times.  Divide into three pieces and knead a little more, forming two "patties".  Cut each into six wedges.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle on sugar.  Place on baking sheet - best to lightly grease or use parchment paper, depending on the surface of the sheet you use.  Bake about 10 minutes at 425 degrees - until lightly browned.
If you don't eat these the first day, wrap well and freeze.  They reheat beautifully.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Better living with beets

The Coca Cola company has been telling us for over a year now that drinking Coke will make us happy.  Have you noticed all the "Open Happiness" billboards and commercials?  I think this is a brilliant ad campaign.  Who doesn't want to be happy, right?  Why didn't the U.S. Broccoli Council (I assume there is one) think of this first?

That is why I was so interested in the Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index - a project that maps well-being in the U.S.   They did not include Coke drinking on their list of quality of life indicators.  They did include fruit and vegetable consumption.  They asked people lots of questions, including whether they ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day on at least four of the previous seven days.   Then they made a map comparing fruit and vegetable consumption all over the U.S., by congressional district.  They also mapped other indicators such as obesity, health insurance, stress and learning.

Take a look.  I enjoyed spending some time with these maps.  Maybe you will too.  I don't know if they prove that rutabagas will make you happy.  But I do think they show that eating more fruits and vegetables is a really good idea.