Sunday, January 31, 2010

cold nights and warm pot pie

Lately I've been running everywhere. In the morning I run to the train, then I run in between all my classes, run home from the train, run to work and home again. If you could call it a run. An awkward winter hustle is more accurate, my hands shoved in my pockets, my head down low, an uncomfortable waddle as I try to keep my cheap backpack from smacking me in the face. 

The other night, after watching Heathers and pigging out on sundaes with a friend, I walked for the first time in weeks. It was a "warm night", about 25, and I was content just to walk briskly, shoulders back through the drunken wasteland that is my neighborhood on a Friday night. It helped I wasn't wearing a backpack. It felt so good to slow down and look around. 

Tonight, I'm running from homework. These past few days have been rough and I can't quite place why. Or I don't want to. So when I got off work today the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and work on my Research Methods project. Sexual promiscuity and gender differences was the last thing I wanted to delve into.  Instead, I turned to my favorite distraction: food. With the support of my family (and their wallets) I was able to make this fabulous pot pie my winter weary heart has been craving. So I slowed down for a little bit, labored over the stove, ate a meal with the family, and tried to breathe a little bit. 

And now to further postpone the homework, I thought I should immediately come home and share the recipe. I waited three weeks to make this, but that doesn't mean anyone else should have to. 

Chicken & Fennel Pot Pie
inspired by Bon Appetit, February 1995

Makes 8 individual portions or one large casserole dish. An aesthetic and availability choice really.

-5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
-1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, core removed, and sliced super thin
-1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
-1 cup diced carrot
-3/4 sliced button mushroom
-5 Tbs unsalted butter
-5 tbs unbleached white flour
-2 cups milk
-2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
-2 tsp. fennel seeds
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. garlic powder

Pie Crust:
-3 cups sifted all purpose flour
-3/4 tsp salt
-3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), chilled
-4 1/2 Tbs vegetable shortening, chilled
-6 Tbs water

1 egg white

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a dutch oven. Add fennel, cook about 7 minutes. Add chicken  and carrot next, simmer all until carrot is tender, about 10 minutes. Pour into strainer over a bowl, reserve.

Preheat oven to 375.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour, stir for 2 minutes. Slowly add milk plus half a cup of reserved broth (discard rest of broth, or save for another use), until sauce is thick, about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice, fennel seeds, salt, garlic powder, and the sliced mushrooms. Add chicken mixture. Pour into 8 individual ramekins or a casserole dish. 

Meanwhile, roll out dough. Place on top of ramekins or casserole. Brush dough with whisked egg white.  Bake in oven until dough is golden and your whole kitchen smells heavenly, about 40 minutes. 

Sit down, breathe, enjoy :)

Pie Crust
Combine flour and salt in processor and blend. Add butter and shortening and process, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 4 tablespoons water; blend in. Add enough additional water by tablespoonfuls to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until cold, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. Makes 8 small cups or enough to cover a casserole. 

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