I'm laid up and loving it. That is to say, I appear to be faux-laid-up having, to my total embarrassment, perpetrated an elaborate fraud on my nearest and dearest.
I had a wee bit of oral surgery yesterday which I thought had the potential to be a whole big palaver. So, readiness being all, I made provisions. Lots of provisions. Parsnip bisque. Check. Boat-loads of good Greek yogurt. Check. Lovely stone ground grits prepared with lashings of cream. Check.
Not to mention a brand new shiny copy of the new Tom Wolfe book, and, to be on the safe side, the new Ian McEwan too. Plus. lots of saved up (it's not nice to call me a hoarder, now is it?) fluffy sections of the New York Times and the weekend Wall Street Journal, all safely staged at bed-side.
Yes, I do admit that I mentioned it to a couple of people in advance, well, maybe several people, but I wasn't looking for pity. No, really, I assure you that I was not.
So the day dawned, and perhaps, best of all, a calendar relentlessly cleared for three whole days.
What can I say? The procedure went beautifully, I took the requisite medicine and took to my bed where, after a brief nap, and much fawning over me by the aforementioned loved ones, I woke up feeling fit as a fiddle! No pain, no swelling, no nothing but severe horror at my new status--that of a confirmed drama queen.
However, drama queen or no, it's given me the opportunity to catch up on my reading, have some long cozy chats with pals all over the globe and, from the picturesque comfort of my bed, tap into a cultural zeitgeist and notice that what we all want is clearly chicken pot pie.
First I had a long talk to beloved Peter in California who was full of all sorts of news, but who took a little break from imparting it, to opine on my apparently much loved and missed, chicken pot pie.
Next I read a very disheartening article in yesterday's Style section of the New York Times which mourned the loss of dinner parties. (Perhaps in New York, but they seem to be alive and well here, though that is a conversation for another time.) Anyway, Guy Trebay reiterated one of my most heartfelt beliefs which is, that dinner party guests really don't need and, more importantly don't want, over-the-top fancy food. What they want is compelling conversation, some nice libation, and something homemade and comforting to eat--in short, chicken pot pie.
Now chicken pot pie, at least my version, is the easiest thing in the world to make and make well, given a few, well, givens. One given is that you have stowed in your freezer a couple of balls of my no-fail pie crust. If so, move them to the fridge to thaw. Secondly, you have made a salt-encrusted roast chicken as discussed in a previous post, made some gravy from the drippings and giblets, have eaten most of a breast of it and put all of the rest in the fridge to await its next iteration.
And truthfully, even those givens aren't absolute. You could make this with any old roast chicken, even (don't tell anyone) a couple of rotisserie chickens you've denuded and the evidence of which you've carefully buried. Plus, if you don't have the dough in the freezer, just go on and make it now. It will take you precisely five minutes and make you feel better about the rotisserie chickens.
If you don't have any gravy, after you've compiled the "guts" of the pot pie, simply sprinkle a little flour over the top of the amalgam, cook for a couple of minutes to dispense of the raw taste of the flour, and then add chicken stock a little at a time, stirring constantly, until it makes it's own gravy. Add some poultry seasoning, and some of that great all natural "Better than Bouillon" reduced sodium chicken base you can find next to the chicken stock at a decent grocery. (Which, by the way, you should have anyway as it's magic chicken elixir imparting its essential self to any chicken dish.)
Anyway, do make this chicken pot pie and have a dinner party. You'll be thrilled. Everyone will be thrilled, and you'll be doing your part to save a grand cultural institution for future generations. Now I must go--Tom Wolfe is calling me.
Chicken Pot Pie
6 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut into 1 " dice
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 ribs of celery, coarsely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
2 bulbs of fennel, fronds and hearts removed, flesh coarsely chopped
1 lb mushrooms, brushed (not washed!) and chopped
Chicken picked from one large cooked roasting chicken or two rotisserie chickens, skin and bones discarded
Gravy from that roasted chicken (see above text for alternative)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 package frozen peas
1 large or two small balls of Clare's no-fail pie crust
1 egg beaten with a little milk for a pastry wash
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a very large pan, saute bacon until fat starts to render. Add onions, celery, carrots, red pepper and fennel and saute until slightly brown, around 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue sauteing until most of the mushroom's fluid has cooked off and it's all slightly browned. Add chicken and gravy (or if there's no gravy, make gravy as above), poultry seasoning and sage and stir until nicely warmed through. Add frozen peas and continue to cook, stirring for two minutes. Remove from the heat. This comprises the "guts" of the chicken pot pie. Place the "guts" into a large shallow baking dish which will allow space at the top for the pastry crust.
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to roughly cover the pot pie. Do not attempt to make it perfect and beautiful! You want it to look homemade so everyone will appreciate how wonderful it is! Place it on top of the guts. Cut a few slashes in the pastry with a sharp knife which will serve as vents, and, with a pastry brush, brush the wash over the top which will make it shiny.
Bake for about 45 minutes, keeping an eye on it, removing it when the "guts" are nicely bubbling and the crust is brown and shiny. Serve immediately with Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes.