This week I am in an unfamiliar kitchen that is “equipment-challenged.” Anyone that has worked with me will tell you I am a “from-scratch” cook and have been known to look down on packaged mixes and ready made products. However in my older years I am mellowing in my opinions… So when I wanted to make chicken-pot-pie for a crowd this week and knew I lacked a pastry cutter and rolling pin, I realized that this was one of those moments to put aside pride! So off to the store for some pre-made pie crust. I did however make my own broth. Why waste boiling a whole chicken? Chicken-pot-pie is almost the first thing I think of when the leaves start to turn in earnest.
- Put all of these ingredients in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked.
- Remove chicken and set aside. Keep simmering broth.
- When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones and return the bones to the broth.
- Continue cooking until you have about 4 to 6 cups of broth, after straining through a colander. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Melt butter in a stock pot
- Add onion, carrots, celery, parsnips and mushrooms and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes.
- Add thyme and cook another minute.
- Add flour and cook again another couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add 4 cups of the stock and bring to a boil to thicken.
- Turn heat down and simmer a few minutes until vegetables begin to get tender.
- Chop chicken into chunks and add that and parsley to the pot.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pile into a 9″ glass pie plate. Sprinkle peas on top.
- Place crust over all, crimp edge decoratively. Brush egg wash over crust. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
The kitchen was really busy last night. Eight of us were buzzing around cooking for an upcoming party. Really great energy. As much as I think I am a person who prefers to be alone, I love the energy of being in the kitchen with a crowd of people. Don’t get me wrong — there is something to cooking alone — being there in the quiet, creating something delicious for someone else to enjoy. It ministers to my spirit, and I sometimes get great ideas and thoughts about other projects. But a group that is working well together, chaotic as it might be, also ministers to the whole group in a way that can’t be duplicated. In the middle of this I was putting together my favorite Beef Mushroom Barley soup for guests and a retreat group the next day. What could be better on a cold rainy day! My brother in law just came through and tasted the soup. He said it needed some red wine, so I added a splash. He was so right!
Mushroom Beef Barley Soup
- Pour boiling water over dried mushrooms to cover, set aside.
- In a large soup pot, saute beef in 1 Tablespoon oil until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, remove from pan.
- In the same pot, with the other Tablespoon of oil, cook your carrots, onions, leeks, celery and baby bella mushrooms until just browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in barley and thyme and cook for another minute.
- Add the beef broth.
- Drain dried mushrooms in a sieve, and add that liquid also to the pot.
- Chop the mushrooms until fine, and add those.
- Toss in the bay leaves.
- Simmer until meat is tender and barley cooked (about an hour for the beef tenders, and longer for the stew meat).
- A little while before serving pour in the wine, and heat again.
- Add kosher salt and ground pepper to taste. This can be made 2 or 3 days in advance — it will taste even better if made ahead.
We leave our leeks in the garden to enjoy through the winter months. I took advantage of the January thaw to pluck a few for inspiration. I love using things up in a creative way, and I remembered that I had a few bags of croutons in the freezer, left over from our “O Antiphon” Party at Christmas, where we had served up a hot cheese dip on hollowed out bread bowls. I immediately thought of a savory bread pudding. I also found some sauteed mushrooms in the freezer — a treasure! So I added a little celery, some eggs and cream, and voila! I had tonight’s side dish for a roast, or today’s lunch with a salad and crusty bread.
Savory Bread Pudding with Leeks and Mushrooms
Savory Bread Pudding With Leeks And Mushrooms
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish.
- Melt butter or bacon fat in large skillet over medium high heat.
- Add mushrooms, leeks, celery and saute until soft, about 10 to 12 minutes; add thyme and cook about a minute more until fragrant.
- In a large bowl, mix together bread cubes and vegetable mixture.
- Whisk together heavy cream, eggs, salt and ground pepper in another bowl.
- Mix custard into bread and vegetables, then transfer to prepared baking dish.
- Sprinkle grated cheese over top.
- Bake pudding uncovered until set and top is golden, about 35 to 40 minutes.