Saturday, January 31, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie ~ with a Pre-Made Pie Crust

This is a classic winter dish and you can get them fresh or frozen and ready for baking at many local grocery stores. They are particularly good on a cold winter afternoon and combined with a glass of white wine, make for a complete meal. But the store-bought fresh variety are sometimes very large and many times not so good, mostly due to the soggy bottom crust.

Julian's (Crispy Crust) Chicken Pot Pie
This problem is solved in the small frozen variety through the miracles of industrial food production (don't ask). It also helps that they have a dark foil lined pie plate. But if you want to avoid the industrial frozen variety, then make your own! It's really easy and this fresh version will be much more flavorful than anything you can buy at the store.

Room Temperature Pie Crusts, with Egg Wash
I solve the problem of the soggy bottom crust, as I do with some of my dessert pies, by pre-baking the crust and varnishing it with egg wash to help seal it from the wet contents. You can skip this step if you don't mind a soggy crust or you can eliminate the bottom crust as some shops do. I like both a top and bottom crust so I always make it using this method. It does add a few extra steps, but I think you'll agree it's worth the little extra effort.

Crust with parchment paper and pie weights ready for first baking.
Baked once, weights removed, painted and ready to bake again.

This recipe can easily be modified to accommodate turkey or ham, which I often do right after Thanksgiving and Christmas. I use fresh green beans so they have a little crunch when you eat them. You can substitute canned green beans if you prefer them soft.

Carrots, Green Beans, Celery

1 box of refrigerated pie crusts
     ~ or your own previously made crust
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk

1/3 cup butter
Pillsbury Ready Crust
1 small chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium sliced carrot
1 medium chopped celery
1/3 cup flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk)
2 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup green beans, cut bite sized (fresh or canned)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Let pie crusts (two pieces, one for top and one for bottom) come to room temperature by sitting on counter for 30 minutes. Place a baking tray on the oven rack, in the lowest position of your oven. Heat oven to 425°F.

Line a glass 9-inch standard (not deep dish) pie plate with the bottom crust. Pierce it in several places with a fork. Line with parchment paper and add pie weights or beans and bake 8 minutes sitting on the hot baking tray. Remove from oven and let cool briefly then remove the pie weights and parchment. Mix together the egg and milk, and paint the crust. Wrap the edge with foil to prevent browning. Reserve remaining egg wash.  Return to oven for 5 more minutes to continue baking. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350F degrees.

In large saucepan, melt butter over moderate heat. Add onion, salt and pepper; cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add carrots and celery and cook 5-8 minutes more just until fork tender. Stir in flour, until well blended. Slowly stir in broth and cream/milk. Cook and stir until bubbly and thickened.

Chop or shred your poached chicken breast or use leftovers from a roasted chicken. Canned chicken also works if necessary.

Filled and ready for top crust.
Stir in chicken, green beans and poultry seasoning. Taste and add salt/pepper as you prefer. Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken mixture into crust-lined pie pan. Set any remaining sauce aside. Top with second crust; Crimp the edge with fork tines then cut slits in several places in top crust to vent. Paint the top crust with the remaining egg wash. Discard excess egg wash.

Bake 45 minutes in 350F degree oven. During last 15 to 20 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with strips of foil if necessary to prevent excessive browning. Cover the entire crust if becoming too brown. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. (Pass any extra sauce if needed, although I usually only use it for left overs rewarmed.)

Julian's Chicken Pot Pie, inside.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Caribbean Pork ~ A Cream Coconut Curry with Plantains and Rice

Because of our home in St. Thomas, USVI we get local Caribbean food on a somewhat regular schedule. But when I'm home in Chicago I still get a taste for the flavors of the islands and so today I'm making pork tenderloin that is rich in Caribbean flavors.

Julian's Caribbean Pork with Plantains and Rice
I'm doing it in the slow cooker today, but you could just as easily do it in a low temperature oven (about 225F). You could also purchase a coconut curry powder or sauce but if you have the simple list of ingredients below, you can easily make it yourself.

About 2.5 pounds of pork tenderloin.
I use the word 'curry' in my description because that's what the locals often call it... a pork curry. Curry is a generic term used to describe a variety of spiced dishes with the consistency of a stew with a gravy-like sauce. However, there is no particular ingredient or spice that makes something curry, so don't just purchase a bottle of spice named 'curry' and think you will get the same flavors I have here.

If you prefer to substitute chicken, please go right ahead as this is equally common in the islands.

Caribbean Pork


1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoons ground cardamom
1 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 to 2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup cream or sour cream

Mix the spices until well combined. Place the oil in the crock pot or heavy roasting pan and heat until warm. Cut the pork into large chunks as shown. Add the spices to the hot oil and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add a little more oil if necessary to insure a paste-like consistency. Add the pork and stir to coat the pieces. Add the hot water and the coconut milk. Cover and heat on low setting (or oven at 225F degrees). Cook for 3-4 hours until meat is tender by not falling apart.

Remove the meat to dish to stay warm and heat the sauce. Mix together the flour and 4 tablespoons of water and stir into the hot sauce, stirring constantly until it thickens.  Remove from heat and add the cream or sour cream. Return the meat to the sauce and turn gently to coat.

Serve over rice.

Friend Sweet Plantains

Plantains are often mistaken for bananas, and while they’re part of the banana family, they are very different. The main difference is that they must be cooked before being eaten; this is due to the fact that they are starchier than bananas.

Green plantains are used in a variety of savory dishes, from appetizers to soups. Ripe plantains, sometimes called just maduros, are used in both savory and sweet dishes. Today I'm simply frying ripe plantains as a side dish for the pork above. Simply purchase ripe (yellow) plantains, about one half per person. You do want relatively fresh plantains as old plantains cooked in this fashion can be very starchy and dry.

Cut the ends off the plantains and cut each one in half. Peel them and slice them in half lengthwise. In a large skillet over medium-high heat add 1/4 cup oil and fry the plantains slowly until they are browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt and serve.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Creamed Onion Tart

I first had this creamed onion tart when my friend Wayne brought it to the house. It was so absolutely delicious I had to have the recipe which he provided via Southern Living magazine (November 2014). It takes about 1.5 hours to prepare, but the technique isn't difficult and the results are worth the effort.

Cream Onion Tart
While we had it initially as part of a dinner buffet, my favorite why to serve the dish is for brunch with a side salad. It also pairs well with my woodsy mushroom soup. However you serve it, the creamy texture and baking flavors will keep you making it again and again. And as it uses prepared pie crusts, it's pretty simple and comes out well every time.

1/2 (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
3 thick bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch tart pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake crust 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels. Reserve drippings in skillet.

Reduce heat to medium, and melt butter with drippings; add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Cover and cook about 10 more minutes or until onions are soft and lightly browned. Uncover and cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove skillet from heat, and cool completely.

Whisk together crème fraîche and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in bacon and onions. Spread mixture in prepared crust.

Bake at 400F degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden and set. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before slicing.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Austin's Qui ~ by Top Chef Texas winner Paul Qui

While in Austin I had the opportunity to dine at Paul Qui's restaurant that has received so much acclaim and now I know why.

Chef Paul Qui
If you haven't seen Chef Qui on television, you may not have heard of his food trucks and restaurants. He is however a great and highly decorated young chef. He was the recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest 2012, winner of Top Chef Season 9, and winner of the San Pellegrino Cooking Cup 2013. He was named one of Food & Wine magazine's 2014 Best New Chefs and when you taste his Asian-inspired dishes you'll understand why.

Small Dishes ~ Big Flavor
Chef Qui was born in the Philippines and trained in classic French and Japanese cuisine, but he takes a modern approach to food that includes the local flavors of Texas, while while incorporating influences from South East Asian and European cuisines. The dishes served at Qui ranged from fantastic flavor combinations like coconut vinegar, back pepper, chicken adobo, tomato fresco, and black limes (that's one dish) to pork blood, maitake mushroom, purslane, picked garlic, and red onion (another dish).

Finishing Touches Applied with Tweezers Tableside
At Qui you have only two options, vegetarian or animal protein. Once you select you receive seven small but tantalizing courses with or without wine pairing. Of course I had the wine. Great selections! My favorite dish was the fish caramel, smoked waygu short rib with cowgirl creamery red hawk cheese , hakuri turnips and tamarind. The dessert of coconut fig caramel, goat milk ice cream, huckleberries and coffee cashew semifreddo was also divine!

Scrumptious Dessert
The atmosphere is casual and the day we were there the weather was nice enough to open the restaurant to the outdoor east-side Austin eclectic neighborhood. Prices were also quite reasonable for such a well prepared meal using only the finest ingredients. $65 per person, or $110 with wine pairing for the animal protein menu. $10 less for the vegetarian.

Casual Atmosphere
If you find yourself in Austin and tire of the (also very good) barbecue, then step it up and enjoy dinner at Qui. You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

White Chicken Chili Enchiladas

Fast, delicious, inexpensive; what more could ask for in a dish? You might follow my recipe below once or twice but thereafter you'll just put these together from memory. They really are that easy. And your family will want you to make them regularly if they enjoy Mexican foods.

Julian's White Chicken Chili Enchiladas
Individual Serving - 3 pieces
Plan on 2-3 enchiladas per person. I do prefer making them in individual dishes (as shown below) for ease of serving but you can certainly bake them all in one 9 x 12 inch oven-safe baking dish as well. I've sometimes served them a side of yellow rice, but really that's not needed. I do enjoy a little salad served along side them to add some color and some fresh vegetable to the dinner.

The simple ingredients.

I prefer the corn tortilla shell in this recipe, but you can certainly use a standard wheat tortilla too. In fact the wheat version is much easier to handle. Once stuffed and rolled, they stay put while you make the others. The corn on the other hand, tend to want to unroll. If you use the corn tortillas as I did, then have a helper handy to hold them down while you make more, or use some type of weight to keep them from coming unwrapped until your pan is full. If using corn tortillas you will need to make enough to fill the pan so that they stay rolled tightly before you sauce them.

Chicken and Cheese
8-10 soft tortilla shells, wheat or corn (see note above)
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups shredded Monterey/Colby Jack cheese
3 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
8 ounces canned green chilies, diced or whole
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and spray your baking dish(es) with food release (Pam) or lightly oil.

Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese. Place some in each tortilla shell, roll and place in the baking dish, side by side touching.

In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium-high heat until thick and bubbly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in chilies and cook for 1 minute until warmed through. Turn off heat and stir in the sour cream.

Pour over enchiladas and sprinkle top with remaining cheese.  Bake 20 minutes. Switch the oven to broil and brown the cheese, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes to cool, then serve.

Ready to Sauce