Friday, October 28, 2011

Whole Foods Friday: Comfort Food (Part 1)

It's that time of year, isn't it? No, I don't mean the holidays that are rapidly approaching. Not quite. And I don't mean cold weather, either, although that's sort of related.

What I mean is comfort food potluck season. In the summer, it's barbecue-style potlucks. But now it's about bringing comforting foods foods, whether it's for a family gathering or an office party, or a get-together with neighbors. Main dish, side dish, or dessert, these recipes will get you through the events in style.

And to keep these from being too ridiculously long, I've made each recipe its own post.

First up - right here - is a chicken and turkey pie - a hearty and homey main dish. In the next post is a baked bean recipe for those parties where you need to bring a side dish. Last, there's cheesecake.

When I was a kid, my mom wasn't a big fan of convenience foods. But every once in a while she relented and bought one of my favorite things - pot pies. I wasn't fond of the beef pot pies, but I loved both the chicken and turkey pot pies.

When mom made chicken, it was usually roasted. And turkeys were for Thanksgiving. The idea of cut up bits of chicken or turkey in a sauce was something different, and that made it appealing. And as a kid, eating pie for dinner was a plus.

Later, I learned about different kinds of dinner-worthy pies, like shepherd's pie. This poultry pie is a combination of those two ideas, with a chicken and turkey filling like the pot pies I loved so much, and a potato topping like shepherd's pie. But of course, that's not enough of a twist. I didn't use white potatoes for the topping - oh no, I went for sweet potatoes, for a brilliant pop of color.

This can be made ahead of time and assembled and reheated just before serving. And if you don't care for sweet potatoes? Sure, you could use white potatoes. Or serve this over rice or noodles, if you prefer.

Chicken and Turkey "Shepherd's" Pie

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 turkey tenderloin, cut in 1-inch cubes
4 carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks cut in 1-inch pieces
1 large onion - cut in large dice
1 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 pound mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup frozen peas
Kernels from 2 cobs fresh corn
1/2 cup cream or milk (optional)
2 sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot on medium-high heat - a cast iron dutch oven is perfect. Brown the chicken and turkey on all sides. You might need to do this in several batches, depending on the size of your pan - you don't want to crowd the pieces. When the chicken is browned all sided, remove it from the pan and set aside.

Add the carrots, celery, onions, and salt. Lower the heat to medium and add 1/2 cup of water. Cook, stirring as needed, until the water has just about cooked out. Add the mushrooms and thyme and continue cooking, stirring as needed to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. When the liquid is cooked out, add the flour and stir until it has coated the vegetables and you don't see any dry bits of flour any more.

Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are fork-tender - about 15 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the carrots. Add the peas and corn. Add the chicken back to the pot. Stir in the cream.

Meanwhile, cook the sweet potatoes. The easiest way is to poke them a few times with a fork and microwave until tender. Or, if you prefer, roast them. When they're done, scoop the flesh out, put it in a bowl, and add the butter and a pinch of salt. Mash - or if you prefer a smoother puree, blend with a stick blender. transfer the potatoes to a pastry bag fitted with your preferred tip, or to a zip-top plastic bag with one corner snipped off.

Portion the chicken mixture into individual serving containers and top with a border of the sweet potatoes.

If you prefer, you can serve this family-style from a larger serving bowl.

See this page for information about Whole Foods Friday.


Rodzilla said...

that looks too good, and that's some damned impressive sweet potato piping.

Anonymous said...

3 cheers for comfort food in pots and pans... This look crazy comforting!

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