Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Vegetable Pot Pie

One thing that I love about food blogging is that it forces me to push out of my comfort zone in terms of the ingredients that I buy. Before I started food blogging, I would flip through a cookbook and see a recipe containing, say, swiss chard, and think "next!" Not because I don't like swiss chard, but because I don't like wandering around a grocery store in search of obscure produce, and I CERTAINLY don't like wandering around multiple grocery stores in search of obscure produce. But when you've committed to a blogging group, you don't just NOT make the recipe just because you don't know what bok choy is. No, you sweetly email your husband and ask him to locate bok choy for you.

In fact, ever since we've been married, or at least since we've had three children whom both I, and my fellow shoppers, prefer that I not drag to the grocery with me, I've emailed grocery lists to my hubs multiple times a week. No matter how hard I try to menu-plan, or how thorough I try to be during my main weekly shopping trip, it still seems like we end up needing one or two or twenty more things during the course of the week. So David is used to getting emails from me like this:

Subject: We Need

diapers (size 3)
trash bags
sliced sandwich cheese (2%)

Now that I am food blogging, he's still getting lots of grocery emails from me, but they look more like this:

Subject: Can you stop at Publix on way home?

And get

diapers (size 3)
trash bags
sliced sandwich cheese (2%)
saffron threads
fennel bulb
sharffen berger bittersweet chocolate

And bless him, he never complains about the suddenly bizarre contents of my list -- all he asks is that I put it all in a single email and not send him a separate email each time an ingredient pops into my head. I'm working on that.

This week's recipe Barefoot Bloggers challenge for Vegetable Pot Pie, chosen by my favorite blogger-in-paradise, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, had a few of those exotic ingredients that would have caused me to skip this recipe altogether in my pre-blogging days. I did leave out the Pernod because I didn't have it, and now that I've been food blogging for a few months, I realize that nobody will send the police after you if you skip an ingredient. So I made a mental note to be sure to buy some Pernod to add to the Vegetable Pot Pie next time I make it when we are NOT in the middle of a global financial meltdown.

And I almost left out the fennel, because I am not big fan of the flavor, but in the end I went with it. I'm glad I did, because it added an instant "party!" element to my kitchen, in that 80s hair band kind of way.

The long-lost sixth member of Whitesnake:

And it actually tasted good in the pie too -- an added bonus!

First step in the recipe was cooking the onion and fennel in Ina's usual metric ton of butter. I'll be honest: Ina and I are having some "trust issues" where butter is concerned (she does not yet know that we are having issues). Here is my butter philosophy: if the quality of the recipe depends on copious butter use, by all means, butter away. But if the butter does not really add a whole lot in terms of flavor or texture, then why are we using it? I felt a little bit foolish after sauteeing my leeks in a stick of butter for the Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup. So many people omitted, or significantly decreased, the butter amount that Ina called for, and obtained equally good results. With the Butternut Squash Risotto, I left out all but a small amount of butter, and the dish could not have been more amazing. So forgive me when I got to the part in the recipe about sauteeing onions and thought: "really, a stick and a half of butter Ina? I don't believe you."

Problem was, this was the base of the sauce for the pot pie, and I probably really DID need more butter than I ended up using (2 tablespoons, rather than the stick and a half that she called for), because my pot pies were a bit on the dry side. A full stick and a half? Probably not.

Well, enough butter or not, I eventually assembled a little fleet of pot pie vegetables:

and started on the crust. I got a little "water happy" when making my crust, and I was pretty sure that I ruined it. I thought about adding more flour to it, but then I was afraid that I would just end up overmixing it, which might even be worse than overwatering it. I thought about wringing it out like a towel . . . anyway. Well, as it turned out, the crust tasted wonderful!

That's what I like, a recipe that can withstand my efforts to destroy it. None of this "leave the pan for five minutes and almost burn down your kitchen" business. The fact that this crust survived my little rainstorm earns it a permanent spot in my "keeper" column.

David and I enjoyed these pot pies. He said that he couldn't help but dig around in there looking for chicken, but you know how the old saying goes: "you can give a vegetarian dish to a carnivore, but you can't make him not dig around for the chicken." Or something like that. I actually enjoyed this more with every bite, which completely defies the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns, and also explains why I have a hard time with portion control.

Thanks for picking this one, Deb! It's a hearty, comforting, soul-warming dish -- perfect for fall!


12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.


Marthe said...

This looks amazing!!! Funny how you mention you love the foodblogging because that way you have to get out of your comfort zone, it's the same for me! (e.g. the pumpkin muffins ;)

Suzie said...

Great post - I definitely wasn't expecting Whitesnake! I had pastry issues too, and it tasted fine for me as well (although shortening still baffles me)

Debinhawaii said...

Oh my--I laughed so hard reading your post--the fennel really is the missing Whitesnake member! (Where is Tawny rolling around on the car?!) ;-) Glad you liked the pick and being out of your comfort zone--that is half the fun isn't it!?! Nice job on the great-looking pies!

Laura said...

Someone pick me up, I'm ROFL! The Whitesnake/fennel bulb connection is just too funny Cathy! I LOVE reading your posts - such a joy :-)

Your 4 pot pies look mahvelous, dahling!

Audrey said...

Um, my pot pies have run away from home because they said it was more fun to live with you. Just call me when they get there? I'll come and pick them up. Yours can come to my house for a while if you want. (I tried the same thing with the butter...did I read something somewhere recently about silly putty?.

Peggy said...

you did such a good job. You put mine to shame girl - I mean to SHAME!!! Love your little fleet and also your fennel comparison. You just gotta love the look of that fennel. Kind of reminds me of my hair today. . . .

Prudy said...

I read your post twice today. Just for fun. I love your grocery list for your husband. I think it's the test of a good man; NOT if he can find everything at the market, but simply the willingness to go. Looks wonderful!

Maria said...

Glad you liked them with the fennel!I love it! We are always making random trips to the store too, luckily there is one around the corner.

Anne said...

Haha, I get the best laughs out of your post every week. I send my husband the same emails and he's always rolling his eyes. Hunting for meat is also typical of him. Silly men.

It looks like they turned out great despite the issues with the butter! I figure, it never hurts to try and reduce it... you'll only learn more for next time. (Except pie crust... I never take butter out of a pastry!)

PS I'm jealous you can buy size 3 diapers... my big drinker is in 5's and it kills me!

chocolatechic said...

I added chicken to mine, because I would have been the one digging for the meat.

We loved this recipe.

Bridgett said...

This looks like a great comforting meal and delicious as well! Sounds like you have a kind hubby as well. I dreaded taking the kids to the store when they were really small so it is always nice to have a willing spouse. A very delicious post here!

n.o.e said...

You add quite the bright note to the food blogosphere (I almost choked on lunch over that hair band/fennel comment). I agree that forgiveness in a recipe is a saving grace indeed. Your pies look great; there's even a nice flakiness to your crust. Good work, you! Oh, and ang onto that man - he sounds like a treasure!

Megan said...

I loved the shopping list! So True! And I used only (only?) a stick of butter to saute the onions and fennel. Your pies look fantastic!

Cynthia's Blog said...

Somebody should send this post to Ina about the butter. Ina, we love you, but, duh???

You have a really fun blog to read and I'll be back. But I hated the Risotto last time, it had no business being in a "family" cookbook (barf).

Meryl said...

The fennel really *was* fun, wasn't it?

Summer said...

They look fabulous! The Whitesnake reference made my day. Hilarious!

manetamer said...

Omg, Cathy, by now I should know better than to read your blog with a full bladder. I came DANGEROUSLY close to wetting my pants this time--"long-lost 6th member of Whitesnake"!!! I am positively howling!

Mary Ann said...

Looks superb! I love that you found that Whitesnake member, they have probably been looking for him for awhile. How nice of your husband to shop for you. I love reading your posts. You really have a way with words! You pot pie turned out great. Make sure you check out what I did with it on Sunday! Thanks for always commenting on my blog!

Natashya said...

I love your pot pie boats! They are soo cute - glad you loved the recipe too.
(How is it that all that butter just makes Ina cuter - but doesn't have the same effect on me?)

1freshstart said...

Grr. I think I self-destructed my comment.
ANYwho. Can you send YOUR husband to train MY husband? That rocks!

Matt said...

I am with you on the Ina/Butter issue. We may as well rename Barefoot Bloggers and call it Cooking Heavy. (Beautiful pot pies and gratin dishes!)

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