Friday, September 15, 2017

Chicken and Leek Pie

     Why does English cooking generally get such a bad rap? A lot of people say, when I mention English food, "But it's so bland, so boring, so blah!" I do not find it so, but maybe it has to do more with the particular cook, rather than the cuisine itself. It's also possible that it was so much parr of my upbringing that I don't notice. My Dad's side of the family was English. My Mom's side of the family was Finnish. They both grew up in Iowa and Minnesota on farms and very small towns. I grew up in Minnesota, surrounded by English, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, German, and Polish folk. Spices and herbs were not used much when I was growing up - spicy meant there was a lot of pepper and salt! My Mom would use paprika to help color fried chicken or roast turkey or to make deviled eggs, potato salad, and mashed potatoes company-worthy fancy. It was years before I realized paprika comes in several distinctive flavor.
     My daughter's mother-in-law is British, and though she has lived in the States for many many years, she definite still cooks in an English style. This is especially true for special occasion and holiday dinners where I expect roast beef or lamb, Brussels sprouts, glazed carrots, baby peas, green beans, Yorkshire pudding, and so on.The other nigh, she made a delicious chicken pot pie with leeks and potatoes. It's one of those dishes that doesn't have an actual recipe (at least Pamela doesn't cook from one) but she's willing to share the ingredients that she put in it. Here's a photo to get your mouth watering:
Chicken Leek Pie
     In the photo, you'll notice her little blackbird right in the middle of the pie. This little cutie is there to let out steam from the inside of the pie. They're fun to use, but if you don't have one, simply cut a small hole (about the size of a dime) in the center of the crust, and make 3 - 4 slashes on top of the crust as well This all ensure that your crust stays flaky and doesn't get soggy from the steamy, bubbly inside of the pie while it's baking.
     The crust can be from your own favorite recipe or it can be bought frozen or refrigerated and prepared. As long as it is buttery, flaky, and light, it will be delicious. In a large bowl, she combined cooked chopped chicken (use some dark meat to add flavor and juiciness to white meat), mashed potatoes (mashed with butter and cream), cleaned, steamed leeks cut into bite sized pieces. A little leftover chicken gravy, or if you don't have any, make a medium white sauce - just enough to stick everything together. Salt and pepper completes her list. If I have anything else, such as green beans, broccoli, carrots, celery, those are nice additions and adds color, texture, and flavor. This is a very forgiving dish in terms of ingredients. I also tend to use white pepper instead of black pepper, and I might be tempted to ass some fresh thyme and/or sage. But these are my preferences - be sure to use what you like!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Frozen TV Dinner Stories

     This has really been a heck of a year for me - after I completed the first 8 weeks or so of healing and rehabilitation after open heart surgery, I found it necessary to move. On the plus side, it's only 3 or 4 blocks from my old house, it's a secured entrance condo with an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, exercise room, and a pool table. Plus, really nice and welcoming residents. It's at the other end of town from my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids, but that's only 5-6 miles away, so it's not too bad. Would have been much nicer to live a block or two away from them, but it didn't happen that way.
     Quite a few years ago, I moved about the same distance but that time was horrible - I thought, I'll just throw things in the back seat of my car and make a few trips. Right. After several days of this, we had to finish the move so had friends help us. It was hot and tiring, and things mostly ended up in the basement. I vower never again! So, this time, I packed everything and got professional movers because some of the furniture and boxes were pretty heavy. I still have a weight limit of what I can push, pull, drag, lift, etc., so I'm relatively useless. I also spent some of the last couple of weeks eating from my freezer (which I had no room for in my new condo) and refrigerator. I actually did a pretty fair job of that.
     The first night in my condo, I had planned on eating a frozen TV dinner, so I didn't have to worry about finding and unpacking pots and pans, plates, etc. I didn't even think about flatware! So, as I scrambled through the house trying to find a fork or spoon (I did find a pickle tongs and considered that!) I was reminded of a similar situation a few years back.
     For my day job, I had a meeting in a different city. We were all to arrive in the afternoon and planned to meet for dinner at 7 PM. My first plane was late, so I missed the connecting flight, and the new and final flight was delayed, so instead of arriving around 3 in the afternoon, I arrived at the hotel about midnight. Starving, because I figured I could eat once I got there. Room service ended at 11:00 PM and the kitchen was closed. I went to the front desk and begged them to take me to a McDonalds or pizza place - anything open after midnight. There was nothing like that for 30 miles. One person mentioned there was a convenience store as part of a gas station that they could take me to, and reminded my that there was a microwave oven in the room. So, off we went.
     For some reason, they were out of almost everything except popsicles and ice cream, but I found a Salisbury steak, gravy, corn niblets, and mashed potatoes frozen TV dinner. I grabbed it.
     Back in my hotel room, I stuck the container in the microwave and then started looking for flatware (which, of course, I neglected to grab at the gas station). No luck. I did find those skinny straws-like stirring sticks for coffee. Aha! Problem solved! I sat down to eat and tried to use the stir-sticks like chopsticks. I managed to spear a piece of Salisbury steak and could scoop up some mashed potatoes, but the corn was one kernel at a time. And I was so hungry!!! Sitting cross-legged on the bed, I thought, "No one is here to see you!" so I grabbed a washcloth as a napkin, and proceeded to eat everything with my fingers. What a mess - but fingers were our original utensils, after all.
     I though about this experience as I searched for a fork or something for my creamed chicken, broccoli, fettuccini meal. Luckily, I did find a fork, and a messy meal was averted.
     The one thing I kept thinking about, though, was "Thank Goodness that IFBC is on the close horizon" - I cannot wait to get there!