Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Seasonal Dinner on a Cold Night

I have always hesitated to make pot pies. I have attempted some pretty radical recipes, yet I fear making pot pie. Why? It's too close to baking. And I suck at baking. I'm good at cooking. You know, you can improvise if you are craving something specific, change the ingredient amounts up a bit, throw in whatever is in your fridge (or hopefully your pantry and/or garden). But baking, that's about being precise. At least to me. I always feel like I am about to fail chem lab when I bake.

Anyway, I decided that tonight was cold and a good excuse to get over my pot pie phobia. I made sweet potato pot pies thanks to Heidi Swanson from Sweet potatoes are in season right now, but you really can add anything you have from the garden or in your pantry like turnips, swiss chard, or carrots (which are also all in season).

Sweet Potato Pot Pies (adapted from 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson)
Serves 4

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups cold 2 percent milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups pulled chicken, from a store-bought rotisserie chicken
1 box puff pastry dough, thawed
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Saute the garlic, onion and sweet potatoes in olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until potatoes are soft. This should take about 10 minutes with your burner on medium. Add the corn and adobo sauce and saute for 2 more minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the milk and cornstarch together. Pour the mixture slowly into the sauce pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until the filling starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and season with more salt to taste. Divide the rotisserie chicken into 4 bowls and pour the mixture on top to fill each bowl 3/4 of the way.

Cut a piece of puff pastry dough to fit over each bowl, with some overlap. Create several small slits with a knife in each square to allow steam to escape. Place the dough on the bowls and fold over the edge of the dish. Brush the dough lightly with egg white.

Put the bowls on a baking sheet covered in foil in case it boils over a bit. Bake until the crusts golden, about 15 minutes.

I served the pot pies with a salad made with lettuce, Asian pears, persimmons, goat cheese, toasted pinenuts and balsamic vinaigrette. Most lettuce, Asian pears and persimmons are in season (from cold storage) and you should be able to get them from your local farmer's market. I still have some great heirloom lettuce growing in my garden that has survived the recent cold. This salad was sweet and light and complimented the heavy, wintery pot pies really well.

I must admit, I am over my pot pie phobia. At least for now. This recipe was really easy and quick to make with just a few ingredients. You could replace the adobo for some thyme sprigs while you are cooking the potatoes if you don't like the smoky taste. I'm feeling a lot more confident and hopefully I can try this with more veggies from my winter garden.