This is a bittersweet time of year for me…
We’re saying hello to soups & stews, pumpkin carving (and eating!) & apple picking… and we’re saying goodbye to freshly-grown tomatoes, basil & corn-on-the-cob, patio grilling & ice cream making. Of course, all of this depends on where you live and how much you let weather impact your eating. I try to let the seasons guide me, because then I’m always looking forward to something.
Last year I bought some canned pumpkin because it was on sale. It hibernated in my pantry and after hearing it call my name for a few weeks now, I’ve allowed it to rise and shine.
Pumpkins, by the way, aren’t just for mutilation aimed at glowing with the essence of a child singing ‘All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth’. They’re also meant for more than filling a pie shell and taking the edge off of a turkey-induced, too-much-family-time rampage.
The recipe was always a hit.
This year I decided to rework the plan.
By accident I bought puff pastry sheets and not fillo dough. After a millisecond of panic, I remembered that an accident in the kitchen is OK. I’m not talking about dropping a mixer on your big toe, sawing off your thumb with a serrated knife or adding salt instead of sugar to a cake recipe. Accidents that lead to trial-and-error are good. You never know if something works until you try. You can rest assured that a cup of salt will not make a good cake. But, who knows if puff pastry will be as good as fillo dough? I do, now.
Fillo is a big stack of super-thin, see-through sheets of dough. You usually have to baste them in butter before baking to get them to brown and crisp. The result is almost a glass ceiling. It will shatter and break into little crispy pieces – think of baklava. Puff pastry has a bunch of fat, namely butter, between the layers of dough. It’s cold (that’s why you’ll find it in the freezer section). When the butter hits the heat, especially steam, it brings the pastry to life, it puffs-up – get it? Puff pastry? – think of a turnover – buttery, light and flaky.
From now on, I’ll be using puff pastry for my pot pies. The fillo was great, don’t get me wrong. It’s just harder to use and not as comforting as the puff pastry.
This time, I poached the chicken and shredded it. Last time, I cooked it in a pan and diced it. Poaching allows you to get more flavor into the chicken and makes it easier to shred (if you don’t want to take the time, buy a rotisserie chicken and shred up the meat).I also used smaller ramekins, as opposed to big bowls, which really give you too much filling. I also added black beans – didn’t do that last time.
I love a pot pie because it’s like that pinata that you’d die to break open just to get the goodies inside. They don’t come filled. You choose what goes inside. That first bite is the equivalent to the candy hitting the ground. It’s an explosion of joy.
These pumpkin packages would be great with chickpeas, if you like them better than black beans. You can try chunks of cooked potato. Niblets of corn would give a perfect sweetness. MIYO. Make it your own. Or, make mine:
Punkin’ Pot Pies – the poaching recipe is included.
I served the pot pies with a pile of green beans from a can. I know. A can, really?!?! This plays on the goodbye. Fresh green beans would’ve been yummy, but canned remind me of Fall and colder weather.
The drink of choice: Malibu Rum with Coke. That was my goodbye to the tropic tastes of Summer. I used Malibu Black. It’s just as tasty as regular Malibu (maybe not as fruity and creamy) and it’s a much higher proof .
In case you’re wondering, we each ate one pot pie. The other two went in the fridge. The plan is to pop them in the oven and reheat for another dinner. They’ll probably keep for about 2 days. After that, I think the puff pastry would lose it’s charm. If you only make 4 pot pies, you’ll have leftover filling. Freeze it.
Fall into, well, Fall, and try this recipe. It’ll ease the blow of blowing a parting kiss to Summer.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to poach chicken (or fish). It doesn’t yield the rubbery mess that boiling would give you. It’s such a versatile method. It won’t overpower the meat, but it will give it a nice mild flavor. If you want the chicken for an Italian meal, poach it in water (or broth) with a lot of garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. If it’s for mexican food, poach it in water (or broth) with jalapeno or serrano peppers. You can also add beer, or wine, or juice to the poaching liquid. Use half water and half of the other. Just call me your poach coach!