Is it not amazing that there are so many cookbooks and recipes published every year? Even for me, constantly on the prowl for new ideas and dishes, the sheer breadth of available recipes is staggering.
Most chefs and cookbook authors will tell you that a recipe is simply a starting point, that a recipe is used to familiarize you with the ingredients, techniques and order of putting things together. Because, really, cooking is all about confidence.
Once you’ve made a dish once, you feel confident enough to make it again and again, and even to personalize it. That’s where classic renditions come in. I’ve updated the time-honoured chicken pie by making it with an olive oil pastry and used a pareve sauce so that the chicken is enveloped in a tasty and velvety bath. The vegetables called for are but a suggestion. You can use green beans or peas instead of the artichokes, shiitake mushrooms instead of button mushrooms and fennel instead of the celery. It’s up to you.
CHICKEN POT PIE IN OLIVE OIL PASTRY
You can use all white meat or all dark meat or a combination for this one-dish meal. The pastry can be made up to three days ahead. Be sure to soften it before rolling it out and flour your work surface generously to prevent it from sticking.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 lb. mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
1/2 lb. quartered small new potatoes
1 tsp. each salt and Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup chopped canned artichokes (or frozen green beans or peas)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut or soy milk
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup coconut or soy milk
Pastry: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking powder. In separate bowl, whisk together oil, coconut milk and egg and pour over dry ingredients. Using wooden spoon, stir to form a fairly smooth dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 2 minutes. Press into disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Make-ahead: refrigerate for up to 5 days.)
Heat olive oil in saucepan set over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms, potatoes, salt, Italian seasoning and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Stir in chicken and artichokes; set aside.
Sauce: Heat oil in saucepan set over medium high heat. When hot, whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Pour in stock and coconut milk. Bring to boil. Reduce heat slight and boil gently for about 8 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir into chicken and vegetable mixture.
Preheat oven to 375. On lightly floured surface, roll out slightly more than half of pastry to 1/8th-inch thickness. Fit into bottom of a 9-inch glass pie plate. Scrape chicken-vegetable mixture into pastry-lined pie plate. Roll out remaining pastry. Moisten edge of bottom pastry with some of the egg for the glaze. Fit remaining pastry on top of filling, pressing it to adhere to bottom pastry. Crimp edges. Brush egg all over surface of pastry. Cut two steam vents on top of pastry. Bake in centre of preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until filling is bubbling and pastry is golden. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
FRENCH ONION SOUP
Traditionally made with a rich beef stock, this soup is also wonderful when assembled with homemade or store bought vegetable stock. Caramelizing the onions to a deep golden colour helps impart the dark hue and richness associated with this classic meal. Day-old French bread is perfect for the topping.
3 tbsp. olive oil
5 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/3 cup sherry or brandy
4 cups vegetable stock, preferably low sodium
4 thick slices dry French bread
1-1/2 cups shredded Emmental or Swiss cheese
Heat oil in deep pot set over medium-high heat. Stir in onions until well coated. Cover with tight fitting lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Remove lid. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, for 25 to 30 minutes or until onions are golden brown. Stir in garlic for 1 minute. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in sherry. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. (Soup can be brought to room temperature, covered and refrigerated for up to 48 hours. Reheat gently before proceeding.)
To serve, preheat broiler. Ladle soup evenly into 4 ovenproof bowls. Top each with bread, submerging slightly to moisten. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Brown just until the cheese has melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
SALMON COULIBIAC IN PHYLLO PASTRY
This gorgeous special occasion dish used to be a three-day affair! Traditionally made with either a sour cream pastry or a yeast-based butter pastry, Day 1 would be spent making the pastry. Day 2 saw the cook hard boiling the eggs, which were an intrinsic ingredient as well. Day 3 was reserved for assembly and baking. Using phyllo pastry makes short shrift of the preparation time and substituting kale for the classic spinach improves the health component while modernizing the texture and taste.
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves only (or 2 bunches baby spinach, stems removed)
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
4 salmon filets, about 6 oz. each, bottom skin removed
salt and pepper
8 sheets phyllo pastry
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp. each dried thyme and herbes de provence
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2/3 cup Basmati rice
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/3 cup white wine
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or chives
In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook shallots, garlic, mushrooms, thyme, herbes de provence, salt and pepper, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in rice until well coated. Pour in stock and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, rinse kale well. Shake dry. With water still clinging to leaves, cook in large skillet, about 8 minutes, or until wilted. Drain well, pressing out excess moisture. Chop coarsely and stir in lemon rind, salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 425.
Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on tea towel, keeping remaining sheets covered with damp towel to prevent drying out. Starting with edges, brush all over with melted butter. Top with another sheet of phyllo; starting at edges, brush all over with butter. Starting 1 inch from long side, spoon 3/4 cup of rice mixture into 3- to 4-inch wide strip, leaving at least 4 inches at short sides. Top with 1/4 of kale. Top with piece of salmon. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Fold one side over salmon; fold other side over. Fold bottom up and continue rolling to form package. Arrange, seam side down, on lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Brush all over with butter. Repeat to form three more packages.
Bake in centre of preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until phyllo is golden brown all over.
Meanwhile, in small saucepan over medium high heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in vegetable stock. Whisk in wine. Cook, whisking often, for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in thyme or chives. Serve salmon coulibiacs with sauce. Makes 4