Cock-A-Leekie Pie

17 03 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is the day we celebrate all things Irish whether you have Irish blood or are just Irish in spirit.  If you’re spending the evening at a pub or having a quiet night at home, an Irish-inspired dinner is a must to celebrate.  And of course, don’t forget the beer!

This is basically a pot pie, made with chicken, leeks and potatoes.  To save time, you can use leftover cooked chicken (a supermarket rotisserie chicken works well). However, if you don’t have a cooked chicken, you can poach some breasts and/or thighs quite easily:

Poaching Chicken: Select chicken breasts or thighs with the bone-in and skin on (you’ll need about 3 large breasts to yield enough meat for the pie).  Place the chicken pieces, skin side down, in a large pot and cover with chicken stock (about 3 cups). Peel and quarter a small onion and add to the pot.  Add a sprig of fresh sage and two sprigs of time.  Cover and simmer gently on medium-low heat (don’t bring to a hard boil).  Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, or until the meat is just past pink.

Use tongs to remove the cooked chicken from the broth.  Let the chicken cool on a cutting board and bring the stock to a hard boil for five minutes.  While the stock is boiling, remove the chicken skin and discard. Use two forks to pull the meat from the bones and chop it into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. Place cooked meat in the casserole dish (as directed in the recipe below). Strain the stock and use the reserved stock in the recipe.  Extra stock can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

Cock-A-Leekie Pie

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3-1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken meat (white, dark or a combination – see above for instructions on how to poach chicken)
  • 1-1/2 cups cubed red potatoes (cut into 1/2″ cubes) – no need to peel them
  • 5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, roots trimmed and cut into thin rings
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed OR homemade pastry to cover a casserole dish

White Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add cubed potatoes to a large saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover them. Cover the pot and heat on high until the water comes to a boil.  Cook the potatoes until just tender (do not overcook), about 12 to 14 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, add the butter and heat on medium-high until melted. Add the sliced leeks.  Sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped thyme and sage and cook for another minute.
  4. Remove the leeks from the heat and spoon into an oven-proof casserole dish. Add the potatoes and chopped chicken and set aside while preparing the white sauce.
  5. To make the white sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium-high heat.  Stir in the flour and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the flour-butter mixture for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  6. Whisk in the chicken stock and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add the milk, a half-cup at a time, whisking continuously.  Let cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cream.  Cook for another couple of minutes.  Season with salt to taste.
  8. To Assemble the Pie: Pour the white sauce over the potatoes, leeks and chicken that are in the casserole dish. Stir to combine. Roll out the thawed puff pastry dough (or other dough) to fit the top of the casserole dish. Lay the pastry over the top of the casserole dish and use a knife to make a few slashes in the top so steam can escape.
  9. Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 F or until the top is puffed and golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Bon Appétit and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Cock-a-Leekie Pie with a green salad

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Christmas Brunch

23 12 2010

Pre-cooked ham makes an easy Christmas brunch dish.

Christmas morning is an exciting time for anyone who celebrates the holiday.  Kids wake up at the crack of dawn to see if Santa has arrived and many adults still feel a tingle of excitement when they see the tree surrounded by gifts in the morning. Once everyone has opened their presents and settled down, why not enjoy a delicious brunch?

I like to make a nice meal on Christmas morning.  However, I don’t like to fuss too much because who wants to be slaving in the kitchen when everyone else is having fun?  (plus, I have a turkey dinner to cook later in the day!).  The key is to do as much as possible the night before so Christmas can be enjoyed with your family.

Here are a few ideas for a relatively simple brunch.  I have included some helpful tips for prepping in advance to make things easier.

Spiced Cranberry-Apple Cider – On Christmas morning, I like to get up before everyone and put on a pot of mulled cider so when everyone wakes up, the house smells wonderful and there is something warm to drink while we’re opening gifts. Prepare the spice packet the night before. To make cranberry-apple cider, mix equal parts non-alcoholic apple cider and unsweetened cranberry juice in a saucepan and add the spice packet. Let simmer for 10 minutes and serve.  Garnish mugs with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Crustless Quiche – Leaving out the crust makes things much simpler. Of course, asparagus isn’t in season during Christmas but you can substitute chopped spinach, sautéed leeks, diced red peppers or sautéed mushrooms.  Bake the pie the night before and serve at room temperature or briefly warmed in the oven.

Spicy Breakfast Potatoes – The potatoes can be peeled and cubed the night before. Place the cubes in a bowl, add enough cold water to just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Drain well and pat dry before cooking.  The spices can be pre-mixed in a small bowl so they’re ready to go in the morning.  You can let the potatoes cook while you’re preparing other dishes.

Cheddar-Herb Biscuits – The biscuits can be rolled, cut and placed in the baking dish the night before.  Refrigerate overnight and let them come to room temperature before baking.

Ham with Spicy Maple-Dijon Glaze – I buy a ham that has been pre-cooked, which makes things much simpler.  It can be sliced and served cold or heated briefly in the oven while other things are baking. Prepare the mustard glaze the night before and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Baked French Toast – This entire dish can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning.

Morning Glory (Orange and Pomegranate Mimosas) – In a pitcher, add orange and pomegranate juices the night before and refrigerate.  Add the sparkling wine just before serving (the wine can be added to the pitcher or to individual glasses.)  Use club soda for guests who don’t drink.

Pancakes – Mix all of the dry ingredients the night before in a large bowl.  Measure out the wet ingredients (except the egg) into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, combine everything and cook the pancakes.  Serve with pre-made fruit syrup or maple syrup.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Like pancakes, the dry ingredients can all be measured and added to a large bowl the night before.  Measure the wet ingredients into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, you can mix and bake everything quickly.

Banana-Rum Bread – Banana bread and other sweet breads can be made in advance and frozen.  Remove from the freezer the night before to defrost in time for brunch.

Yogurt, cereal, bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, granola and fruit don’t require much prep work!

Coffee and Tea – Set up the coffee maker/espresso machine/french press with coffee and water the night before.  Fill a kettle with water for tea.

A Final Tip: You will be very happy in the morning if you take the time to set the table before you go to bed (and tell Santa not to mess it up with crumbs while he’s enjoying his milk and cookies on Christmas Eve!)

Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays!





Pomegranate Cocktails

21 12 2010

Pomegranate juice makes a great base for festive cocktails

Pomegranates are in season right now and they are ideal for making festive holiday cocktails (bonus: pomegranate juice is good for you!).  Whole pomegranates can be juiced but it’s a bit of a hassle and bottled pomegranate juice is readily available almost everywhere these days.  However, if you can’t find pomegranate juice, you can substitute unsweetened cranberry juice.

Christmas in the Tropics

This drink was inspired by a recent trip I took.  It’s a great way to use up that bottle of coconut rum you bought one summer that has been languishing at the back of your liquor cabinet.  The coconut is subtle and the pomegranate balances the flavours nicely.

Makes two drinks (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • 3 oz. rum
  • 1.5 oz. coconut rum (such as Malibu)
  • 6 oz. pomegranate juice
  • Ice
  • Slice of pomegranate or pomegranate berries, to garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, combine the rums, juice and some ice.  Shake well and strain into two martini or low-ball glasses.  Garnish with a slice of pomegranate or some seeds.

The Merry Maker

This unusual cocktail captures the flavours of the holiday season: warming spices, pomegranate and mandarin orange. Vodka can be substituted for the tequila if you’d prefer.

Makes two drinks (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teapsoon ground ginger
  • 1 oz. mandarin or regular orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz. tequila or vodka
  • 4 oz. pomegranate juice
  • Ice
  • Orange slice or twist as garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients (except garnish) and shake well.  Strain into martini glasses and garnish with an orange slice or twist if desired.

Morning Glory

Mimosas (orange juice with sparkling wine) make Christmas brunch festive.  Adding a splash of pomegranate gives it a new twist.  I sometimes juice some of the mandarin oranges or clementines that come in boxes around the holidays.

Makes one drink (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • Orange juice or freshly squeezed mandarin or clementine juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • An inexpensive sparkling wine such as cava or prosecco
  • Orange or mandarin slices to garnish, if desired

Fill a champagne flute halfway with orange juice.  Add a splash of pomegranate juice and top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with an orange slice.

Cheers and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!





How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes

24 11 2010

Creamy, buttery mashed potatoes are a must at any holiday table.

When it comes to favourite comfort foods, mashed potatoes are near the top of my list.  They are the perfect side to serve with gravy-based dishes such as turkey and roast beef and no holiday table would be complete without them.

The great thing about potatoes (aside from being delicious) is that they are very inexpensive and readily available year-round.  I’m from New Brunswick, Canada, which is a major potato-producing region (McCain’s, the world’s largest producer of frozen french fries, is based there). A couple of years ago, I saw a roadside sign near Fredericton advertising 50 pounds of potatoes for $9.99 so it’s no surprise that they were a staple at our dinner table almost every night.

Potatoes may not look exciting but they are very versatile.

To make smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, here are a few tips that will ensure success:

  • Choose starchy potatoes such as Russets (also known as Idaho or baking potatoes).  Yukon Golds also work well and have a nice buttery interior.  Avoid waxy ‘boiling’ potatoes such as fingerlings or red potatoes.
  • Cutting the potatoes into chunks will speed the cooking process.  You can peel them before cooking for a nicer presentation but sometimes I leave the skins on for texture and nutrients.
  • Use a potato ricer to ensure smooth, lump-free potatoes.  A potato ricer looks like a giant garlic press and you push the cooked potatoes through tiny holes, resulting in potato strands that look like rice.  Ricers are available at most kitchen stores.  Do not use a mixer to beat them – they will become gluey.
  • Season well! Potatoes can handle a lot of salt and seasonings such as garlic, horseradish or chopped herbs (see below for more ideas).  Be sure to add butter and dairy while the potatoes are still hot so everything melts and combines easily. Add seasonings gradually and taste as you go.

Preparing Mashed Potatoes in Advance

Trying to drain and mash potatoes when you have guests waiting for dinner can be messy and cumbersome. Luckily, mashed potatoes can be prepared in advance and kept warm or re-heated. There are two methods that work well:

  1. Place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Cover loosely with foil. Stir occasionally and check moisture and seasoning before serving.
  2. Cooked mashed potatoes can be kept warm in a slow cooker set to ‘Low’. Check and stir on occasion, as they can become dry around the edges.

Optional Additions

While plain mashed potatoes are a delicious on their own, they can be further enhanced with some of the following (measurements are approximate – add to taste):

  • Grated horseradish – 2 to 3 Tablespoons or to taste
  • ¼ cup of sour cream plus ½ chopped green onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 head roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mashed Potatoes

Evaporated milk or regular milk can be substituted for the cream but the results will not be as creamy and rich.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 6 large russet potatoes (about 2-1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into thirds
  • ½ cup heavy cream (whipping cream), heated
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • Salt, to taste
  • A large stockpot with a lid
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • Water, to cover potatoes
  • Potato ricer
  1. In a large stockpot, add potatoes, 1 Tablespoon salt and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cover and bring water to a boil.
  2. Remove cover and reduce heat to medium-high. Gently boil until potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Check with a sharp knife periodically to determine tenderness.
  3. Drain cooked potatoes. Place two or three potato chunks in the potato ricer. Working over a large bowl, press potatoes through ricer. Repeat with all potatoes.
  4. Quickly add butter and cream to hot potatoes. Stir until combined and the potatoes are creamy. Add salt to taste. Add any optional seasonings and mix until incorporated.
  5. Serve with your favourite dishes such as braised short ribs, roast chicken or turkey with gravy.

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!





Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

17 11 2010

Roasting green beans with shallots is a fresh alternative to heavy soup-based casseroles.

American Thanksgiving is next week and a favourite at many tables is Green Bean Casserole.  Made with canned soup and topped with fried onions, unfortunately it’s loaded with calories and sodium.  Lighten up with a delicious dish of roasted green beans and shallots, finished with sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.  These beans are also vegan-friendly and gluten-free so everyone at the table can enjoy a taste. Even if you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving, they make an excellent side dish for roast beef and chicken.

Strictly speaking, green beans are at their peak in the summer, however, they are greenhouse-grown and readily available throughout the year at most grocery stores. Do not use frozen beans as they have a different texture.  Tip: When slicing the shallots, be sure the rings are quite thick (about 1/4″) or they will burn before the beans are done.

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Makes about 4 side dish servings – can easily be doubled

  • 12 oz. (340 g) fresh green beans, ends trimmed – equals about 3 cups of beans
  • 2 small shallots, cut into rings about ¼” thick
  • 4 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • Parchment paper to line baking sheet or pan
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Sea salt, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the baking rack in the middle position in the oven.
  2. In a large bowl, toss green beans with shallots and oil until they are lightly coated. Cut a piece of parchment paper to the same size as the bottom of a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Line the sheet and pour the bean/shallot mixture onto it, making sure they’re in a single layer.
  3. Roast the beans for 10 minutes. Check on them at this point – if the shallots and beans are becoming very brown, remove them from the oven. Otherwise, roast for another 5 minutes until the beans are beginning to char around the edges.
  4. To serve, season with sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!





Stuffed Butternut Squash

2 11 2010

Butternut squash can be stuffed to make an elegant vegetarian dish

My brother-in-law Dan is a vegetarian so I’m always trying to come up with interesting dishes so he’ll have something special to enjoy at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I enjoy the challenge and it encourages those of us who eat meat to try some new dishes as well.  I made this butternut squash stuffed with wild rice and herbs last year and it was a hit.  It makes quite a bit so you should have plenty to serve as either a vegetarian main course or as a side dish.  It is delicious with pork, chicken or turkey. I can easily be adapted for vegans- just follow the substitutions at the end of the recipe.

Stuffed Butternut Squash

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes about 8 to 10 servings as a side dish or 4 to 6 servings as a main course

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil such as safflower

Stuffing:

  • ½ cup raw wild rice
  • ½ cup raw white rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ medium onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup red pepper, finely diced (about ½ a large pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter OR margarine OR oil such as safflower or olive
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a large sharp knife, cut the butternut squash lengthwise down the middle and separate the two halves.
  3. Scoop out any seeds and discard. Rub each half of the squash with the oil (1 teaspoon per half). Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until tender. Check tenderness with a sharp knife – it should be soft enough to scoop out with ease.
  4. While the squash is roasting, prepare the stuffing ingredients. In a large saucepan, heat 2 cups vegetable stock until boiling. Add wild rice, cover tightly. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Add white rice to the pot and continue to cook the rice mixture for another 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the stock has been absorbed.
  5. In a large bowl, add onion, red pepper, garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme. Once the rice mixture has cooked, add it as well.
  6. Remove baked squash from the oven and let cool slightly. Using a large spoon, carefully scoop the flesh out of the baked squash halves, making sure to leave about ¾” of a ‘wall’ intact so the shells will hold together. Add the scooped squash to the rice/stuffing bowl.
  7. Stir the cooked squash into the rice stuffing mixture until it is thoroughly combined. Add melted butter and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Scoop the stuffing mixture back into the squash halves. Top each half with parmesan cheese or bread crumbs (1/4 cup per half).
  9. Bake stuffed squash for 20 minutes or until the cheese is beginning to brown on top. Garnish with a sprig of sage if desired.

*Vegan Adaptation:

Substitute vegan-friendly margarine, olive oil or neutral oil (canola, safflower, etc) for the melted butter. Top with ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs that have been tossed with 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs. Bake stuffed squash for 20 minutes or until crumbs begin to brown.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

Stuffed Butternut Squash, garnish with a sprig of fresh sage





Thanksgiving Desserts

7 10 2010

 

Maple-Caramel Custards are a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table

 

Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend so it’s time to start thinking about the dinner menu.  Turkey will be on most tables and I’ve given a number of suggestions for excellent side dishes (Thanksgiving Side Dishes).  However, for many people, the highlight of the holiday meal is dessert.

Pumpkin and apple pies are popular choices, however, I sometimes enjoy serving desserts that are a bit different yet still seasonally appropriate.  Pears, apples, pumpkin, nuts and cranberries are abundant at markets right now so it’s the perfect time to incorporate them into your menu.

Here are a few suggestions for a delicious finish to the Thanksgiving feast:

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – This impressive looking dessert is easy to make.  If you don’t feel like fussing with the praline, the filling makes a delicious basic pumpkin pie.

Apple Pie – A classic.  Be sure to serve it warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apple-Caramel Tart – An elegant alternative to apple pie.  It’s made with frozen puff pastry, making the preparation quick and easy.

Harvest Strudel – Pears, apples, cranberries, nuts and warming spices make this dessert a nice change from basic pie.

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – A rich caramel sauce poured over a decadent pear and nut-studded pudding takes this comfort food dish to new levels.

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets – Raspberry season is over in most areas, however, this recipe works just as well with frozen berries.

Maple-Caramel Custards with Sea Salt – This rich custard showcases the flavour of maple beautifully.  If you can find some colourful maple leaves that have fallen, they make a fun presentation.

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!