Today David Lebovitz sent out a new blog about Cahors, France, that was so rich and loaded with mouthwatering pictures, I almost left my computer inebriated from the thought of the superb wine and food.  Then I saw the picture of Cahors menu and read it; Joue de Boeuf.  This doesn’t mean “game of beef” but refers to the cheek of an ox.  And the French don’t make up silly marketing names to enhance the sale of meat, but tell it like it is.  Concerning food, the French have no sense of whimsy.  I am quite sure that average Americans would reel away from a dish made from the check of a cow, brains or kidneys.

Which reminds me of a time my husband, Warren, and I spent a month in France.  Now I don’t just speak French, I’m fluent (thank you Mommy for being French) and I always pride myself to try anything as long as it doesn’t wiggle.  We had dumped my five year old daughter with Grandmere in Paris, and had three days to tour through the Chateaux de la Loire countryside drinking, sightseeing, smooching and most importantly, eating.

While spending time in Amboise, I saw a little sign for menu fixe that looked charming.  I had given up on the tour book restaurant suggestions since it seems that place listed required reservations and that is not my style of traveling light and cheap.  My main criteria for choosing a restaurant is that air must smell good, the restaurant must be populated by locals and it needs to be crowded.  This little place in Amboise fit the bill and into the abyss we went.

We sit down in this charming restaurant and the first thing that hits my eyes is lamb.  Lamb is taboo our house when my husband is around.  He hates the stuff and I love it, so I’m always a lamb sucker.  Warren probably ordered some chicken dish and when the two plates came out, we were delighted.  Truly a menu fix dream that we moaned and groaned over.  At the end of the meal, I asked the server about my lamb plate, since I’ve never had lamb before made in that manner.  The server went into great detail about the type of GLAND and its secretions that were used in the meal and at this point, I decided not to understand French.  So when in France, don’t try to understand too much when ordering a meal.

Being a cheap and reluctant cook makes me always want to economize on the amount of cooking I do, the complexity of recipes and the number of dishes to clean.  So three nights ago I roasted 2 chickens, one for the dinner and one to go.  Yesterday night I cubed ¾ of all the chicken and made Chicken Pot Pie with Sherry and Leeks.  Warm and delicious, it was the perfect meal accompanied by a glass of white wine and a mesclun and avocado salad topped with shallot vinaigrette.   This recipe is based on Ina Garten’s Chicken Pot Pie but with less work and with a French twist.

Chicken Pot Pie with Sherry and Leeks – Courtesy to Ina Garten

Ingredients Serves about 8 people, Prep time: 1 hour, Cooking time: 1 hour, remember you’ll need at least ½ hour to chill the dough

  • ¾ of a cooked chicken or 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • Olive oil
  • Salt &  ground black pepper (I use Costco)
  • 5 cups water or chicken stock.  Using water I add 3 heaping tablespoons of “Better than Bouillon
  • About 10 sliced mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 2 leeks – cleaned and sliced
  • 1 bag – 10 to 14 oz. frozen small whole (pearled) onions
  • 1/2 cup of sherry – don’t use the expensive stuff

For the pastry: – This only makes enough for a top which is enough for use.  If you want a top and bottom, make the pastry recipe 2 times (don’t just double, it will break the food processor)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash – optional

Directions

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, heat the water and add the “Better than Bouillon (or just heat up your chicken stock).

In a large pot or Dutch oven with enough olive oil to cover the bottom, sauté the mushroom over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the liquid is reduced. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken bouillon and sherry to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, leeks, onions and parsley. Mix well.  If mixture is a little too thin, add a little more flour.

In a deep oven-safe casserole dish, pour in the mixture (remember, if you want to have a bottom crust, you need to roll and prepare the dough. Place the rolled dough on top and trim to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the casserole. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash (optional) and make 3 slits in the top. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.


little-red-coatIn October, I found myself with my little daughter routing through the racks at Goodwill.  Her mission was to put together a Halloween costume, mine was to keep myself occupied.  Then I saw it, waving to me in all its redness.  Not just a little red coat, but a little red Pendleton stroller coat needing a new home.  Fifteen dollars later and the little red coat was mine.

Halloween came and went and finally during Christmas break, I was able to hem the sleeves of my beautiful coat and give it to the cleaners.  To my surprise, the cleaning bill was larger the cost of my little red coat but still was cheaper than buying it on Ebay (watch out for Ebay, often the prices start high – even for used clothing).  Finally, I brought my little red coat home from the cleaners and now on cold grey windy days, I am rather dashing and smiling wearing my little red coat.

I am always amaze how people can give up classical, beautifully constructed clothing that never show age and are always in style.  But I must remember the old adage, one person’s treasure is another person’s trash.  Thank you whoever you are, for my little red coat.

Now there is no segue to the next subject – Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad except that it makes a wonderful side dish or meal on wintery days.  I was intrigued by David Lebowitz’s  recipe, tried it out, and have made some very necessary changes.  Most important, you must soften the wheat berry before cooking, either by soaking it overnight, soaking it for two hours in warm water or cooking it forever.  I cooked mine for 1 hour and that did not soften the berries enough.  Secondly, I did not like roasting the beets at 425 – they came out burnt and still uncooked.  My advice on beets, is to chop them, and microwave for 15 – 20 minutes, then add them to the salad.  Lastly, his salad was a bit bland and David used too much salt for my taste – we have a family member on a salt restricted diet. Instead of salt, add a sherry – shallot vinaigrette, some feta or gorgonzola cheese, and if you aren’t a vegetarian, several slices of steak. Presto, a fabulous meal.  And of course, amazingly cheap especially if you buy the wheat berries in the bulk section of the grocery store (I got mine at Whole Foods for $0.99 a pound).

Roasted Root Vegetable and Wheat Berry Salad wheatberry-salad
Six to Eight Servings
The wheat berries will take more salt that you might think, so salt the water generously that you boil them in. If you taste it, it should approximate sea water. And any assortment of firm-fleshed root vegetables will do (or butternut squash), but they should be all about the same size when diced.
This salad is open to lots of variations and interpretations.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup (300 g) wheat berries or farro
one bay leaf

2 pounds (1kg) assorted root vegetables; carrots, rutabagas, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, and salsify, peeled and cut into thumbnail-sized cubes
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
1/3 cup (80 ml) plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
10 or so branches of fresh thyme
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup (60 g) dried cranberries or cherries, coarsely chopped

DIRCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).

1. Bring about 2 quarts (2l) of well-salted water to a boil, then add the wheat berries and bay leaf. Cook until tender, but still chewy. Depending on the variety, they’ll take between 40-60 minutes to cook.

2. While the wheat berries are cooking, toss the diced vegetables on a baking sheet with the onion and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and thyme, seasoning with salt and pepper.

3. Roast the vegetables in the bottom third of the oven, stirring once midway during baking, for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.

4. Once the wheat berries are cooked, drain them well, plucking out the bay leaf. Transfer the wheat berries to a bowl and mix in 1/3 cup (80 ml) of olive oil and the dried fruits, stirring well. Taste, seasoning with more salt if necessary

5. Stir in the root vegetables (I don’t mind the thyme branches in there, but you can remove them if you want) and do a final check for seasoning and add more salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and additional olive oil, if desired.  Add a shallot vinaigrette (3 spoonfuls of olive oil, one spoonful of sherry or balsamic vinegar, ½ spoonful of French Dijon mustard, dash of salt and pepper, one finely chopped clove of garlic, and whisk well)

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storage: Can be made up to three days in advance, and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Here are some possible additions to add to the finished salad:

Microwaved beets

Toasted and coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts

Diced dried apricots in place of the cranberries or cherries

Cubes of feta or bleu cheese strewn over the top

A big squeeze of fresh lemon or tangerine juice, or some zest

Sautéed mushrooms tossed in with the root vegetables

Wilted greens, cooked with garlic, coarsely chopped

A generous handful of spicy arugula or flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Green Scallions

Steak slices

Thanks you David for this recipe – recipe provided courtesy of David Lebovitz