Friday, January 20, 2006

Feeling Crust-ly

Slice me up a piece o’comfort, baby! A story in three parts, linked by comfort food’s skin: the crust.

I was justifiably horrified one evening to come home, and discover this... this thing burbling away in my oven.

Frito pie. DucCat had talked about making it for years, but I remained unswayed by the thought: seasoned ground beef, beans, fritos and gobs of cheese baked casserole-style, until heated through. Luckily, I was off the hook, as it was poker night.

Although the pie was destined for the wildly gesticulating, trash-talking men in the dining room, DucCat convinced me that it was my food-blogging duty to try a small bite. It was a bit like taco meat wrapped in Frito’s- and it was, to my great surprise, absurdly good. Great, even, in an extremely unhealthy, greasy, calorie-filled kind of way. Fine fodder for broke college students, and the like. Stoned college students, really.
~~~

A few weeks later, our friend Syd dropped by the house. He came bearing not only wine, but a whole chicken, some apples, and other assorted goodies.

After we toasted with DucCat’s new stemless Riedels, Syd began to get busy. With knife in hand, the chicken was quickly and efficiently portioned out. As he coated the pieces with flour, salt and pepper, he instructed Dave on getting the apples ready for fresh apple sauce. I began heating the oil in a deep-sided cast-iron pan, and soon we were ready to cook this bird true Southern-style, as Syd had promised.

Here’s the part where it all gets a bit blurry. I’d the best intentions to faithfully document the steps, but there was no time. As the chicken fried, the three of us danced around the kitchen in an easy rhythym. Dave continued with the applesauce, while I made biscuits with just-soured milk.

One of the highlights was having Syd show me what the actual texture of the biscuits was supposed to feel and look like. Just like my Mammaw, he measured nothing; it came together gently, purely by feel. Truly invaluable knowledge. No pictures, though, due to my hands being covered in the very sticky dough.



It was starting to smell really good at this point, but the chickens weren’t cooking quite as evenly as Syd would have hoped. A couple of the smaller pieces were almost done, while the bigger breasts needed a bit more time.



Syd pulled out a little stockpot, poured in the still-hot oil, and added the breasts for further cooking.


While that was going on, it was time to make the gravy. Now, I couldn’t really see what was going on here... flour was sprinkled, mushrooms were added, along with a bit of milk. After several minutes of frenzied stirring, the gravy emerged, lightly browned, and full of glorious, chickeny-flavour.

With all the cookin’ done, we sat down like proper folk to enjoy this classic meal.

The fresh applesauce alone was a revelation, as Mott’s has really been my only previous experience. Ultra-fresh tasting, still slightly chunky, and just bursting with ripe flavours.

The chicken was perfectly fried, and the mushroom gravy was a nice complement. Between the rice, the biscuit, and the peas (Le Seur, if you’re curious), it was a full-contact Sunday supper.
~~~

Of course, we ended up with a fair amount of leftover chicken in the fridge. Browsing one afternoon through various food blogs, I hit upon comfort food gold: chicken pot pie.

Now, this ain’t no Swanson’s, baby. I found the recipe over at Food Musings; when you get to the bottom of this posting, take a moment to read her very funny story involving airports and poultry carcases.

The peas were omitted (didn’t have any, and dammit, I wasn’t going to the grocery store again!), and I ended up using duck stock, as it was all I had on hand. I didn’t realize I was making gravy until the flour and stock suddenly began to come together in a silk smooth stream. I called DucCat out to the kitchen to witness and pay tribute to my proud culinary first.

When the veggies and chicken had all been coated in the gravy, it was all dumped into an oven-proof skillet, and covered in a cheddar-filled biscuit dough. I didn’t even bother to cut out the individual biscuits, although that would be cute for single-serving portions.

This was also my very first chicken pot pie experience. Results: like a mouth-watering stew covered in a cheesy crust, this was another delight that I suddenly understood.


Chicken Pot Pie

5 Comments:

Blogger s'kat said...

As I'm looking over my last two posts, I really have to wonder... why on earth is comfort food so brown??

January 20, 2006 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I'll tell ya--because here in the South, we could care less how it looks, just so long as it tastes good. Chicken Pot Pie is one of my all-time favorites; the cheddar biscuit crust sounds heavenly. And that fried chicken meal--my grandmother would be proud too.

January 20, 2006 7:28 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

Everything looks splendid.
Especially the stemless "O" wine tumblers!
And that frito pie? Love the stoned college students bit. Yah, probably! THough I'm not stoned right now and it still looks awesome to me...
Happy Friday!

January 20, 2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger vlb5757 said...

I have read the last three or four posts and all the comfort food sounds and looks heavenly. It's only 11 am right now and I am hungry after reading all of this. Now I need to get up and find something to eat. Chicken Pot Pie perhaps???

January 22, 2006 11:09 AM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Jennifer, I'm sure you couldn't have said it better!

Mona, can you believe I've already broken one? We haven't even owned them a month yet!!

Vicky, next cold blast we get, I'm tellin' ya, it's the deal!

January 24, 2006 8:07 AM  

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