Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cottage Industry

This morning my friend, Wolfie, mentioned she was going to make homemade Chicken Pot Pie. Oh my. I looked out the window. Overcast. Gloomy. Perfect weather for comfort food and we all know chicken ANYthing is comfort food, right? So I'm thinking Chicken Pot Pie would go very well in my home, too.

Except I wasn't really in the mood to do pie crust. The delicate, flaky crust is half the fun of Chicken Pot Pie so if I wasn't going to do that part, there was no point in doing the other part.

But! Maybe a tasty Shepherd's Pie would suffice? You know -- the one with assorted veggies and meat in a gravy, with a mashed potato topping. So I Googled the subject (of course) and discovered that if the Food Police are hovering, it's only Shepherd's Pie if the meat therein is lamb. Any other meat requires it to be called Cottage Pie. Okay-swell. I can live with that. Cottage Pie it is.

In the meantime, I also wanted to check out another cottage-type adventure. Found this recipe for homemade cottage cheese that was so simple and basic, it was just begging to be done. The recipe as I got it requires 1 gallon of 2% milk, 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt. I only had one envelope of Carnation non-fat instant milk, which would make a quart. [sigh] Okay. Whuddahey.

You heat the milk to 190 degrees fairy height (or until just before it boils), then remove it from the heat. Add the vinegar (1 ounce for a quart of milk) and let cool. The curds form immediately, in bodacious big clumps. After it's cooled, line a colander with a paper towel and drain. Then dump the curds in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and fork the heck out of 'em to mix in the salt and break them up. You can add some cream to make it look more like regular cottage cheese but I wasn't worried about that. It tasted fine -- sort of like a very mild feta. Maybe I should have used regular vinegar instead of wine vinegar. And 2% milk would surely have tasted richer. Ah well. Next time. [shrug]

While all that was going on, I had three nice Yukon Gold 'taters cooking and, when barely tender, cooling, so I could grate them. See, I decided I wanted grated potatoes for my pie instead of mashed potatoes. This cottage was going to be fitted with a thatched roof, don'cha know?

Somewhere in the middle of all the other activity, I opened a package of frozen mixed veggies and shook out a couple of cups to thaw. This particular mixture consists of good stuff like red and yellow bell pepper strips, julienned carrots, baby corn, water chestnuts, onions, snow pea pods and mushrooms. Any mixture that suits you, of course, will do just fine.

After the 'taters were grated (I ended up with about 2 quarts-worth), I melted a tablespoon of butter with an equal amount of olive oil and fried half the 'taters on medium heat until the bottom was nice and crispy-golden. Then I slid the whole pan full into my baking dish. We'll call that a bottom crust.

While the 'taters were crisping up, I cut one nice big boneless, skinless chicken breast into little bite-sized pieces and, once the frying pan was freed of 'taters, squirted in some more olive oil and stir-fried the chicken until there wasn't any pink left showing. The veggies joined the chicken and everything was tossed around until the veggies were hot. I looked it over and thought, hmmm, I wonder if ... and tossed the entire bowl of homemade cottage cheese into the works.

Then I mixed two heaping tablespoons of flour with one tablespoon of granulated chicken boullion and sprinkled that over the contents of the frying pan. When I'd mixed it in enough so that everything was lightly coated, I added one cup of hot water and stirred until the gravy thickened. Then the whole danged thang was spread over the hashbrown layer in the baking dish.

A quick wipe of the frying pan, another glob-glob of butter and olive oil, and the remaining shredded potato was tossed until lightly coated with the buttery oil. I covered the veggies with the 'taters, making the top crust -- a double-thatched cottage, so to speak. Then I sprinkled sweet Hungarian paprika over everything and put the baking dish in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Here's what it looked like coming out.

Ah gee. This is Good Grub, Maynard. Oh yes indeedy. In spite of the fact that the overcast had disappeared and there was bright sunshine by the time I sat down to eat, I was still mightily comforted with my Chicken Cottage Pie. It is even more comforting to know there is plenty more to eat because that's a BIG pie.

The cottage cheese? Didn't hurt the flavor at all but didn't help, either. Just too bland. I'll have to experiment a bit more with that particular culinary adventure. And get some 2% milk, for heaven's sake. If any of you have suggestions, don't hesitate to yell 'em out, okay?


John Bailey said...

That sounds more like a Castle than a Cottage, Dee! Delicious. I only keep fully skimmed milk in the house so the need for full fat milk when cooking is an old one for me. I solved it thusly: pour the quantity of milk you need for the recipe into the blender. Add a dollop of butter. Give it a good zhoosh. Use immediately.

bb said...

All I can say... pass the plate. I tell ya you should open a cafe! :-)

Dee said...

John, that sounds like a great idea! And obvious, now that you point it out. (grin)

Bonnie, a cafe would be too much like work, darlin'. (shudder)

Mage said...

Try whole milk.

And did I mention that I was back on Weight Watchers? lol

Jeri said...

Dee - this has NOTHING to do with your cooking experiences, but right up your reading alley:
I read it and thought of you!
Jeri in Bandon