Our household is a big fan of US chef Thomas Keller. The love affair started a few years back when we were given The French Laundry Cookbook, containing recipes from his acclaimed restaurant in the Napa Valley. This is a pretty serious cookbook, with recipes usually involving numerous processes and taking several days to make. Saskia has mentioned it before, but if you ever have some time, check out French Laundry at Home, a blog where home-cook Carol made every recipe from the book. Mr M has also made a few things from the book, to significant praise!
Following on from Mr M’s love of the French Laundry Cookbook, I gave him Thomas Keller’s new book Ad Hoc at Home, based on recipes from this less formal “homestyle” restaurant, Ad Hoc. The recipes in here are much less complex, although they still have some little intricacies and quirks.
The first recipe we tried was for chicken pot pie, which Keller describes as an iconic American dish. I was pretty excited to make a pie as I recently purchased my first pie-dish!
The first step was to make the pastry for the pie. Here is a recipe (omit the sugar) with step by step instructions, basically make the pastry, chill for an hour, then form it in the pie dish and chill for a further 15 minutes. Note that there is no need to blind bake for this recipe. Here is our pastry in the pie dish:
While the pastry was chilling in the fridge, we made the pie filling of potatoes, carrots onions, celery and chicken. A little oddly, the recipe directs you to simmer each of the vegetables with the same herbs (thyme, bay and black pepper) in separate pans. I thought this was a bit unnecessarily fiddly, but did it regardless:
Meanwhile, we chopped and blanched some celery and cooked some chicken thighs on the barbecue (any cooked chicken will do).
The next step is to make a bechamel. I will admit that while I frequently make bechamel for lasagne, I still find it a relatively stressful process, particularly when adding the milk to the roux (butter and flour). Compared to some other bechamel recipes (I am talking to you Delia) this was pretty simple and once the milk was incorporated it just needed a whole lot of time (30-40 minutes) and stirring to come good.
Pulling the pie together was easy – scatter the vegies and chicken in the pie, pour the bechamel over the top then (stressfully) cover with a layer of pastry (praying it won’t break). We had a few issues with our pastry (damn spelt flour!) but it came together okay in the end, despite some near catastrophes:
After cooking for 50 minutes, here is our end result:
I was pretty happy with this, being our first ever pie! I adored the filling – I think separately cooking the vegies actually made a difference, each vegetable tasted of itself rather than of generic vegetable flavour, which was really nice. The filling was flavoursome without being too rich. Mr M wasn’t too keen on the pastry, although I think it suffered because it was wheat-free and also because my somewhat inept pastry-making skills meant that it was thicker than it should be. Made with wheat flour and some pastry-making nous, I am sure this too would be a winner.
A really nice pie (and a great achievement for us!). We can’t wait to try something else from this cookbook. Otherwise we can always get our Keller fix elsewhere – we were also given the Bouchon cookbook for Christmas (thanks B, M, F & E)! It’s fair to say, it was a very Keller Christmas!!
1 basic pie crust (buy or make it yourself, a spelt recipe you could use (minus the sugar) is here)
1 cup, 1/4 inch pieces potato
1 1/4 cup, 1/4 inch pieces carrot
12 white pearl onions
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs
24 black peppercorns
1 1/4 cup, 1/2 inch pieces celery, cut on the diagonal
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
3 tbs unsalted butter
3 tbs flour (I used spelt, but don’t unless you have to!)
3 cups milk (I used slightly less milk – about 2.5 cups because I used spelt flour and it doesn’t need as much liquid)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp finely chopped thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg, beaten
- Put potatoes, carrots and onions in separate saucepans with 1 bay leaf, 1 thyme sprig and 8 black peppercorns. Cover with water and cook until just tender (8-10 mins).
- Drain vegies, discard flavourings, cut onions in half. Set aside.
- Blanch celery in boiling water (1-2 mins) and refresh in ice-cold water. Set aside.
- To make the bechamel, melt butter in a saucepan then add flour, cook until flour is cooked (2-3 mins).
- Whisk in the milk, then reduce heat and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups (30-40 mins).
- Strain the bechamel and season with salt and pepper, parsley, thyme and cayenne.
- Remove both doughs from the fridge.
- Scatter vegies and chicken in the pie shell, add bechamel, moisten the edges of the pastry with beaten egg, then roll the pastry over the top of the pie.
- Trim away any overhang then brush the entire pie with egg.
- Bake at 190C for 50-60 minutes until the crust is a rich golden brown.