Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Preheat the oven

I have decided that the month of December is going to be dedicated to baking. Anyone who is familiar with my cooking career I would never be considered a baker. Now, of course, I can pull off what I need to do as long as I don’t have to present an iced layer cake; give me a cookie, pie, trifle or ice cream request, and I can find my groove. The irony is that a white cake with vanilla buttercream is crack for me. If I had to present one that I made to a client I could never pull off a professionally made one. In culinary school applying buttercream evenly, smoothly, seamlessly was not one of the many culinary attributes I exhibited. I was fond of that peaked, mom’s styling application probably because I quickly recognized my inability to improve upon a Duncan Hines styling. So, I made it my business to befriend bakers.

Not all baked goods are for dessert. I love making bread, and refuse to use an electric aide in bringing together the dough – I view the action of kneading as an upper-body workout, and won’t stop until a bead of sweat trickle downs my back. The winter months also have me baking main courses: shepherd’s pies, phyllo encased fish filets and empanadas becomes part of my repertoire. Clearly, my natural pull towards savory foods causes me to season these swathed dishes with a myriad of spices, herbs, meats and vegetables. And, they are prefect one-dish meals or freezer-friendly concoctions that can be whipped up on one of those days when the weather says it is best to stay in doors. For those friends who are prepared to brave wind, precipitation (wet or frozen) and the general ambient temperature will find a homey meal waiting for them slightly lopsided cake included.

Chicken and Sausage Pie – yields 6 to 8 servings
½-cup coconut milk
1-cup coarse cornmeal
1-tablespoon grapeseed oil
1-large onion – sliced into ¼-inch half-moom shape
4-garlic cloves – roughly chopped
4-celery stalks – sliced into ½-inch pieces
½-pound smoked sasage – such as Andouille, chorizo
1-whole chicken breast
3-cups chopped greens – such as kale, beet, mustard, collard
¼-cup chopped fresh oregano
2-tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
¼-teaspoon whole cumin seed
¼-teaspoon whole celery seed
1/8-teaspoon whole caraway seed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a 2-quart sauce pan bring the coconut milk plus 2-1/2 cups of water to the boil over a high flame.  Once the coconut has come to the boil, add the cornmeal, salt and pepper and using a whisk. Continue whisking the cornmeal to make sure there are not lumps. Then switch to a wooden spoon and lower the flame to medium low, and stir constantly for about 10-minutes. The finished cornmeal mixture should look like wet mashed potatoes. Remove from the flame, and reserve.

Pre-heat the oven to 375-degrees.

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet add the grapeseed oil, onion, garlic and celery and start cooking over a medium low flame. Allow the mixture to cook until the onions are golden brown – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow the onions brown slice the sausage into ½-inch pieces, and 
the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Once the onions have cooked turn the heat up to high and mix in the sausage, chicken, cumin, celery seed and caraway. Cook for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the greens, oregano and thyme – you will need to add the greens in probably three batches. Remove from the heat, and spread the reserved cornmeal over the top of the mixture. Mositen the back of a spoon with water to more easily spread the cornmeal across the top.

Place in the oven, and bake for 30 minutes – the top should be golden brown.

No comments: