I LOVE casseroles! Surprisingly, I didn’t discover them until I became a college student and cooked in my dorm with other people and the wide variety of home cooking recipes that we shared. I’m excluding all forms of baked pasta from the category of casseroles as my half-Italian mother was a master of lasagna and baked mac-and-cheese.
As I learned many years later, when asking why she didn’t make casseroles, there were two reasons, one from each of my parents. The first was that my father did not like leftovers. Casseroles being a creative way to reuse leftovers, he was onto that game. The second was that my mother didn’t like her food mixed together. Most of my childhood meals are what I call “three position dinners”: meat, starch, and vegetable, arranged separately on the plate. I had no idea that this was my mother’s preferred way of interacting with her dinner.
I love my food mixed together. One reason is probably because I don’t like to eat that much meat. With it mixed with vegetables and other ingredients, I like to think it’s less noticeable to other people eating what I cook.
Pot pies are a favorite. Good in any cooler weather season, a pot pie is my favorite vehicle for post-Thanksgiving leftovers. The turkey, vegetables, and gravy all get a second life. I’ve always topped a pot pie with pastry or biscuits. In this French version, Chicken Pot Parmentier, a dressed-up pot pie filling is topped with smooth mashed potatoes. It’s kind of like a potpie-Shepherd’s pie mashup, but the filling can’t disguise its Francophile leanings: a dash of wine, a handful of chopped tarragon, miniature onions.
As any casserole requires, I tweaked the ingredients to work with what has on-hand. I didn’t have an open bottle of wine, so used sherry. I had leftover turkey breast, so used that instead of chicken. I couldn’t find pearl onions at the grocery store but used cute little Cippolini onions that they did have. I also quartered them because they seemed too big relative to the diced carrots and celery.
There were a few standout takeaways from the recipe. First, simmering the vegetables in the broth to be used for the velouté sauce was a genius nod to simplicity. I also loved the flavor the wine added to the sauce. The egg yolk added to the mashed potatoes added extra structure that worked well.
This week we weren’t eating many meals at home, so I made only one-third of the recipe (always divide by the eggs) and made two individually-sized Chicken Pot Parmentiers. They were adorable and just the right serving size for each of us. No leftovers from the leftovers!
I’d definitely make this again, full-size or maybe divided into more individual servings, depending on my mood. Chicken Pot Pie amped up a notch or two into French comfort food. This is a winning recipe.
Want to make this yourself? You can find the recipe on page 166 of David Leibovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Want to know how other renditions turned out? Follow the links of my fellow home cooks from Cook the Book Fridays here.
The month of January has been filled with wild temperature swings. The past few days have been frigid, starting in single digits, but staying well south of freezing. And yet, we saw a balmy 50 just this past weekend and 60 one day last week. Climate change is in the air, and something needs to stabilize it.
I do love winter, though maybe not as much as I used to. I certainly prefer winter to summer. The trick is to dress properly. In winter, you can bundle up. In summer, you can only take off so many clothes. My mainstay has been my flannel-lined jeans. That extra layer helps cut the wind and generally keeps me warmer inside and out.
Another trick is eating soup. A bowl of soup is just what the doctor (or maybe the weatherman?) ordered. I’ve made so many delicious pots of soup this month; I just haven’t gotten around to sharing about them.
Here’s a little roundup of my favorites:
This carrot soup is from Smitten Kitchen. The soup itself is nothing exciting, just a simple carrot puree. What makes this soup special are the garnishes: a lemony tahini sauce to swirl in, crispy chickpeas to sprinkle on top (though flavorful, mine were not very crispy), and za’atar topped pita chips (my new favorite snack). A bowl of this fully-adorned soup is a keeper!
This cauliflower soup was recommended by my Dorista friend Teresa from One Wet Foot. My previous go-to cauliflower soup starts with roasted cauliflower. This one does this same. However, Teresa’s soup is seasoned with curry powder. The curry powder also imparts a slight yellow tinge to the soup (you can’t really tell from the photo). This soup achieves a silky, creamy texture without any cream, so it will become my new go-to cauliflower soup recipe. Delicious!
Finally, drawing on inspiration from the freezer, pantry, and refrigerator, I created a pot of Turkey Mushroom Barley Soup. I thawed turkey bones from the freezer to make into rich stock in the slow cooker. To the finished stock, I added a complement of hearty vegetables (about 6 cups in all) and some barley and let it simmer until the barley was nearly tender. Finally, sautéed mushrooms and chopped turkey (frozen leftovers from Thanksgiving) were added to the pot. The result was a thick, hearty soup to warm us from the inside out.
Spring doesn’t usually arrive in these parts until April (optimistically), so there will be many more pots of soup in my future. Do you have a favorite recipe to recommend? Please share!
Turkey Mushroom Barley Soup
8 cups turkey stock (chicken would be fine)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, diced into ¼-inch pieces
2 turnips, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
1 cup barley
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, combine stock, onion, carrots, celery, turnips, and barley. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for 40 minutes, until barley is nearly tender. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute the mushrooms until they have given up all their liquid and the liquid in the skillet evaporates. The mushrooms should be tender at this point. When the stock has simmered for 40 minutes, the barley should be nearly tender. Add the mushrooms and turkey. Continue to cook the soup until the barley is completely tender and the turkey is warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.