Behold, leftovers!

This year, Christmas dinner had its challenges.  With lockdown in place for many of us, we faced a different holiday meal, one without the shared comfort and joy of extended family and friends.

Not terribly hungry, I ended up roasting a supply of vegetables: brussels sprouts, carrots and potatoes. When ready I topped it with sliced ham, a mustard glaze and baked until bubbly. It got the job done—without much flash or flare.  My heart really wasn’t in it.

Pending leftovers

Holidays meals often translate to future soups, stews and snacks.  The uninspired leftovers lingered in the fridge for a couple of days before I considered what to do with them.  I mulled over the possibilities: soup and such just didn’t seem to fit here. Then I recalled a delicious dish that would create a cohesive meal out of all this with little effort on my part.

In a 2014 blog I described the Chicken Puff Pie as a throwback to the “pot pie—without the pie crust”.  At the time I was deeply into crepes, clafoutis, and custard-based dishes and this evolved from that process. The surprising dish yielded a nutritious, creamy, and satisfying meal without all the work.

I’ve since learned that just about any leftover vegetables and complementary protein will work. Refresh them in a quick sauté with onion and herbs. A thin crepe-like batter is poured overall,  suspending the collection into something similar to a savory clafoutis.

Puff Pie glimpse

Bake the dish for 30 minutes in a hot oven until light and puffed.  Cool briefly and slice into neat wedges.

True comfort food that does not taste like leftovers and reheats beautifully…

Vegetables and Ham Puff Pie  

Most complementary precooked vegetables and protein can be substituted here. 

Ingredients
1 Tbsp butter, plus butter for baking dish
½ medium onion, peeled, small chop
1 clove garlic, divided, crushed
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, diced
1 tsp dried herbs:  thyme, rosemary, sage
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 cup precooked brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 cup precooked carrots, small chunks
1 cup precooked potatoes, small chunks
1 cup or more ham cut into small chunks
Batter
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs, beaten
⅔ cup warm milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
few grinds fresh pepper
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
For top:  2 Tbsp Gruyere cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a quiche dish, pie plate or similar baking dish.
  2. In large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, cook to soften. Add the garlic, jalapeno if desired, herbs, salt and pepper, cook 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in precooked vegetables. Add the ham and cook 3-4 minutes to heat and blend flavors.
  4. Make the batter: In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt and make a well in the center.  Add the beaten eggs and begin incorporate the flour; whisk in the milk, the garlic, and a few grinds of pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese to form a thin, nearly smooth batter.
  5. Spread enough batter into the baking dish to coat the bottom, about ½ cup. Place in the hot oven and bake until the bottom is set, 4 minutes.
  6. Evenly distribute the ham and vegetables mixture over the layer of batter in the baking dish. Stir down the remaining batter and pour it evenly over the filling. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese over the top and return the dish to oven.
  7. Reduce the heat to 375°F and bake 35 to 40 minutes longer. It is done when puffed and browned around edges and the center is firm when pressed.  Yield:  4 or more servings

Chicken Puff Pie: the new pot pie

Pot pies.  They really bring back memories.  Even when times were tough, those little Swanson’s pot pies were always reliable:  they were an easy, hot, affordable meal.  We especially loved their crisp, salty crust and the creamy sauce; even the few token vegetables were a hopeful nod toward a nutritional meal.

Over the years I have stayed loyal to pot pies and perfected big pans of chicken pot pies, packed with moist chunks of chicken, plenty of vegetables, topped with a signature herb crust.  They were a popular commodity during my catering days.

For some time now I’ve been wrestling with the idea of a chicken pot pie without the pie crust.  Bordering on sacrilege, I couldn’t make the leap to abandon the crust without a darn good reason.  Besides, how could it be a pie without a crust?

Well, I have figured it out.  Thanks to recent tinkerings with crepes and an infatuation with fruit clafoutis, I’ve taken the best of both and created Chicken Puff Pie.  Essentially a savory clafoutis, it is so intriguing the pie crust isn’t even missed!  (For more on clafoutis check out the blackberry as well as the peach clafoutis posted previously here.  You will note they both have substantial puffed edges that brown and crisp nicely.)

The basis of a clafoutis is a crepe batter; the primary difference between a crepe batter and clafoutis is the amount of milk, cream, or other liquid incorporated; crepes have less.  Keeping that in mind, the amount of flour as well as liquid has been reduced here, in ratio to the eggs—which lends greater exterior structure and support for the chicken and vegetables, while the interior remains firm yet creamy, reminiscent of clafoutis.  It also moves away from the ultra-custard qualities of a quiche, which I wanted to avoid.  To encourage maximum rising and browning, we also start out with a hot oven then slightly reduce the temperature.

Chix and Veg Puff Pie

Anything this unique calls for a sauce that will enhance as well contrast with it.  I have included an old standby, equally at home with eggs, chicken, salmon—and more. Noble Sauce can be whisked together and simmered while the Chicken Puff Pie is in the oven.  Although I tend to use pancetta in the sauce, bacon is also fine.  The dab of tomato paste rounds out the flavors and adds a lovely tinge of color to the finished product.

With leftover turkey looming large on the horizon, consider this a viable alternative to the annual turkey soupfest.  I suspect you will be impressed with the outcome, too.

Chicken Puff Pie aka Chicken and Vegetable Clafoutis

All the bells and whistles of a pot pie but easier—the stylish Noble Sauce makes this irresistible.   

Ingredients
1 Tbsp butter, plus butter for baking dish
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled, small chop
2 cloves garlic, divided, crushed
1 cup crimini mushrooms, small chop
1 tsp dried herbs:  thyme, rosemary, sage
1 medium carrot, peeled, small chop
½ red pepper, seeded, small chop
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, diced
1 cup or more cooked chicken cut into small chunks
½ cup frozen peas, defrosted
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Batter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup warm milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
For top:  2 Tbsp Gruyere cheese, grated
Noble Sauce (see)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, butter a quiche dish, pie plate or other baking dish.
  2. In large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, cooking to soften; add the garlic stirring occasionally until onions are transparent.
  3. Add the mushrooms and herbs; when mushroom liquid begins to be released add the carrots and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the peppers and toss to combine.  Add the chicken, continue to cook another 5 minutes and stir in the peas.  Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  4. To make the batter: In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt and make a well in the center.  Add the beaten eggs; with a spoon begin incorporate the flour; stir in the milk, the garlic, and a few grinds of pepper; add the Parmesan cheese mixing until the batter is nearly smooth.
  5. Spread enough batter into the baking dish to coat the bottom, about ½ cup. Place in hot oven and bake until the bottom is set, about 4 minutes.
  6. Distribute the chicken and vegetables mixture over the partially cooked batter in the baking dish. Stir down the remaining batter and pour it evenly over the filling. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese over the top and return the dish to oven.  Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 35 to 40 minutes longer.  It is done when the edges are puffed and browned and the center is firm when pressed.  Note:  check after 20 – 30 minutes, if edges are browning too rapidly, reduce heat to 350 degrees.  Serves 4 or more

Noble Sauce
Equally good with eggs, chicken or salmon
Ingredients
2 cups chicken stock or more
1 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup pancetta, diced
½ small onion, fine chop
1 clove garlic crushed
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
½ tsp thyme
1 Tbsp tomato paste

Directions 

  1. Heat the stock and brandy.
  2. In large saucepan melt butter, add pancetta and brown lightly. Remove the pancetta to toweling to drain.  Add the onions and garlic, cook until soft.
  3. Stir in the flour; cook 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour in half of the hot liquid, whisking until smooth. Return to heat, add the remaining stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the pancetta and seasoning; simmer uncovered about 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Thin as necessary with more stock; adjust seasoning to taste.  Serves 4 or more