Just Peachy Pork Loin

We had prepared 3 pork loin roasts in anticipation of a big family gathering next weekend. However, with the Covid-19 lock down, that is not happening.  So I pulled one of the pork loin roasts from the freezer. It was already seasoned with Penzey’s “Barbeque of the Americas” and vacuum bagged, ready for sous vide cooking and grilling. However today it was not exactly great grilling weather with 20-30mph winds rain and 40 degree temps.  I figured it would be better to make something that could be cooked completely indoors.

Roast pork loin with peaches

So I surfed for recipes for pork loin or chops.  One with peaches looked appealing. We had also stocked up on canned fruit at the start of the virus outbreak, so this seemed workable.

Pork loin

  • 3 lb pork loin trimmed of fat
  • Season Liberally with Penzey’s Barbeque of the Americas
  • Vacuum bag and cook at 141F for 4 hours.

Sauce

Toward the end of the cooking time, prepare the sauce.  Later when serving it was clear we underestimated the amount of fruit and sauce needed for the meal and left-overs. So think of the list below as the amount per pound of meat.

  • 1 can – 14 oz sliced peaches in natural juice
  • Drain the juice into a sauce pan and add:
    • 3 finely minced cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 tsp dried thyme – crushed after measuring
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary  -crushed after measuring(Teal hates the “twigs” as she calls the rosemary needles)
    • 1/3c packed brown sugar
    • 1/4c balsamic vinegar
    • 6 peach slices finely chopped

Simmer this until reduced by half. Then add:

1 shot (1.5 oz )bourbon  – I use Makers Mark , and simmer for 5 min more

Prepare to brown and roast

Preheat the oven to 500F

Remove the roast from the bag, scrape off  the protein globs and pat dry.

In a large pan , melt 1.5 TB bacon drippings and heat to just under smoking

Brown the roast on the top, sides and ends (about 2 min per side)

Add the rest of the peaches and pour the thickened sauce over the top of the roast

Place in the oven on convect for 10 min. It will get all nice, bubbly and caramelized.   When I pulled it from the oven the center temp was 147F.  This was a bit higher than desired, but still acceptable

Rest the roast  for 10-15 min and carve for serving.

Roast pork loin with peach sauce

Changes for next time

Definitely more peach sauce – as I noted above treat these amounts as “per pound of pork”

Maybe I should have set the sous vide temp to 139 instead?   Maybe it will be a bit pinker but it was definitely juicy and delicious.

Add Cowboy Candy or half a finely chopped, seeded and deveined habanero chili to a batch. I will try this when I am making multiple batches (otherwise Teal would revolt) .

 

Sourdough bread variations

Now that you have your loaves coming out more or less consistently (or at least fewer batches consigned to being croutons) you may want to start mixing things up.

Remember when trying different flours, the autolyse step becomes even more important. They absorb the water at different rates and you can easily over-do the water if you use the initial consistency as mixed as a guide.  So start out with a bit less water than you might think you need.

Cheesy sourdough

Split batch white and cheesy

Cut the salt by half

Leave the dough stickier than usual

About 3/4 of the way through mixing add 2 big hand-fulls of shredded cheese. I am partial to 4 cheese mexican blend from costco.    This can be a bit hard to mix in. Crank up the mixer to 6 for short bursts until blended .

Now add flour if needed to adjust the texture.

Sprinkle with a bit of cheese, after slashing for fun.  If you put the cheese on prior to slashing you will pull a lot of it off.

This is one where you can split the recipe and make one loaf of white and one cheesy.  I love the cheesy sourdough toasted for breakfast slathered with peanut butter.

Rye sourdough

Rye sourdough

To the starter (about 2 cups) add 2 cups dark rye flour  and 3/4 c water

2 Tbsp Vital wheat gluten  (Bobs Red Mill) or King Arthur Rye dough Enhancer (which also adds more traditional “deli-rye” flavors

Caraway seed (optional)

Autolyze and mix as you normally would and adjust consistency as normal

 

Whole wheat

To the starter (about 2 cups) add 2 cups whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur Whole Wheat)   and 3/4 c water

2 Tbsp Vital wheat gluten  (Bobs red mill)

Autolyze and mix as you normally would and adjust consistency as normal

Note that a rye and whole wheat blend is really good as well

Pizza bread

1/2 salt

Leave the dough stickier than usual

About 3/4 of the way through mixing add 1/2 c sun dried tomatoes drained of oil and chopped finely  or 1/2 c rehydrated dried cherry tomatoes from the garden. Chop after rehydrating or you will have tomato chip shrapnel all over the kitchen.    The dried cherry tomatoes from my garden are awesome and keep in the fridge for years.

One large handful shredded mozzarella  or maybe two

1 tsp Italian seasoning (Penzey’s)

Now add flour if needed to adjust the texture.

Spent Grain Sourdough

What can be better than combining brewing and baking?

Spent Grain Sourdough 2 

Spent Grain Sourdough 1

Added seeds and grains

In proper baking terms this is referred to as adding a “soaker” . You need to hydrate the seeds before adding or they will dry out the dough AND not cling very well to the dough, resulting in deflated loaves.

1/2 c seed mix  such as King Arthur Flour Harvest Grains Blend

1/4 c hot / boiling water.

Mix the seeds and water for 1/2 hour before adding to the dough about 3/4 the way through mixing . DO NOT add at the start!

Mix and adjust as usual

Closing

So think of these as jumping off points to try different flours and flavors rather than firm recipes. Now that you know how to adjust your dough be feel, feel free to try new things. Worst case,  is that you end up with more croutons or bread crumbs to use for something else.

Happy baking.

Sourdough Bread Basics 1 – Making The Dough

When delving into the baking of sourdough bread, the questions often arise faster than the answers. This is especially the case where you don’t have someone to teach you in person and are trying to figure it out from books and youtube:

  • How much starter to use?
  • Why “discard” starter – seems wasteful?
  • How stiff or wet / slack should the dough be?
  • How much to mix / knead and when?
  • What is “folding”?
  • Why does my bread fall when I slash it like they say to do in the cookbooks?
  • Is steam important?

I will try to answer these and more based on my experience and experimenting of the last few years. Your experience may differ but I think this provides a solid starting point. I think it is good to work your way up in complexity as you gain experience and confidence. Don’t jump in and make multigrain baguettes with lots of seeds as your first try. How about white bread in a dutch oven or loaf pans?

I was given some sourdough starter from some friends a few years back and they also recommended the book Bouchon Bakery. 

This book provided a start, but I was still unsure of the what the texture should be and I also jumped into the more compex styles too quickly.  So there were some super dense breads that resulted and I was still relying on commercial yeast to help.

I keep my starter in a glass crock with snap top lid in the back of the fridge. In peak bread making season, I am baking every 1-2 weeks and this keeps the starter in good condition.   If it is neglected for a long time (weeks or months) there will be gray liquid film on top and the starter will take longer to become active again.  Don’t discard this, but you will need to build it up prior to use (future posting).

Safety first, the starter is a mix of yeast and bacteria. Each time you add flour you may add more types of bacteria and different kinds of yeast.  Treat the starter and uncooked bread dough as you would raw meat. Wash your hands and utensils well after handling and never eat the raw dough! 

Preparing the starter

Starter as mixed 7 AM Saturday
Starter 10AM
Starter 2:45 PM – peak fermentation
Starter 5 PM – peak fermentation
Starter 8 AM Sunday – fallen and past peak – ready for bread

The day before you want to bake, you will need to make your starter. You will also see the terms Biga and Poolish for this.

I have settled on using 2 cups bread flour , 1.5 cups warm water and the entire contents of my crock (pour off any excess liquid on top first).

Mix this up and place on the kitchen counter in a covered bowl.

I really like the Pyrex 10 cup prep bowls and their lids for this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling out starter for the crock

The next morning remove about 1/2 cup of the starter and return it to the crock. Place the crock in the fridge.

Now is the best time to take any out to share with friends.

Preparing the dough

Dough mixed and ready for to rest hydration / autolyze

Take the remainder and put it in the mixer bowl.  Add 2 cups of bread flour and 3/4 c water and stir this together.  If the flour is really dry you may add a few Tbsp more water but resist the urge to add much right now. Now let the mixture sit for 30-90 min (I usually make breakfast and start other projects during this time).   This is referred to at the autolyse. The flour is hydrating and it will then make a better dough once you start mixing / kneading.

Add 2 Tbsp vegetable oil . This yields a silkier dough and it seems to stay fresher longer than if you omit the oil.

Add 1.5 Tbsp Honey  – you could use sugar, but the simple sugars of the honey seem to get the rise off to a quicker start.   This is not to make the bread sweet, but provide enough sugar that the yeast and bacteria have enough to feed on during the rises over the course of the day

Kneading the dough

Kneading a still too wet
Flour added and almost ready -still a bit sticky

Start kneading the dough. I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a dough hook and the speed set on 2.

As it is kneading, evaluate the texture. Is it stuck to the sides or pulling away in a ball?  If sticking to the sides, start adding flour a couple of Tbsp at a time , letting it fully incorporate before adding more.

After 5 min at 1 tsp fine sea salt. This will cause the dough to firm up as it mixes. You can omit the salt if you are on a salt restricted diet, but even this 1 tsp is much less than most commercial breads use.

Ready to rise – note it just barely is sticking to my hand

Continue kneading for 5 min more.   the dough should be pulling away form the sides as it is mixing and only stick to your dry hand a little when you touch it.   Adjust adding flour or water in small increments 1-2  Tbsp flour, 1 tsp  water as needed. If you do bigger amounts it is very easy to overshoot and end up in a flour-water-flour-water cycle and before you know it you have used up your flour and have enough dough for 4 loaves of bread!

Cover with a damp towel for the first rise.   Place on the counter at room temperature.

References:

https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2017/09/29/using-the-autolyse-method

 

Coq au Vin

Perfect cure for a cold almost spring day. It is also known as “Chicken with wine” in English. I have also made this on vacation and notably Caribbean dive trips where we did not have a whole lot of cooking supplies or gear. It is a great 1 pot dinner. The whole house is now fragrant with the delicious aroma.

Finished – ready to serve

8 chicken thighs. We prefer the boneless skinless when available, or just the “family pack” with skin and bones works fine.  Dredge in flour (~1 cup), salt and pepper and  brown over medium heat  in a couple of tablespoons of  bacon fat or olive oil in a large kettle or dutch oven. Be sure to BROWN on all sides. Caramelization is important for best flavor (Maillard reactions are your friend) . You may cringe at the bacon fat, but the original recipes called for salt pork or fatback. This will be lighter if you just use the bacon grease rather than the fatback,  but I if you want to be extravagant, smoked pork jowls chopped and fried would be just incredible. You do need the hint of smokiness which is why the bacon grease is preferred to oils. Keep adding more so that it does not run dry as you fry the pieces. It is better to do the frying in batches than crowd the pieces together.  Drain off the excess fat at the end unless you are browning the potatoes as well (below). 

Some of the browned chicken

Add coarsely chopped:

  • 4-8 potatoes (4 if large, 8 if small)

You can optionally brown the potatoes a bit after the chicken comes out while you chop the rest of the veggies .  Add a bit of olive oil so they don’t stick .

  • 2-3  medium onions
  • 8-10  carrots
  • 3-6 ribs of celery (unless you are cooking for Teal)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • Tomato paste – small can (4 oz)

Add 2 cups water and 1/2 liter or so of red wine; Burgundy or pinot noir. You want light and fruity, not oakiness.

After 1 hr in the oven

3-4 bay leaves

3 tsp dried thyme (fresh sprigs if summer, but my thyme is buried under the snow right now)

1 tsp chopped dried rosemary    – Teal objects to rosemary “twigs” in the stew. This should be what you grew last summer – fresh dried rosemary is so much better than old stock . If nothing else, make a trip to Penzey’s for the herbs.

Bake covered at 325 for 4-8 hours.  Check every hour to make sure that it does not boil dry . Add more water if necessary.

Uncovered the last hour  and mix in a bag (14.5oz) of frozen pearl onions) . With the top off to thicken up a bit and brown the top a bit.  When you uncover, dig a depression to gather the fat in. This makes skimming the fat off much easier.

Applied time is about an hour. You could cut this to 20 min if you just “chop and flop” all of the pieces in the pan without browning but you won’t win as much praise that way.

Serve with good crusty bread and more wine. Enjoy.

Cuban Style Pork Shoulder

This past weekend we were in Miami, stopping over on what we hoped would be a dive trip to Cayman Brac. Unfortunately, the coronavirus made other plans for us and we ended up turning back. However, we had an excellent dinner at La Rosa and the Cuban Roast Pork Shoulder stole the show and I decided I just had to make some when we got home.

Cuban Roast Pork

A quick web search turned up a recipe on Serious Eats. This is a trusted source for me and proved to be an excellent starting point. As usual, I deviated from the published recipe whether due to ingredients on hand or personal preference. The Mojo sauce is used both as a marinade before roasting and the reserved portion is part of the sauce for the cooked meat.  I had forgotten to pick up fresh citrus when I got the roast, so concentrate was used along with dried herbs (it is still winter here in Wisconsin) .

Mojo Sauce ingredients

8 cloves of garlic very finely minced

2 tsp ground cumin

1.5 tsp fresh (finely) ground black pepper

1/2 cup limeade concentrate  – Minute Maid is our favorite as it has less sugar than many brands

1/4c raspberry lemonade concentrate

1/2 c water

Mix the ingredients well and reserve half for serving later

If you have fresh fruit that is preferable, but the concentrate worked out well.

Prepare the pork

5-6 lb pork shoulder  – a.k.a. Boston Butt

Remove the bone and the larger pieces of fat, slicing along the muscle lines. You should end up with 4-6 good sized pieces with the majority of the fat removed. I pull the fat off as I do not like the consistency of the remaining fatty tissue once the fat renders off.

Add 1/2 of the Mojo and marinate overnight, turning a few times.

Roasting

Place the pork in a large dutch oven with all  of the sauce it was marinated in. Add 1 c water.   Salt the surface with 1 tsp fine salt. Cover and roast at 275F for 3 hours

Uncover and roast at 325F for an additional 2-3 hours. Baste every 30 min or so.  Make sure the liquid under the fat does not all evaporate, add more water if necessary.  The Meat will get nice and brown and crunchy on the surface

Remove from the oven. Remove the pork from the pan and cool for 15 min. Separate the drippings removing as much of the fat as you can without losing too much of the tasty part underneath.   Add the remaining mojo sauce and microwave for 2-3 min.  Add 1 TBsp of red wine or cider vinegar to taste (cust the sweetness and fattiness).

Pull the pork apart and add the sauce, mixing well.

Serve with black beans and rice  and enjoy . If you have some fresh lime to squeeze over it, all the better.

Spent grain sourdough

Spent grain sourdough fresh from the oven

I have been experimenting more with sourdough breads and have made a few more variants of the spent grain sourdough.  I think this is a bit simpler.  I have been baking every week or every other so the 2 step starter feeding is not necessary.

When choosing your grains for the sourdough, consider that the bread will get baked and brown further. I tried one with the steeping grains from an Imperial Stout and that was too dark. Edible, but almost burnt tasting when toasted.

Today, I am using Briess Caramel 40 malt. This was from a Dead Ringer IPA extract kit (one of my favorites).

Starter

~3/4c of saved unfed starter

2c Bread flour – King Arthur

1 1/2 c – 1 3/4 c warm water.

Mix and set aside,  covered for 24 hours.   The starter should be a bit wetter than bread dough, but not runny. It will loosen up as it ferments as well. After 24 hours it is “gloopy”. Think of your kid / grand-kid’s container of Slime but stickier.

Bread dough

Fed starter – 1/2c which goes back in the crock in the fridge

2 -2.5c spent grains – well drained

1c bread flour – start with 3/4 c and see what the consistency is like

1/2 tsp baking yeast

Mix for 2 min

Rest for 15 min

Mix for 5 min

Add 1 tsp salt

Add 5 tsp cooking oil

Mix at medium speed until the oil is incorporated. Then slow down 2 2nd lowest setting on the Kitchenaid mixer and mix for another 10 min. Add flour as necessary to have a slack dough that pulls away form the sides of the bowl while mixing.

Cover with damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. Then fold several times adding flour if necessary.  Let rise for another hour. Fold several times and work into a ball.  This dough needs support from a pan. So, place in an oiled dutch oven. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.

Baking

Preheat the oven to 425F . Place a sheet pan in the bottom.

When the oven is hot, heat 1 c water in the microwave until boiling.

Working quickly, uncover the bread, slash the top and place the bread int he oven . Then pour the hot water on the sheet pan and close  the oven.   This bread completely filled the dutch oven with no room to rise (I may have let it rise a bit extra long while working inthe shop). Set timer for 15 min.   At 15 min insert thermometer probe and cook until the internal temp is 195-205F  depending on how brown you like the top.

A view inside

We have started taking the spent steeping grains and placing 2-2.5 c measured portions in the freezer so that the spent grains are available between brew days as I bake a lot more often than I brew.  1lb of grain will yield about 6-7c of well drained spent grains.

Sous vide Pork Chops

Start with thick cut pork chops about 1.25 -1.5″ thick.

Season liberally with Penzey’s Jerk spice blend and vacuum bag.

Optionally add 1-2tsp honey per chop if you are grilling at normal height.

Cook at 140F for 4 hours.

Grill over a very hot fire or on the coals for 2-3 min per side to caramelize the crust.  If the meat is down on the coals 60-90 sec per side.  If the grid is elevated to normal height, then a light coating of honey prior to grilling will enhance the browning. If it is applied and the meat is down on the coals it will be blackened in 60-90 sec.  A bit too fast for my taste.

Even with the outside being a bit over done / charred, the inside was still moist and delicious.


We served these with: cauliflower with cheese sauce, smashed potatoes and apple sauce.

Tomorrow, I will be shopping for a bit bigger grate to place low but not quite on the coals.

Sous vide Pork Loin

As you can see from my other  recipes, pork loins are a family favorite. They can be a bit touchy to get done evenly without becoming tough. So this made it a candidate for a sous vide cooking experiment.  After some research I decided on an overnight brine and

Prepare the brine

1/2 c brown sugar

2/3 c cider vinegar

1/6 c salt

4 cloves garlic crushed

1TB black peppercorns crushed

2 tsp Colman’s mustard powder

1 TB shaved fresh ginger

1 1/3 c water

 

Mix brine and immerse the roast in it overnight (5 PM to 8 Am).  At this point, the outer 1/2″ of the roast was a much lighter color presumably due to the acid of the vinegar.

 

The next day vacuum bag with :

1/4 c prepared mustard

1TB chopped candied ginger

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tsp ground allspice or 10 berries crushed could have gone in the brine instead

3 TB honey

 

Place in water bath at 140F for 4 hours

Brown on grill briefly (very hot fire) . 5 min per side with your favorite barbeque sauce. WIth this attempt the outside is flaking off in the tongs – schnibbles for the chef and helper.

 

Juices from the bag  made an excellent gravy but wold be too hot from the peppercorns for Teal (the black pepper flavor was MUCH srtonger in the juice than in the meat.

Defintely a basis for more experimentation to try to perfect the recipe. The leftovers are going to be great for sandwiches during the week.

 

Schweinshaxe – crisp pork shanks

On many of our trips to Baraboo, WI to visit my Mom, we will stop at the Meat Market by the fairgrounds (It was Mueller’s way back when I was a kid). While waiting for a rib roast to be cut, which I will later cut into thick rib-eye steaks for sous vide cooking,  I was looking through the meat case and saw these gorgeous pork hocks which were calling my name.

Memories of many trips to Germany and Karl Ratzch’s restaurant in Milwaukee came flooding back. So I bought a couple. I have never cooked these before, but they turned out great.  I wish I had tried this sooner.

Roast pork shanks

I searched for recipes and there seems to be no general consensus on the method. There are 3 camps it seems: boil and bake, bake, boil or confit (cook immersed in fat)  then deep fry.  I did find the Karl Ratzch recipe  but that is one of the deep fried variety.   There were also few sous vide variants with the water bath ranging from 150F for 48 hours to 170F for 8.  I was looking for fall apart tender so we went with 170 for 20 hours (basically put it in the water bath the night before).

Sous vide at 170F for 20 hours. Be sure to cover the pot or you will wake up in the morning with the cooker screaming and wondering how long has it not been cooking.  Use either no seasoning or some salt and pepper. You want the pork to shine in this recipe with very simple accompaniment.  Once the sous vide time is done, remove form the bag, reserving the juice.  Score the skin and fat and then carefully move into a baking dish. The meat will be soft and gelatinous at this point. It can easily fall apart, so use a spatula underneath.   Oil the baking dish (I used a 9×9 glass pan) and add 1/2″ of sweet beer (nothing hoppy). The reason for the oil is that there will be a lot of gelatin coming off the meat quickly and it can bake onto the pan as a miserable to clean, hard mess.

Place in the  oven at 350F on convect for 60 min and finish at 425F for 20 min. Keep adding beer to the pan so the drippings don’t burn!  There  will be a lot of gelatin and fat released in the cooking process.  We ended up with a 1/4″ layer of dark brown crunchy goodness on the bottom, floating on the fat. Delicious!  Better than cracklings and just as crispy.

This is like having a pig roast in the winter. Skin is crispy and the meat is unctuous, fall apart tender and juicy. Plus, we have more for left overs, such as black beans, rice and pork burritos.

Back when Karl Ratzch’s was open, if you finished one (and they were bigger than these), they brought out another for free. I did that once, but can’t imagine doing that now.  Yes, I took one bite and asked for the rest to be wrapped up to take home.

Pork shank, sauteed onions and cabbage, sourdough bread

And by the way, the cost of the 2 pork shanks was just over $6.   These were originally “working class / peasant food”. You pay a high premium in a restaurant for something that is very easy to make from low cost materials.  Budget food greatness.

Chicken Pot Pie

Teal really like chicken pot pies.   However, I find them to be typically bland, pasty and just not worth the calories.   So on a cold, dreary late fall day, Teal asked if we could make pot pies.  I took up the challenge: to make a pot pie that is actually worth eating.

The engineering mind took over.  I was thinking  about what makes them so boring?  The answer is, there is  a lack of caramelization,  too much goo (a.k.a “gravy”) and few if any spices.  So, I set out to correct these deficiencies and add a few twists.  I started with a small batch of 4 servings figuring I could scale it up later if they turned out.  These are still not “health food” but still better than what you will find in the frozen foods section of your local store.  If the steps below seem like a lot, remember that each is done while you are chopping the next. It is an efficient use of your time.

Teal enjoying the pot pie

Veggies

3 large carrots, washed, scraped of dark spots and cut into ~3/8″ pieces

2 medium onions chopped to about the same size

1 large pinch of dried thyme crushed

1 pinch of savory crushed

1-2  tsp sweet paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the carrots in bacon grease (about 1 TB) for 3 min on med-high heat so they just barely start to brown and then add the onions. Keep stirring until the onions are thoroughly translucent  and soft. Then dump them out into a large mixing bowl and heap into a pile while mixing in the  thyme and savory, 1 tsp sweet paprika as well as salt and pepper to taste.  Heaping will conserve the heat and keep them cooking.  The carrots should be slightly soft at this point.

Leave the pan  on the stove, off the heat.    Other veggies can be added, but Teal prefers that we stick to the basics (certainly no celery or parsnips). 1-2 small (sweet) potatoes might be acceptable, but we were out.   At this point, the fry pan is sticky with bits of the veggies – these will come off as the chicken (below) cooks.

Chicken

1 package – about 1- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Remove connective tissue, and excess fat. Chop into 1/2″ pieces.

Dredge the chicken in 3-4 TBsp flour with 1 tsp granulated garlic. This will be a sticky gooey mess. Chicken will be coated but not “dry”.

Add 1 TBsp bacon grease to the pan. Then add the chicken and saute until lightly browned and tender. Stir to break up the pieces, but pause enough to let each side brown a bit.  We use thighs as they can withstand the higher temps needed for browning, while staying tender unlike breast meat.   Once browned and tender, remove from the heat and dump into the bowl with the veggies reserving any left-over grease. Note that at this point, the chicken is completely cooked and food safe if you want to save these for later.

Sauce / gravy

Pot pies need some sauce, but not the pasty white stuff you often see. It needs some flavor from our friendly Maillard reactions.   This starts with a browned roux.: 3-4 TBsp flour, 1-2 TBsp bacon grease. Stir over medium high heat. All of the flour should be coated and thick (and not runny). Now cook, while stirring constantly, until it is a light caramel brown.   Next whisk in 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock until it thickens and is smooth with no or minimal lumps.

Add 10 oz  frozen baby peas to the veggies and chicken,  then add the sauce and stir gently to mix.

Pot Pies

Divide the mixture into four  approximately 5″ wide oven proof ramekins. Cover with a thin layer of pie crust. Our favorite is: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-single-pie-crust-recipe .

A typical single crust recipe will have a lot left over.  So you will have the opportunity for odd shaped pie crust cookie snacks  – cover with cinnamon sugar and bake with the pot pies. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake at 425  for 30-40 min until the crust is crispy.  Remember to remove the snack pieces before they burn (about 10 min).   Let the pot pies rest about 15 min before serving.

With the added flavor of the caramelization, high proportion of veggies and herbs, even I like these pot pies. They will now be one of our winter staples.  The pies can be frozen par-baked, so the crust starts to set up  and then heated and served.