True Autumn weather is on it's way to Bellingham. A storm weather advisory has been administered. Strong winds accompanied by blankets of rain are going to hit the area in a matter of hours and hunker down for days. We have been blessed with incredibly beautiful fall weather the last couple of weeks, out of the ordinary for our little seaside town. Usually early to mid September the grey, rain, and cold moves in, unpacks and stays until May. This October has been nothing but fairy tale inspired fall weather, lots of blue skies and sunshine paired with just the right amount of chill. Gorgeous, dry, but not curiously warm (meaning we still get to wrap up in big sweaters, drink piping hot cinnamon lattes but can push wearing our favorite opened toe-d shoes just a bit longer). In the Northwest our seasons are all fairly mild but quite distinct. Cold winters, sweet springs, mild summers, wet and windy autumns. I grew up, and have spent all of my short life here, needless to say I am very used to our seasons, in fact, I love them dearly. Seasons are a big deal in this house. For me it's a change, a new beginning, each one brings lovely and wonderous things, yet no two are the same. And with the changing of the seasons also comes a change in our dinner routines.
My grandmother was a seasonal cook, meaning, there were dishes that she only made during certain seasons. Winter was full of sweets, both traditional Norwegian ones and new found American recipes. In the summer she packed the fridge with fruits and veggies. In the fall she often fried( just about anything) in a lot of butter, from meat patties, to onions (lot's of onions), to potatoes to to fiske pudding. Like many of my proclivities in the kitchen, I have followed in her footsteps. Except the butter. I don't use as much butter. But, most of my tried and true weeknight recipes only come out at certain times of the year. In the summer I love to grill, and eat lots of giant salads and juicy fruits. In the fall and winter months I whip out my most warming comfort foods. At the top of that list is this casserole queen, my take on the classic pot pie. A simple dish comprised of tangy gruyere, smoky grilled chicken, sweet caramelized leeks and carrots, as well as healthy dose of chardonnay. Top it all off with a chunk of buttery puff pastry and you've got what I consider one of the tastiest autumn dishes. Mouthgasm guaranteed.
Recipe: Gruyere Chicken Casserole : Serves Six to Eight
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts cubed
4 large organic carrots
1 large leek
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon of flour
1 cup of heavy cream
3/4 cup of chicken stock
3/4 chardonnay or other white wine
1 cup baby spinach
1 cup gruyere
One sheet of puff pastry brushed with egg wash and cooked until golden brown on a cookie sheet. Appx. 10-15 minutes in a 400 F oven. If you'd like to do what I did above, cut your puff pastry with a cookie cutter into shapes. Brush with egg wash, and bake until golden.
1. In a large skillet brown chicken in a bit of olive oil.
2. Remove chicken from pan and place into a large bowl. In the same skillet add 1 Tablespoon and melt, throw in leeks and carrots. Grill until leeks are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and add it to the bowl with chicken.
3. In the very same skillet add the other Tablespoon of butter, allow to melt, add flour and whisk for one minute. One the flour/butter mixture bubbles a bit then slowly whisk in the cream, stock, and white wine. Allow to reduce a bit if the mixture is not thick enough.
4. Once the mixture has thickened remove from heat and stir in the cheese and spinach.
5. Pour sauce over the chicken and leek mixture. Mix to coat. Pour into a large casserole dish, or tall individual ramekins. Top with golden puff pastry sheet, or shapes. Serve immediately, if not, cover with tin foil and warm in a 350 F oven for 10-15 minutes.
Curl up on the sofa with a large soft throw, a bowl full of casserole and viola! A perfectly delicious autumn evening. . . .