Thursday, December 13, 2012

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

I dreamed something before leading up to this, something about being at a public bath or in a steam room, but after that I climbed a big hill with Tom. Probably somewhere in Maine or New Hampshire. At the top of the hill we turned around to survey the view and it was breathtaking – a big valley filled with trees, surrounded by rock formations with more trees on them so everything looked lush. In the valley were scattered here and there a-frame houses and cabins and such, some on stilts so the roofs were even with the trees. The whole valley had sort of a small-town vibe, like the way that I picture Jack Kerouac’s home town of Lowell, Massachusetts based on his descriptions from his books.

It was so beautiful and I turned to Tom and said “this is just where I want to live”.

This dream pairs well with the following meal:
Pot Pie: Either with meat or without. Ask your grandmother for her recipe, or, lacking a grandmother:

First you will need to make a pastry crust for a double crust pie. You’ll need 2 sticks of cold butter, a little more than 1 cup flour, ½ tsp of salt and some ice water. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl (hopefully it’s a hand-me-down bowl, but a newer one will do in a pinch). Cut the butter up into small pieces and throw it into the bowl. With a pastry cutter or your fingers if they are cold, work the butter into the flour until it is the size of peas, corn kernels, small pebbles or small wooden beads. Add ice water to the flour/butter mixture a tablespoonful at a time, mixing it in with your hands until the dough comes together. I’d estimate it will take about 8 tablespoons. If it gets too sticky, add more flour and if it’s too dry and crumbly, add more water. Shape it into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap or better yet, these beeswax cotton wraps, and put it in the fridge or your icebox.
Next the filling. You’ll want things like cubed potatoes, carrots, onions, celery. Whatever vegetables you want or have in your root cellar. Oh, and garlic. Tons of garlic. Sauté all these except the potatoes in butter and add parsley, oregano and thyme. Cook them until they are soft. Add 2 cups of broth, chicken or veggie or what have you, some salt and pepper, and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender.

If you are using meat, you will need about 2 cups of cooked & cubed chicken or turkey, ½ cup of milk, collected earlier in the day from your dairy cow, about 2 tablespoons or so of freshly churned butter and 3 tablespoons of freshly ground flour from your village’s mill. Melt the butter in a cast iron pan and add the meat and flour, stirring with a handmade wooden spoon to mix. Add the fresh milk and cook just till it’s heated. Then add this mixture to your vegetables and stir and cook until the mixture thickens into a nice gravy. If you aren’t using meat, I think you could just add the flour and milk to the vegetables and cook till it thickens. Turn off the heat and let this sit while you roll out the dough.
Take the pastry dough out of the icebox and divide it in half. Roll out each half on a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle the dough with flour if it starts to stick to your grandmother’s rolling pin. Put one of the halves of dough into a pie pan and pour the filling into it. Put the other half on top and flute the edges. Cut some slits in the top of the dough. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 more minutes or until the crust is golden.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Then wrap it in a tea towel, put your Sunday best on and walk down to the village square for the village barn-raising and square dancing party. Bon apetit!

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