Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Midwinter English Tale or Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road and Chicken Leek Pot Pie

Right after I graduated from college or University as they like to say in England, I had no clue what the heck I was going to do with my life. I had studied a mishmash of subjects finally earning a BBA in International Business Studies with three minors. Economics, German, and Music. Very confused was I. I also had never had a job outside of food service really and was so uncertain about what I wanted to be when I grew up I was on the brink of despair.

My father asked me what I wanted to do and I think out of confusion and desperation  and not to feel to like a complete loser I declared "I want to go to Europe again and this time have a job". The first time I went was during school, and I had been in Switzerland. This time I wanted to go to the Vaterland! So my father being the man he was called up a business associate with a management consulting company and asked if he could arrange an internship for me with their German office. The guy asked what can your son do, I think my father said nothing really he just graduated! Anyway I got my chance to go to Europe. What was supposed to be a Summer internship turned into 18 months of living and working in Germany as the assistant to one of the firms Principles, who was British. And being that he was a Brit he had several clients that were in England and thus I was sent a number of times to London on errands for the company. On one such trip I was invited by one of the fellows in our office in London to spend a weekend out where he and his wife had a lovely country home. There was just one hitch. I would have to drive myself out to their house. No big deal I said. I could drive in England I told myself and so off from the rental place I went at Heathrow airport map in hand and I must say that I did fine getting out of London and onto the M5 which is the big highway to the north. Now they lived about an hour and a half or so outside of London and all was well until it got dark and I needed to make a pitstop!

So I get off the highway and I find a service station and a WC. it's now gotten quite dark and there are not lots of lights or signs. I am in the country. I get back in my car find the freeway entrance and am back on my way. All of a sudden a car comes at me in the lane next to me. Flashing it's lights and honking. Then another and then another. Now at first I thought that's strange. Then I look over and there are cars in another two lanes across the median going the same direction I am. Suddenly I am overcome with a sinking feeling. Then a touch of terror as another car blows by me flashing it's lights and honking! Then it hits me! I AM IN THE WRONG LANE GOING THE WRONG WAY ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE MOTORWAY!!!

I quickly see an upcoming exit ramp! Well not exactly it's an on ramp but I have little choice it's dark and empty and I take it off the highway just as I encounter another car. I reach the top of the ramp and pull over heart pounding and adrenaline rushing! I get out of the car and survey where I am and locate the on ramp for the correct side of the highway. I get back on the road and make it to my destination unharmed but wow was that scary!

So I finally arrive at my destination. I am enthralled. It's a farmhouse from the 1500's which this couple  had gutted and completely redone. Tudor style exposed wood beams and clapboard floors redone and white thatched walls are amongst the hallmarks of the home. The Modern blended seamlessly with the Old making it very warm and inviting. A large fireplace you could look through dominated the center of the house separating the living room from the dining room. A roaring fire and some good wine greeted me along with tangy english cheese and crackers. I did not mention my driving debacle to my hosts. I did not want to upset them. But that night in the deep damp English winter I feasted on watercress salad with roasted carrots and goat cheese and chicken and leek pot pie and a port poached pear for dessert. Not a bad meal to end a stressful trip I must say, for a Yankee Kid that almost crashed on the M5 motorway.

It may have been there I fell in love with Pot pie. I never really grew up with them. Casseroles I knew from  but not the crusty pot pie! I really enjoyed it! So many years later as I was thinking about what to make for some dear people I know who were coming over for dinner I recalled this pot pie and this story of how I first had this dish. And since I have been on a potpie kick this winter I thought i would try and recreate it!

I made up a recipe based on the fact that one of the guests was lactose intolerant. So it had no dairy in it. Yeah me cooking with no dairy go figure! It came out wonderfully and hearty and tasty so I thought I would pass it on to you all. It will be the last pot pie entry I fear for another year till the winter comes upon us again. But on the doorstep of Spring I will give this one to you! Enjoy Ya'll!!!

Forrest's Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pot Pie with Tarragon and Dijon. 

12 oz of cooked chicken breast cut into large dice
4 leeks cleaned and chopped into discs
3 cloves of garlic minced
8 oz of sliced bella mushrooms
1/2 cup green peas
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 heaping tablespoons of flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 shallots minced
1 clove garlic minced
4 tablespoons brandy
2 pie crusts
2 tablespoons dried tarragon
2 tablespoons fresh thyme finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon
2 good shakes of Worcestershire sauce

Place leeks and mushroom in a pan with a little oil and slowly saute till soft but not mushy
Add 1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon thyme and season with S&P

In another pot heat 4 tablespoons olive oil add shallots and let cook for a minute then garlic.
Add flour and cook stirring for about 2 mins till flour has cooked out the raw flavor.
with a whisk add the stock slowly till thickened and well combined add the mustard.
Add tarragon and the rest of the thyme and season well with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken and the leeks and mushrooms combine turn off heat add brandy and peas and taste for seasoning.
Pour into 4 pot pie dishes and cover each with pie crust, cutting holes with a knife or fork to let the steam escape crimp the edges with a fork if you want and use extra dough as decor on top.
Preheat oven to 400.
Bake for 25 to thirty minutes or until the crust is browned and golden!
Allow to cool slightly and serve!


  1. Oh Yeah!!! What I miss the most about home! We English do Pies! Thanks for sharing this great recipe!