How to boost your confidence, improve your love life, and feed your family all in one. (originally a blog post)
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Yesterday was Valentine's Day. The universal day of love and affection. My husband and I have been together for almost nine years, and we've never been big into Valentine's Day. We're pretty anti-mush; we don't call each other pet names in public, we're not known to practice much PDA. We are both good writers, however, and have a nice thick stack of love letters we've exchanged whenever we felt compelled. Now that we have a curly-headed third wheel, the expressions of love are fewer and further between, but we make the effort when it counts. This year, in lieu of a traditional Valentine's gift of sentimental verses, my gift to our family was homemade, from scratch, Chicken Pot Pie.
This may have been my first completely from scratch meal. From the bechamel sauce to the pastry dough, this bitch made every ounce of goodness that came out of that pie (short of growing the vegetables and killing the chicken myself). If you're looking to boost your overall confidence in less than a day, there's no easier way to do it than by making Chicken Pot Pie from scratch. I'm known to forego recipes and attempt my own half-assed versions, most often out of fear of failure. But seeing that steaming, golden brown, bubbling, warm, rectangle of pastry, chicken, and vegetables, perfectly constructed and exactly what you hoped for...there's nothing like it. Creating something you thought was out of reach, out of your food realm, is the fastest way to believing in yourself.
Valentine's Day isn't just about showing love to the other people in your life, it's about showing yourself some love, too. My husband took our son out for some one-on-one quality time, and I took full advantage of this rare solitude to dive headfirst into my cooking endeavor with pure, unbridled enthusiasm. I poured myself some day wine, set up the laptop with my favorite streaming show playing in the background, and took my sweet time meticulously chopping and dicing; this is my self love.
Again, I'm using Anthony Bourdain's cookbook 'Appetites' (Chicken Pot Pie, p. 160). I plan on making one recipe a week from his book and couldn't be more excited. He claims this particular Chicken Pot Pie recipe makes up for any pot pies you may have had in the past that you felt lacked in the chicken department. With four pounds of chicken added in, he more than makes up for it. The pastry dough was outrageously easy to make: flour, salt, butter, water. Another food item I felt so disconnected from, but is as easy as turning on your food processor. The rest of the ingredients are equally as simple: onions, celery, carrots, chicken, some fresh herbs, salt and pepper. This Chicken Pot Pie wants to be made. It begs to be made. Open your fridge right now and you likely can make this, TODAY. Do it.
I also got to use my thrillingly strange and shamefully rich pigs feet and bone marrow stock. You literally poach the chicken in the stock, parboil the potatoes in the stock, add the stock to your bechamel...do you feel privileged yet? Because I do. I fed my family homemade, from scratch, PIGS FEET AND BONE MARROW INFUSED, Chicken Pot Pie from the deepest depths of my heart. Very possibly the greatest act of love I've ever performed. This pot pie was so beautiful it made me want to have sex with my husband. Forget confidence building; are you looking to improve your love life in less than a day? Make your significant other Chicken Pot Pie from scratch.
As I sat beside my stove, oven light on so I could watch the pie crust transform from beige to mouth-watering brown, I was so overjoyed with pride and anticipation that I took selfies with the pie like it was my newborn baby. 10 lbs, 3 oz, 13 inches long. Two hours of labor, born 3:34pm, February 14, 2020. When it was birthed from the center rack and rested atop the stove, we filmed its first moments of life: heavenly bubbles of bechamel escaping through the slits in the top of the crust; a crust so perfect you could hear the crunch just by looking at it. It was enough to make you want to take a heaping bite before letting it cool.
I had to serve it right away before it lost all its amazing texture and warmth, but I had to share it with as many people as I could. You can't keep good food to yourself. It must be shared with the people you love, regardless of any love-themed holidays. Fabulous food eaten alone is just a meal. Fabulous food eaten with friends and family is an experience. I wrapped it up quick in some tinfoil and carefully slid it into a reusable bag to bring to my mother-in-law's house. When you have someone in your family as culinarily seasoned as her, you have to let her try it. An approval from "Chef" makes everything taste better. Resting in my lap, warm with love and PIGS FEET POACHED CHICKEN (ugh, I can't get over it), I cradled my pot pie around every corner and sharp turn as we drove through town. I imagined accidentally dropping it as I walked up to her door and it almost brought a tear to my eye.
A few hours later, stomachs bloated and begging for forgiveness, only one tenth of the pie remained, cowering in the corner of my baking dish, destined to become someone's leftover lunch. With the overwhelming approval of "Chef", my sister-in-law, husband, and son, I swelled with pride. Personally, I thought it could use a pinch more salt, but that didn't deter anyone from grabbing seconds and thirds. Feeding your family is the closest you'll come to the physical manifestation of love. You cook something with passion and intent, and then the people you love literally put it inside of their bodies. "Here is my love, please consume it and let it fill you with warm feelings and carbohydrates." If you have the chance to feed those closest to you, do it. Whether it's Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving dinner, or just another Sunday around the kitchen table. Your Chicken Pot Pie could be what they remember years from now, pining for it on a rainy day, and recreating it for their own family.
Happy Valentine's Day!
"The most indispensable ingredient of all good home cooking: love for those you are cooking for." - Sophia Loren