LittleJudeonFood

One kid's adventures in gastronomy


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A pie for all seasons

Mama likes to add the word “pie” to certain things. She thinks this will get me to eat them…and she’s often right. There’s tomato pie, for instance. And now I’ve been introduced to the “pot pie.” Specifically, a tiny little Jude-size pie filled with all kinds of savory yumminess.

Don't you just want to dig in?

Don’t you just want to dig in?

When Mama decides to make pot pies, she makes single-serving ones, and she makes two versions: a veggie one for herself and a chicken one for Papa (and I suppose me). While it seems like a lot of work—and it does take a few hours, or in our case, two nights after work—once the pot pies are done, they freeze well, and you’ll have 8 dinners on tap. Mama makes a few alterations to the recipes, and she has a couple tips for making both recipes at the same time.

First, make the dough for both. It’s easy enough to make one batch, then the next. The bits of dough left on the blade of the food processor after batch 1 aren’t going to affect batch 2, so don’t even bother cleaning it. (You could also make both batches together, if your food processor can handle the volume.) Wrap the dough disks and let them chill in the fridge. Mama says that’s so they can relax before we roll them. She also uses all butter, rather than half shortening.

Second, chop all your vegetables together. Even though you need chopped onions for the chicken pie and sliced onions for the veggie one, you can still prepare the onions all at once. Get your crying out of the way, Mama says. (Whatever that means.) Look over the recipes to see what can go together, and set out the appropriate bowls or containers. For example, for the veggie pie, the fennel and the onions go into the pot together, so Mama sliced them and set them aside in one bowl. Ditto the carrots, asparagus, and squash.

This is the veggie filling. Papa nicked some for a snack before Mama could finish making her pies.

This is the veggie filling. Papa nicked some for a snack before Mama could finish making her pies.

Third, both recipes make 8 larger pies, or about a dozen of the smaller ones. When you roll the dough, you probably won’t be able to get all 8 out of the first roll.

Turn a pie tin over onto the dough and cut the circles a little larger than that.

Turn a pie tin over onto the dough and cut the circles a little larger than that.

Gather the scraps, gently smoosh them together, and set the wad aside. Prepare as many pies as you have crusts for while the dough relaxes again. (Mama showed me how it just springs back to a little circle when you try to roll it again right away.)

This is a freshly rested disk of dough. It’s such a lovely, stretchy dough that even I could roll it fairly easily (though Mama did help).

This is a freshly rested disk of dough. It’s such a lovely, stretchy dough that even I could roll it fairly easily (though Mama did help).

As for the recipes, Mama skipped the Pernod in the veggie recipe, and it goes without saying that she used homemade veggie stock instead of chicken. And instead of par-cooking the veggies in water, she does it in the stock. You not only get extra-flavorful veggies, she says, but the stock gets an added boost, as well. Start with about 3 cups stock for the veggie version.

Don’t scrimp on the saffron. It’s a pricier spice, but Mama suggests going to an ethnic market, where items like this are often more reasonably priced.

Don’t scrimp on the saffron. It’s a pricier spice, but Mama suggests going to an ethnic market, where items like this are often more reasonably priced.

For the chicken pie, Mama didn’t pour in all 5 cups stock at once when she finished the sauce. It can get a little soupy, so she started with a quart and gauged what the thickness was like before proceeding.

This is the chicken filling. Fill one pie to see how much you want it filled, then stick with that amount for each pie. While the dough rests before its second re-roll, go ahead and egg-wash the rims of the pie plates and finish the pies.

This is the chicken filling. Fill one pie to see how much you want it filled, then stick with that amount for each pie. While the dough rests before its second re-roll, go ahead and egg-wash the rims of the pie plates and finish the pies.

The dough stretches a little bit, but not too much. It fits nicely over the bitty pot pie. Once the rims are egg-washed, it’s a matter of laying the dough on top and crimping the edges shut.

The dough stretches a little bit, but not too much. It fits nicely over the bitty pot pie. Once the rims are egg-washed, it’s a matter of laying the dough on top and crimping the edges shut.

Don’t forget to egg-wash the top, cut steam vents in the dough, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mama says that’s the best part.

Don’t forget to egg-wash the top, cut steam vents in the dough, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mama says that’s the best part.

To freeze, Mama covers the pies in both plastic wrap and foil. She sets them on a baking sheet and places them in the freezer that way. Once frozen, then she puts them in a ziptop plastic bag for storage. To bake, she puts them on a baking sheet in a 375°F oven, with the foil on, for half an hour to get the insides heated, then uncovers them for the final 45 to 60 minutes, to get the crust golden and flaky. To serve, Mama cooks brown rice or quinoa, but she says any grain would be a lovely addition. She likes to flip the pie over into a bowl of quinoa and mix it up that way. That sounds kind of yucky, though. And I don’t really like quinoa. But I do like these little pot pies.

I like it!

I like it!

Love, Jude


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A quick dinner for a mild spring night

Though the nights have been cool, the days are starting to warm up. I continue to stupefy Mama and Papa at the lengths I will go to to escape the confines of our yard. (You should see me climb!) There’s lots of yard work to be done, and even though I don’t help with it at all, I’m pretty hungry come dinner time. Mama and Papa both wanted something light and fresh, while I just wanted something in my belly.

Mama went to an easy stand-by recipe, one of those she says everyone should know how to make: chicken piccata. There are probably as many variations on this dish as there are on any other, but Mama likes it for its simplicity—it’s all cooked in one pan—and Papa likes it because it’s delicious. I like it for the capers. But, as you might recall, Mama doesn’t eat chicken, and pasta’s just as easy as anything to make (you know we eat a lot of it). So she got the water boiling and set to work on the veggies she was going to serve it with. Mama and Papa ate it up, but I scarfed the pasta almost exclusively (the exception being a few orange segments). When Mama asked me to take a bite of the zucchini, I said, “No way, José,” followed by a swift, “No, thank you.” Can you believe this actually worked, and I didn’t have to eat it?

Love, Jude

Chicken Piccata
(This one’s real loosey-goosey, but it’s pretty tough to screw up.)

Chicken breasts (for however many you’re cooking for)
Flour (whatever kind you have on hand)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil (to coat the pan)
About 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock (optional)
About 1/4 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large clove garlic, minced
About 2 Tbsp capers
Pat of butter
Parsley (a small handful, chopped)

Put the chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag, seal it, then pound the chicken with a meat mallet until uniform in thickness, about 1/2″. Toss in a handful or two of flour and some s&p. Reseal the bag, then shake it all up to coat the chicken.

Heat a skillet (of ample size to hold your chicken without crowding) over medium heat. Add about 1 Tbsp oil (a couple swirls around the pan—just enough for a thin coat) and wait until it’s hot before carefully adding the chicken (shake off the excess flour first). If you don’t want to be cleaning your stovetop and nearest wall for the rest of the night, put a lid on the pan. Cook until chicken is golden brown (5 or so minutes), then flip, and cook until golden on the other side and the chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm.

Deglaze the skillet with stock, if using, and/or wine. Scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan, then add the lemon juice, garlic, and capers. Cook until reduced and slightly thickened, a few minutes. Add more s&p, if desired. Add the pat of butter (dredge it in flour first, if desired, to give a slight bit more oomph to your sauce) and continue cooking until melted and shiny. Sprinkle in the parsley, then pour the sauce over the chicken.

Rotini with Fennel, Squash, Tomato, and Orange de Provençe

12 oz whole-grain rotini (or any pasta you have on hand—and use a whole box, even if it’s a pound)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 bulb fennel, stalks removed, cored, and thinly sliced
1 large tomato, large diced
1 small-to-medium zucchini, cut into “ribbons” with a veggie peeler
1 clove garlic, minced
About 1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 oranges, segmented (squeeze & reserve the juice from the inner membranes)
Herbes de Provençe (a couple teaspoons, maybe a Tbsp)

Cook the pasta according to package directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat a medium-to-large lidded skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, about a tbsp. (enough to coat the pan), then add the fennel and s&p. Cover and allow to sweat for a few minutes. (You can actually prepare the remaining ingredients in stages, if you like, rather than having them all prepped and ready to go before you begin cooking.) Add the tomato and the garlic and sweat some more, stirring occasionally (keep covered). The fennel won’t take on much color, but it will get soft. Once it is, add the zucchini, some s&p, and the veg stock. (Add enough stock to make the veggies wet but not soupy. This is going to be your pasta’s sauce, remember.) Cover and allow to cook until ribbons are soft, just a couple minutes. Add the orange segments and their reserved juice, and the herbes. Stir to incorporate, taste for seasoning, then combine with the pasta and serve.


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I want more broccolini!

Yes, dear reader, I really did say this. Many times. I eat regular broccoli by the stalk, but I really liked its funny little cousin. Mama steamed it for all of 2 minutes, lightly salted it, and served it with a small pat of butter. If you haven’t tried this tender veggie alternative, consider picking some up.

As much as I would’ve been perfectly satisfied with just the broccolini, Mama did actually make dinner in the form of quesadillas. You might recall that I am a fan of a local eatery’s cheesey version (usually after swimming lessons, rather than visits to the E.R.). I had no idea they were so simple to make at home. Much like a pepper, you can stuff just about anything into a quesadilla, and it’s a great way to clear out the veggie bin. But you must not skimp on the cheese. (Did you know queso means “cheese” in Spanish?)

Mama sauteed sliced peppers, onion, and shiitake mushrooms. She tossed in some leftover lentils at the end. Separately, she sauteed sliced chicken breasts. To assemble the quesadilla, she heated a whole-wheat wrap in a frying pan, flipped it over, sprinkled half of it with shredded cheese, then layered on the pepper mixture (and the chicken for Papa). She topped with some arugula then more cheese, folded the wrap in half, and cooked it until the bottom browned. She flipped it and cooked until that side was brown. Remove from the pan, slice into wedges, and serve with salsa and sour cream, if you have it.

Mama actually made me a cheese quesadilla and served some of the stuffin's on the side. You can see how quickly I'm eating the broccolini.

Mama made me a cheese quesadilla and served some of the stuffin’s on the side. You can see how quickly I’m eating the broccolini–my hand is just a blur.

I’m not going to lie. I prefer the quesadillas that Mama buys, but this wasn’t all bad. Did I mention the broccolini?

Love, Jude


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Don’t Let a Little Chicken Intimidate You

Ina Garten, “the Barefoot Contessa,” has said she makes a roast chicken for her husband every Friday. Mama doesn’t cook one chicken a month, let alone every week, but she should. She says they’re supereasy to prepare and can be made very flavorful very simply. We got a 3-pound chicken from my friend Walter’s mama. It was so fresh, it was barely cold from their refrigerator!

First, Mama rinsed the chicken, inside and out, then patted it dry. Just because. Then, the easiest way to add flavor to your bird, according to Mama, is to let it cook in fat. This means you should keep the skin on it while it bakes (remove the skin before you eat the chicken, and you take all that fat with it, believe it or not). But Mama adds more flavor by rubbing olive oil all over the skin and sprinkling it with a lot of kosher salt and pepper. Sometimes she puts a few pats of butter under the skin, massaging it into the breast meat. And that’s all you have to do! Mama always puts aromatics inside the chicken, too, such as a halved head of garlic, a quartered onion, a halved lemon, and whatever whole herbs she has on hand. You won’t eat these, so you don’t even have to peel them.

Mama tied the chicken’s legs together with kitchen string and tucked the wings under where its neck would be. Doing this keeps these extremities close so they don’t burn (or worse, dry out), but you certainly don’t have to do it. Mama says to bake your chicken on a rack set in a roasting pan (or on a bed of preferred veggies) at 425°F for 15–20 minutes per pound. To test if it’s done, you can temp it in the thigh (careful not to touch the bone) to 165°F, or you can wriggle the leg. If it seems like it might come out of the socket easily, and the juices from it run clear (not pink), then it’s done. If you think it’s not quite done, but the skin is getting very crispy and dark, tent some foil over it.

A tidy little roast dinner.

A tidy little roast dinner.

This little guy took about an hour to cook. You can see that Mama took advantage of that time by roasting some asparagus and pumpkin. Not really a seasonal match, but my folks like asparagus, and I can’t say no to orange food, especially one roasted with rosemary and Parmesan. The Cinderella pumpkin, as Mama called it, roasted with the chicken, and the asparagus cooked while the chicken rested. (Don’t forget to let your bird rest before you slice into it, Mama says, or your bird will lose its juiciness.)

I skipped the asparagus, and even after all that roasting and resting, the chicken didn’t really appeal to me. Papa ate a pretty good dinner, though, and he said the chicken was very juicy. But what to do with all the chicken leftovers? Mama has chicken salad and quesadillas in mind. I don’t know what a chicken “salad” is, but I sure do love quesadillas. And before the carcass was even cold, Mama had it in a pot on the stove for stock. (I’ll tell you about that another time.)

So the moral of the story is don’t be a chicken about a little…er…pullet. If Mama, a vegetarian, can do it, so can you!

Love, Jude


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Brown bagging it

Boy, this daycare thing is really getting in the way of my blogging. Between all the playing with cars and the taking of 2-hour naps, I can’t get a word in. Sigh… It’s not like I haven’t been eating. Take, for example, what Mama sends with me to daycare. She found out some of the typical foods they feed us for lunch and decided to make her own versions for me to eat. One thing is cheesy macaroni, which I eat much better at Miss Rose’s house than I do at home. (Don’t tell Mama.)

Then there’s the fish sticks and chicken nuggets. Mama says she wrestled with this one because she feels “chicken” nuggets are the go-to choice of not just parents, but of restaurants everywhere. Have a kid? Give him a nugget. (She’s judging restaurants here, not parents.) She doesn’t want me to get used to this sort of “cuisine,” and she worries about what’s actually in said nuggets. Her compromise: control everything.

Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of time to cook together lately, so Mama made these while I slept. I can only share her recipe, but note that I did not witness the making-of moments. I can, however, attest to their yumminess.

Love, Jude

Chicken Nuggets/Fish Sticks
1 cup (more or less) flour (whatever you have on hand)
1 egg, lightly beaten (add a splash of milk, if you like)
1 cup (more or less) breadcrumbs (make your own with the heels of loaves and a food processor, or use the canned stuff)
1–3 chicken breasts or 1–2 firm white fish fillets (haddock, flounder, cod), cut into appropriate-size pieces
Coconut oil for frying
Sea salt and pepper for seasoning

First things first: Season everything! Set the flour, egg, and breadcrumbs in separate shallow containers, and add salt & pepper to each one. Salt and pepper your chicken or fish, too. Melt about a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Toss a few pieces of chicken (or fish) into the flour and toss them to coat. Then dip them into the egg, coating entirely. Then toss them into the breadcrumbs, making sure they’re completely covered. Set onto a clean plate while the oil heats and you do a couple more; this also gives the coating some time to adhere. (If you do all this with one hand, it keeps your other hand clean to add more flour or breadcrumbs, if needed, or to scratch your nose.) When the oil is hot, add the pieces, one by one, until the bottom of the pan is covered, but the pieces aren’t touching. (You need to give them space.) Coconut oil burns quickly, so as the pan starts to dry, don’t be stingy about adding more. (It’s good for babies!) When the pieces are dark golden on one side, turn them over, silly, and cook the other. Remove them to a paper towel–lined plate while you cook the rest. Give one to a non-vegetarian in the house to be sure they’re cooked through. If you make lots, you can freeze some for later. Just reheat and serve.

Notes: I know Mama would say, if you’re doing chicken and fish at the same time, to cook two entirely separate batches. Don’t use any of the chickeny flour/egg/breadcrumbs for the fish. She would also point out that all of these ingredients are organic/free-range/wild caught, but I think you know that by now.


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Want some more pâté?

I’m sure Papa never thought he’d be saying those words to his baby boy. But there was the question, and the answer was most definitely yes!

Mama makes pâté for me at least once a week. She says it’s very good for me, but all I know is it’s delicious. Sometimes it’s veal, but tonight’s was chicken. It was my back-up meal. Lest anyone think I devour everything my mama makes…. She said she didn’t feel like making dinner, so she “threw together” a veggie pot pie with a whole-wheat biscuit crust, and served mine and Papa’s over some shredded rotisserie chicken. I could tell it was leftover chicken the moment I tasted it (but my dog didn’t seem to mind when I threw it overboard). I picked out a few carrots—they’re orange, you know—but sent the rest of the sad, sad pot pie sailing. But not my pâté. That was all for me. (Mama and Papa are very generous when it comes to liver.)

Better luck tomorrow, Mama.

Love, Jude