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chicken pot-pie experiment, cooking new things

Posted by on Jan 14, 2011 in Blog Posts | 12 comments

I’ve been experimenting with chicken left-overs recently, turkey too.  Basically once I roast a chicken or turkey, I save the left-over meat and drippings. (You could also use a rotisserie chicken from the store leftovers…)

FFD Creamy Chicken over rice

1 leek (or onion)
2 carrots
2 stalks celery (mushrooms if you have them)
1/4 cup sherry or white wine
2 Tbspn butter
2 Tbns flour (or so)
chicken broth 1-2 cups or so…
1/2 cup evaporated whole milk (or half and half)
1 cup frozen peas and/or corn

So, I chop the celery, carrots and onion finely and sautee in a Dutch Oven or a deep pan with a lid in about a Tbspn of butter and a Tbspn of olive oil. I cook on medium about 10 minutes adding the sherry about half way through, don’t burn. Then I combine the flour and some broth and stir into a paste. I pour this in and mix it with the veggies and cook a few minutes to get rid of some of the flour taste. Then I dump in the left-over chicken, the pan dripping from the chicken (can remove the fat on top since  it’s firm from being in the fridge. The dripping will be almost like jello from a roast chicken…) Stir in the extra butter. Simmer for 20 minutes or so until thickened, add as little or as much broth as you like. Stir in the evaporated milk or half and half. Add the frozen peas and corn and heat through to simmering again. Serve over rice! (I have punched up the chicken flavor by stirring in some chicken flavored broth paste or a half a Knorr chicken cube…)

How does the process work? I had initially made a chicken dumpling dish with a recipe that was awesome, and now I just wing it. We have really enjoyed this with rice and at times roast potatoes. I was getting a little bored so I thought I would make a “pot pie.” I didn’t grow up eating this, and wanted to try something easy. I used an Immaculate Kitchen tube of cresent rolls and unrolled tham on the pies, baked at 350 for 30 minutes. It was “meh.”  Wouldn’t make it again, but fun to experiment! They were a little soggy on the bottom, and I much preferred it with rice.

I recently made a miso-glazed salmon that was also – “meh” -much prefer my maple/dijon glaze. Also did a Thai cold noodle salad that I didn’t love, but my dh and M LOVED it. M had it cold in the thermos the next day for lunch and said it was “so good.” Gotta perfect that one! I searched for a recipe, then winged it with fish sauce, sugar, a tiny bit of soy, rice wine vinegar and cilantro… close… On the first try, I almost always follow the recipe to a T. (An exception is sesame oil. I find most recipes WAY overdo sesame oil so I halve it and add from there…) About a third of the time I try something new I love it and add it to the repertoire, the rest of the time, D usually says, “This is really good!” and he looks at my face and says,  “I’m never going to see this again, am I?” Not unless he cooks it :)

A few thoughts about experimenting. It’s fun, but I have to be in the mood. I tend to go weeks or months not trying anything new and then get a bug and try several new ones in a week. I think trying to force yourself to try one new recipe a week or some other goal can take the fun out of it. (What do you think?) I recognize how tough it is to experiment with food, particularly pricey ingredients like meats, seafood and fresh fruits and veggies when money is an issue. I recently threw out whole pan of food that came out pretty gross where the meat alone was almost $10… It’s a shame, and it’s not even an option for many. Think about it, if food is scarce, you’re darn well going to make it in a way that is familiar, filling and reliable.

Feeding tips with new foods

Making new foods if you have a picky eater is also tricky. Many of my clients say they have limited what the family eats to the least common denominator– foods the pickiest kid will readily eat. Trying new foods feels risky, but is a key part to getting back to satisfying family meals and helping your picky eater by exposing him to the foods the family eats–  he can learn to like them. Remember if you are serving something new, also serve something familiar. Does your picky eater like corn? Serve the above stew and cook the corn on the side, serve with bread, maybe a pudding or fruit for dessert. Even adventurous children might not try a new food the first time they see it. Remember that seeing it, smelling it, watching you eat it, all in a pleasant setting free from pressure is learning. M even now will refuse a food, or say it looks “yucky” the first time. After I reassure her she doesn’t have to try it, but she can’t say “yucky,” she serves herself some of the other food, watches her father and I eat it, and often a few minutes later is serving herself a portion. We don’t do a big sales pitch, maybe just describe it, “it tastes really chickeny and is creamy.” Remember to have a paper napkin on hand so your child (and you) can spit out a new food if they taste but don’t want to swallow. For almost-toddlers and toddlers this is also a great stew. Mash up the pieces a little, pull apart the chicken into appropriate sizes. The sauce can help with the meats which are often tough if too dry. Got a toddler in their picky phase where they don’t want things to “touch?” Use a compartmentalized plate, and serve some chicken in one area, some rice in another, and some carrots or peas somewhere else.

What do you  experiment with? Do you always use recipes? How did you learn to cook? Do you do a “supper-club” to try new recipes? (I always thought that would be fun for family friendly recipes to have a pot-luck, bring recipe cards, include the kids…)

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  1. Chef Todd Mohr

    You can learn to cook new dishes without having to search for recipes and go to the grocery store, but you have to learn to cook without recipes.

    If your Mom or Grandma didn’t teach you to cook, you’re unfortunately left to recipe books and celebrity chefs on TV. The problem is neither of these actually teach you HOW to cook.

    The Food Network is the MTV of Food. MTV used to play music, now they’re entertainment ABOUT music. The Food Network is entertainment ABOUT food, they don’t teach anyone to cook.

    Neither will you learn how to cook from a book. Written recipes won’t teach you to cook any more than having sheet music will teach you to play piano. There are too many variables in recipes that always lead to frustration.

    The best way to free yourself from recipes and cook like a chef at home is to examine the basic cooking methods. When you learn HOW to saute, broil, grill, roast, then you can create your own recipes from what you have on hand.

    Knowing HOW to cook anything is a skill that will save you time, money at the grocery store, improve your health, reunite your family over dinner, eat a greater variety of foods, and have this skill for the rest of your life.

    Chef Todd Mohr

    • katja

      I both agree and disagree. I think the ideal way to learn is by watching and helping, but I do think you can learn from cookbooks and once you have some basic skills, some of the cooking shows are good for giving ideas. Things like Rachel Ray, or Nigella’s quick one seem pretty good. But, Iron Chef, Top Chef, and the one I dislike the most, “Worst Chefs in America” will not teach how to cook and is definitely more about entertainment! I agree that knowing how to cook is a life skill. I think Jamie Oliver’s thought of having each student graduate from high school knowing how to cook ten things is spot on. Learning those basic skills…

  2. Elizabeth

    My standard prep for leftover roast chicken is to pick all the meat off the chicken carcass, shred it, and mix it into the leftover gravy. (If there is no leftover gravy, I make some from butter, flour, and chicken broth.) This is warmed and served over buttered toast. Really easy, and it tastes great.

  3. Twistie

    I grew up in a house where cooking was a skill we were all expected to pick up at least to a basic level, my brothers as well as me. Mom was a great cook and Dad was a skilled baker. I turned out to take to baking like a duck to water, but it took a little longer for my other cooking skills to evolve. Still, I was cooking dinner for the family at least two or three times a week by the time I was fourteen. In those days Mom would leave ingredients and instructions and all I would have to do is the actual cooking.

    Over the years, I became more and more adventurous. I love to eat and I love to try new things. I read cookbooks as though they were novels and spend a lot of time watching cooking shows (I heart Top Chef so hard!).

    Then I went and married a man riddled with food fears. For a long time I ricocheted back and forth between cooking to please him (which bored me and left me desperate for a bite of my favorite foods, most of which he found revolting), and cooking to please me (which terrified him and left him ruining my good pans trying to cook something for himself when the only settings he recognizes on the stove are ‘full blast’ and ‘off’). We were both deeply frustrated.

    At long last a couple years ago (and after only fifteen years of otherwise blissful marriage) I started trying to address his issues. I started asking him what he disliked so about certain foods. Lo and behold! I discovered that either he’d never even tried them or had tried them once (and very badly cooked) in his childhood. I started asking what specifically he’d disliked about the ones he’d actually tried, and what made him uncomfortable about the ones he hadn’t. Then I started slowly trying things out on him. I would seek out ways of cooking things that resembled things he already likes. I worked hard to find ways to mitigate the aspects of many vegetables that he dislikes, such as bitterness. He’s now reasonably content to eat: kale, chard, cooked spinach, turnips, and several other foods he wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole just a year ago.

    Now I get to exercise my cooking muscles making meals that excite me, and he’s learning that new foods can turn out to be tasty. He’s learned to trust that I won’t take him too far too fast, so that he’s more willing to be open to my experiments. He even knows that if he tries something and discovers he really, honestly doesn’t like it that I’m not going to get my knickers in a huge twist. What’s more, I’ve started doing my best to look at the one or two things he really loves that I can’t stand to see if I can find a way to eat them so he can have them more often, too. The fact that I went out of my way to find a way to cook beets that I could eat may have been the final straw that made him tell me the other day that if I made Brussels sprouts, he would try at least one. In return, I promised there would be an other vegetable option in case he still found them gross.

    Reducing pressure and seeking compromise is working like a (slow) charm here!

    • katja

      Bril-liant! LOVE this!!! I will repost sometime I think…
      Also, LOVE top chef. Have you seen “Worst chef in america?” Will blog soon, it’s not so great.

  4. Kate

    My husband is kind of picky eater and I used to pick things out of the blue, typically pretty intricate meals and after all that work, when my husband didn’t like the meal, it hurt my feelings.

    Now that I’ve seen the light of Ellyn Satter, my experiments have been much more successful. I think about what kind of foods we already like and pick something that’s at least is made up predominantly of ingredients we already like and my success rate has skyrocketed. Also, my husband is now more open to trying something outside of his comfort zone. So yay!

    Sometimes I just make bombs, but that happens. I hate the waste, but sometimes that can’t be helped.

  5. Anne

    I was particularly fortunate in the cooking department, I’m Italian – my grandfather opened a restaurant when he came over from Italy and eventually my parents ran it. So between that and my grandmother living next door, I was surrounded by people who could cook amazing food – I learned to cook mostly by watching. Hardly anything was ever written down which frustrates me a little as an adult. For example, I only found out this year why my chicken cacciatore never tasted “right” when I was talking to my mom about it and she casually mentioned tossing in a pat of butter at some point – and I was like “What?! You never told me that before!” Turned out to be the missing link. :)

    My husband is a big experimenter, he often just looks at what we have an starts tossing stuff in a pan. We’ve gotten quite a few favorites that way. It’s sort of funny because our son loves to cook, and watch/help us cook, his favorite movie is Ratatouille and he always picks out these exotic recipes that he wants to try – but hardly ever eats the end results. I’ve been learning not to make a big deal out of it and just hope that subconsciously a little bit of adventure is getting into him.

    • katja

      Lucky you! Butter makes everything a little better, eh? I made cacciatore last night, with sherry… I had a few bad experiences with red wine and have been nervous about it. Your son is learning. It is really hard not to pressure though! Foodies have a hard time with cautious eaters for sure!

  6. The Bald Soprano

    One of our standards for leftover chicken (or turkey sometimes) is chicken a la king (at least, that’s one of the names I grew up calling it) or in other words, creamed chicken (we don’t do a wine sauce, and use canned veggies –usually peas, carrots, and corn) on toast. Because the chicken-n-veggies-n-sauce goes on the toast right before eating, it doesn’t have time to get soggy the way the crust on a pie often does.

    I think I need to rein in my parentheticals.