Monday, April 23, 2012

OMG a Recipe: Comfort Makes a Killing

You're watching a television series about a dour, serious subject, the murder of a young girl, taking place in a dreary, rainy place like Seattle, while actually living in the Pacific Northwest on one of its typical dreary, gray days... whatcha gonna do besides pop an antidepressant or three? By golly, you make risotto, and plenty of it. 

The antidote to dreary days and equally dreary television dramas - Photo by Wasabi Prime
The series about a high school teenager killed under increasingly mysterious and unscrupulous circumstances in the Pacific Northwest is of course Twin Peaks -- I mean, The Killing. If you didn't know it, you'd think it was the same show, minus crazy ladies with logs and a table full of perfectly stacked doughnuts. AMC kicked off season two of The Killing a few weeks ago and I let the episodes build up for a couple of weeks before diving back into the dark, film-noir stylings of murder in a not-so-small town. The show is gritty, the characters' motives are opaque at best, and thanks to a successful season one, they've had to drag the mystery into complex, politically-charged territory that's taken the story outside of its original scope, which was more about how the death of one person can affect so many lives. The Mister was disappointed they didn't tie up all the loose ends, but I've grown attached to the banter between the  eerily calm-as-Hindu-cattle Detective Linden and her tweaker partner, Homeskillet-Holder. And I can appreciate Holder's obsession with Funyuns and his belief that it's a vegetable. That's sound vending machine food pyramid advice.

I'm not giving any spoilers, you should decide to watch the show yourself, but I think you'll get drawn into its intrigue and perfect depiction of severe vitamin D deficiency. I'm still trying to wrap my head around all the sub-plots of the new season, as I had forgotten quite a bit of everything. I also forgot all the funny Seattle area fake-outs they do on a show that's clearly shot up in BC. Blame Canada! I didn't start back into The Killing unprepared, especially on a gray, overcast day -- I went in with backup. I went in with risotto. I made it because it was creamy and delicious, but like the murder of Rosie Larsen, the bubbles in a bottle of sparkling wine I had were extinguished before their time. Someone murdered my Bubbly! I need justice, dammit! I think the culprit was a bad cork, resulting in a poor seal, because there was no signature pop, and it was flat, flat, flat when I first drank it. So into a risotto it went, along with chicken stock, Arborio rice, an onion, and a little wedge of Parmesan cheese in the fridge. I don't really work with a recipe, but if you need a basic one, the handy dandy folks at Epicurious has something close to what I did. If you've never made risotto before, just listen to what all the recipes say and keep stirring. Don't walk away, don't get distracted, keep yourself firmly planted in front of the stove, getting that super-starchy rice creamy and thick, like pudding. Then plant yourself in front of the TV and watch a murder mystery unfold with a carbohydrate food coma.

Making poultry magic with chicken pot pie - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Along with the comforting creaminess of risotto, I was working on chicken pot pie. Why does chicken pot pie need working on? Isn't it just a plain and simple delight that doesn't need fussing with? Normally I'd say yes, but I've had some that were so rich and delicious, I wanted to refocus my efforts to push the flavor. This is probably more technique than recipe, but I found a way to make chicken pot pie taste like you shoved a whole coop of chickeny goodness into a little stew topped with pastry dough. It all comes down to the sauce or stew liquid. Normally you cook the filling together, building a roux, adding vegetables, etc., but I separated my focus between liquids and solids. I took about two quarts of chicken broth and just let it simmer for a half hour and reduce to a little less than half. This really intensifies the broth and makes the flavor extra rich. This is homemade chicken broth, but store bought is of course totally fine, you'll just have to adjust seasonings accordingly, adding salt and pepper to your taste. I made a slurry with milk and flour to get the broth a little thicker, keeping the heat at medium, but not boiling, to keep any stray chunks of flour from turning into dumplings. I took its consistency to a loose gravy thickness and left it there, but if you want something thicker, add more of the flour/milk slurry, making sure to give it time to cook out that raw flour taste.

Meanwhile, for the vegetables, I roasted them separately, along with a couple of chicken breasts. Tossing everything with a little oil, salt and pepper and letting a 375 degree oven do its work, the dry heat helps pull extra moisture out and further intensify the vegetables' flavor. I used all the usual suspects: carrots and celery, but swapped potatoes with cauliflower for a less starchy vegetable. I forgot to roast an onion (duh, I have no idea why), but added in a dollop of roasted garlic paste when I was mixing the roasted vegetables with the supercharged chicken gravy. It could have been thicker, but I like eating chicken pot pie more like a thick soup, with a bit of puffed pastry baked on the top, almost like having French onion soup.  The roasted, slightly caramelized vegetables were stronger, with the carrots a little sweeter and the cauliflower getting that toasted nutty flavor. Yes, it's a little more work, getting the broth reduced, and then roasting the vegetables and chicken separately, but it was probably one of the better chicken pot pies I've enjoyed at home.

It's TV Dinner time. Make sure the cops don't catch me! - Food photos by Wasabi Prime
I may not know who killed Rosie Larsen, but I think I've at least cracked the mystery of getting a really flavorful chicken pot pie and/or stew on the table. Now if you'll pardon me, I've got some episodes of  The Killing to catch up on...


  1. Twin Peaks style without the crazy little old ladies and perfect donuts? They've stripped the fun out of it!

    1. I know, it's no dreamland of dancing midgets and FBI agents who like to talk into handheld recorders, but I'm such a TV Hound, this series totally has me hooked!

  2. I love the Killing almost as much as your blog !

    1. Aw, thank you! And OMG -- just watched the latest episode of The Killing. GAAAH! I know they keep dangling the main mystery, but every episode there's new twists and turns. I need to put more risotto on the stove...


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