Sometimes a food evokes more than just a flavor or a memory, which is exactly what happened when my husband and I met up with our friends, Lisa and Jim, at the Smallman Galley. We went through the usual dance of “this restuarant incubator has four chefs with totally separate kitchens and a great bar, and everything here is really good,” and then we added, as per usual, “but you’ve got to try the shrimp and grits at Aubergine, and let’s all split a ricotta tart and a jicama salad, because you live only once.”
I wasn’t sure about getting the chicken pot pie. It’s a humble dish I make every so often, but…
…but on Instagram, I saw posted photos of puff pastry crust…
… puff pastry made from scratch, and I thought…
… I’ve made scratch puff pastry ONLY once, and knowing what’s involved, it sort of elevated the whole chicken pot pie concept. With scratch puff pastry, it has to be good, right?
So there we were, chatting and sharing tastes, when Raf brought me a generous bowl of this silkiest, whitest sauce I’ve ever seen. It was full of goodies, and its top was crowned with a perfect puff pastry square.
The first spoonful transported me into a state of soft, protective warmth, kind of like a hug. It was… well, it had all the parts a proper chicken pot pie should have, but for me, it was really all about the sauce. Regular folk would probably just make a veloutè, but this sauce (and I’m using the word lightly, because calling it fluffy warm cloud happiness would get awkward), this sauce didn’t have any of that grit or color of roux, nor did it taste of starch.
I don’t know how he does it. ( I say that a lot.)
The chicken was white meat, soft and falling apart like no chicken breast I’ve ever tasted before.
But, the sauce. After offering tastes all around, I removed myself from the conversation and let the dish transport me again.
I was in faraway mountains just then, all cold and tired, and every spoonful was a step into a cozy room. The warmth and silky softness caressed and coaxed like a featherbed with a comforter on top (all goose down, none of that cheap filler here), and I wanted to just settle in and close my eyes. If I dove into it, that sleep would be heavy and boneless and sweet. Also warm and soft. Like a hug, but I already said that.
As sleep goes, it would be pretty permanent, because humans can’t really immerse themselves in Raf’s chicken pot pie and survive longer than two minutes. But I digress.
It was beyond excellent. If you’re in Pittsburgh and the weather is getting you down, now you know where to go and what to order.
While I was all spaced out and in a world of my own, Jim ordered his own chicken pot pie and called it a “foodgasm.” I was glad, because I got to take a picture of the dish for you. By then, mine was already in chicken pot pie heaven.
And now I’ll go to bed and dream of snowy, windswept mountains. I’ll dream of coming in from the cold and diving into something white and soft and warm, and entirely comforting, and I can’t tell you yet whether it will be a goosedown featherbed, or whether it will be one of those bizzare dreams I should probably not describe in detail.
NEW BOOK ALERT: On a slightly different topic, since so many of you wanted more backstory for “Like a Phoenix,” I present you with “Like a Rock,” book no. 1 of the “Disorderly Elements” series:
WHEN EARTH AND WATER MOVE – Fresh out of school, architect Cooper Anneveinen tends a bar in Pittsburgh by night and chases small clients by day. He sees what lies hidden underground. The unexplained, wild images complicate his life and drive him to seek medical help – but not even antipsychotic drugs make him “normal.”
Ash Ravenna talks to water, and water sometimes obeys his wishes. Using his gift in a pollution clean-up effort, he hires Cooper to help with an old industrial property by the Allegheny River. The handsome young architect turns his crank like nobody else – and his hidden talent is an unexpected asset.Ash hopes to teach Cooper control over his newfound earth-sense. Cooper puts everything on the line to learn. All goes well, until their their sizzling chemistry throws them a curve neither expects. If Cooper fails, more than just their love is on the line.
LIKE A ROCK is a paranormal gay romance adventure with explicit scenes and a happy ending.