Turkey & Sweet Leek PieHonestly, I was pulled into the “cheekiness” of Jamie Oliver’s “Turkey & Sweet Leek Pie”: he calls it a “dead simple,” “old-school pie” and I couldn’t resist it. Add to this the appeal of using pre-cooked meat (I opted for D’Artagnan smoked chicken breast, rather than cooked turkey) and puff pastry and I was ready for this food event. Another bonus was my chance to roast some chestnuts. Fun!

First, let me tell you about the chestnuts. Every winter I see mountains of fresh chestnuts at my Food Coop. Finally, I’ve dived into that pile and brought some home. I’m happy to report that they are CHEAP and EASY. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut and “X” on the flat side of each chestnut, with a sharp paring knife. Put them all on a tray and roast them for 15 minutes or more. Then, peel them as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. That’s it! Crumble them to get them ready for their inclusion in this pie.

The pie is surprisingly easy to assemble. Pace it and take your time. Know that “2 rashers” of bacon are “2 slices.” More than 4 lbs. of leeks need to be chopped and simmered with the bacon and thyme, and these are the stars of the show. Nothing smells better than this situation. Thirty minutes of heaven, really.

I used chicken stock and sour cream (instead of crème fraîche). I added 2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper to my stew mix. Drain your gravy as the recipe instructs. This is a gratifying operation. Also, make sure to roll out that puff pastry, to layer on top. A 9x12-inch casserole dish does the trick, here.

After the 40 minutes of baking, you will be rewarded with fantastic flavor. The brothy gravy and the pastry are so satisfying. And you know I served this with a side of peas with butter and lemon, just as Jamie Oliver suggested.

Leeks (4 lbs. 6 oz.) = $10.38
D’Artagnan Smoked Chicken Breasts (1 lb. 3 oz.) = $17.28
Puff Pastry (1 lb. 2 oz.) = $4.26
Chestnuts (12) = $1.67

PREP TIME: devote at least 2 hours to the prep and cooking
sweet leeks, hearty chestnuts, and meat are bathed in an appealing gravy and blanketed with ever-rewarding pastry

Next time, I want to tackle the “Crispy Orange Beef,” from the January/February 2013 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below), along with Ottolenghi’s “Braised Kale with Oyster Sauce and Crisp Shallots.” Wow. Come back to my site soon to see what happens.

Crispy Orange Beef
Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2013
Serves 4

1.63 lbs. hanger steak
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
10 (3-in.) strips orange peel
1/4 cup juice (2 temple oranges)
3 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
3 cups canola oil
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin lengthwise
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 scallions, sliced thin on bias

Cut beef along the grain into approximately 2 1/2- to 3-inch-wide strips. Slice each piece against the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Toss beef with 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in bowl. Add cornstarch and toss until evenly coated. Spread beef in single layer on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Transfer sheet to freezer until meat is very firm but not completely frozen, about 45 minutes.

Whisk remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, orange juice, molasses, sherry, vinegar, and sesame oil in bowl.

Line second rimmed baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Heat vegetable oil in large Dutch oven over a medium heat until oil registers 375 degrees. Carefully add one-third of beef and fry, stirring occasionally to keep beef from sticking together, until golden grown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Using spider, transfer meat to paper towel-lined sheet. Return oil to 375 degrees and repeat twice more with remaining beef. After frying, reserve 2 Tbsp. frying oil.

Heat reserved oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add orange peel and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, until about half of orange peel is golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is beginning to brown, about 45 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until slightly thickened, about 45 seconds. Add beef and scallions and toss. Transfer to platter and serve immediately.