PULITZER PIES: CHICKEN, BACON AND MUSHROOM PIE

Dear Amelia,
I know.
Another Chocolate Malteser Cake.
But in my defence:
1. You LOVED it.
2. It seemed fitting that your second birthday should be celebrated with the same cake I baked for your Great Grandma’s 80th.
3 (and more to the point). I paid $10 for the Horlicks malted milk powder that was listed in the recipe and, according to the stamp on the bottom of the Horlicks tin, I’ve only got until August 2013 to use up the absolute shitload that’s left.
Luckily for you, every cloud has a silver lining.
As in, whatever is left in the tin by the time your third birthday rolls around will have already gone to Horlicks Heaven.
So Nanna will be forced to make something different.
Something like this maybe (we’d have to change your name to Jayden but I think it would be worth it).

Picture source here

It was a lovely birthday weekend – lots of kisses, lots of cuddles and lots of games (my favourite being the running-in-circles one called “round and round and round and round and round and round and JUMP” – if only all of life was that simple).
And even though it says in “Advice After Abdominal Surgery” that you shouldn’t pick up anything heavier than a kettle of water, Nanna decided to live on the edge and managed to pick you up a dozen times without anything nasty exploding out of her belly button.
Speaking of which, after you’d gone to bed and we’d eaten our body weight in cake, your Mum, Dad, Grandpa and I settled down to watch TV and it was at this point that your Mum started to shout, “Ooh, ooh, ooh.”
At first we thought her vital signs were shutting down due to Malteser overload but it turned out she’d come across one of her favourite programmes and was very excited.


This programme is called Embarrassing Bodies and it is truly wonderful.
Three minutes in and I was like iron filings to a magnet.
I can’t believe I’ve never seen it before – in the OMG stakes it knocks Bethenny and the Real Housewives (except maybe for crazy-eyes Ramona) into a cocked hat.
Here’s what happens: a bunch of doctors get in a van and drive around England looking for people who have things wrong with them that are so embarrassing, they can’t discuss them with anybody else.
For example, there was this lady who wouldn’t take her clothes off in front of a bloke on account her unfortunate hoo hoo (as they say in the classics).
So she took all her clothes off IN FRONT OF THE TV CAMERA and sure enough her labia were practically grazing her knees and now every bloke in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia and, for all I know, Ecuador and the Democratic Republic of Congo, knows about it.
When I say “every bloke” I actually mean every bloke except for your Dad, who suddenly became engrossed in his iPhone, and your Grandpa, who said, “I’m not watching this crap,” and went to bed.
Not that your mother and I noticed for a while because by then we were captivated by an anal skin tag on another lady’s bottom.
Anyway, long story short, I had to make it up to your Grandpa with one of his favourite pies.
This pie is based on a recipe by my friend Margaret Johnson (restaurant consultant, food writer for The West Australian newspaper and all-round good sort) and it’s pretty yummy.

CHICKEN, BACON AND MUSHROOM PIE

Serves 4

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted for 5-10 minutes
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 500g), diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 rashers bacon, cut into small pieces
12 button mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp dried thyme
½ cup white wine
small carton chicken stock OR 3 tsps Gravox gravy mix dissolved in a mug of boiling water (don’t tell anyone about the Gravox or all your cooking credibility will go down the gurgler)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a big frying pan over med-high heat, brown the diced chicken, then remove it to a casserole dish or saucepan.
Cook the onion, bacon and mushrooms in the frying pan until the onion and mushrooms have softened.
Put with the chicken in the casserole.
Pour over the wine and enough stock to just cover.
Add the thyme, season with salt and pepper and partly cover with a lid.
Bring to a simmer on a medium heat.
Turn the heat to low and cook for about 45 minutes.
Let the mixture cool then pour into a pie dish.
Cover with puff pastry, brush with beaten egg and poke a couple of holes in the top to let the steam escape.
Bake in a preheated 200C oven until puffed and golden brown (about 30 minutes).

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PULITZER PIES: SALMON PUFFS

Dear Amelia,
Seeing as you’re only 17 months old, you won’t be aware that Ella the Wonderdog has an inverted vulva.
You also won’t know what a vulva is and I have no intention of explaining it here except to say that when a dog’s vulva is inverted it sometimes involves ointment (or Vulvalene, as one of your Mum’s exes once put it).
We’re going through an ointment stage at the moment and for the first time EVER, I’m not the one pulling on the rubber gloves twice a day.
Yes. Your Grandpa is applying ointment to the dog’s bum.
As rarities go, this is on a par with unicorn sightings.
Sometimes I have to lie down just so I can grasp the enormity of it all.
Anyway, here’s another picture of Ella looking at some Salmon Puffs.
It was taken ages ago when we lived in North Perth.

I’ve been making Salmon Puffs since your Mum and Uncle Paul were little kids.
They love them and so does your Grandpa.
I love them too but they give me crippling heartburn, so I had to take a break until a nice Swiss drug baron invented Somac and changed my life.
I also make these pies with chopped-up leftover chicken and – for me at least – they are heartburn free.
The original Salmon Puff recipe was copied from a magazine (I can’t remember which one) about 25 years ago.
It contained two tablespoons of canned green peppercorns. So 1980s.
Feel free to add them back in if you like living on the edge.

SALMON PUFFS

Makes 6 pies

30g butter
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp flour
¾ cup milk
¼ cup salmon liquid from the can
a few grinds of black pepper
415g can John West red salmon
3 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Melt the butter over low heat, add the onion and cook until it’s soft but not coloured.
Stir in the flour and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the milk and salmon liquid, grind in some pepper and cook, stirring, until it boils and thickens.
Leave until cold then fold in the drained, flaked salmon and mash it in well with a fork.
Defrost the puff pastry sheets for 5 minutes then cut each into quarters so you have 12 equal squares.
If you want, flute the top of six of the squares with a blunt knife, making sure you don’t cut all the way through the pastry. Poke a hole in the middle.


Divide the salmon mixture evenly between the six remaining squares, brush the edges with beaten egg, top with the fluted squares and press down well to seal.
Place a Chinese bowl (about 12cm diameter) over the top of each pie and cut around it.


Put the pies on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush the tops with beaten egg.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.
You can put all sorts of fillings in these pies, so long as they’re not sloppy.
Because there’s only your Grandpa and me and we’re leg and thigh people, the chicken breast is always left over when I roast a chook.
So I make this same white sauce, using one cup of milk and leaving out the salmon liquid.
Then I take the skin off the breast, chop the meat into small cubes and stir it through the white sauce with some seeded mustard and chopped parsley or with just a bit of chopped thyme.
It’s very nice indeed.