Comfort food

December. Winter. Cold. Comfort food.

I needed to use up the leftover meat from my husband’s pheasant dinner last week. And I wanted something savory that would warm up the house with its aroma.

Enter pot pie.

I found a recipe for chicken pot pie in an Amish cookbook. It called for five pounds of chicken pieces, so I used two pheasant carcasses and simmered them in water with onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves to make a basic stock and collect meat.

By the way, read this blog about hunting for food to get the Cliff’s Notes version for why I love using hunted meat, and I try to use all the meat from my husband’s kill. It felt really good to get a second meal out of the pheasants, and to make a dish entirely from scratch.

The recipe called for five cups of stock, so I was able to freeze two quarts beyond what I needed tonight. And I was surprised by how non-oily the stock was. Even as I pulled the meat off the bones, I noticed that my hands were not greasy, and there was virtually no fat to skim off to the cooled stock. That, my friends, is another reason to eat wild game.

I suppose this is a good time to talk about the wine for the night. I wanted an zinfandel. There was no rhyme or reason to my wine choice tonight; I wanted a zin, I drank a zin. I thought it would be appropriate to drink Black Pheasant with my pheasant pot pie. Very poetic, dontcha think?

The plummy, jammy flavor of the wine was perfectly suitable for drinking while I cooked. Nothing outstanding, but just nice and homey. Like the rest of my dinner.

I’ve made many a pot pie, and I usually use cream-of-something for the sauce. Mix a little cream-of-potato soup with milk and herbs and you have an easy, delicious sauce. Tonight’s Amish pot pie, however, called for a REAL sauce. It was stock (made earlier from the pheasant carcass) thickened with butter and flour and seasoned with thyme, dry mustard, salt and pepper. What a difference this makes! I love the cream-of… sauces, but if I have the time, I’ll be making my pot-pie sauce with stock and flour!

I mixed up some dough for the pie crust and stretched it over the pot-pie filling. I use my grandma’s pie-crust recipe: 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of shortening, 1/2 cup of cold water. Super easy! I’ve found that putting the dough in the fridge for a half-hour or so makes it extra flaky! I added a personal touch to the pie crust – a sprinkle of seasoned salt on the top – something I like to do to most pot pies.

While the pot pie baked (1 hour and 10 minutes total), I made a little extra dough to make cinnamon rolls. This is something my mom used to do, and I try to carry on the tradition whenever I have cause to make pie crust. It’s another easy recipe: roll out the pie crust, brush it with melted butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon-sugar. Roll and slice and bake about a half-hour or until browned on top. Easy!

Tonight’s dinner was the ultimate comfort dinner. I used miscellaneous ingredients I had in my fridge, and added a dash of creativity. Just a dash.

I have to admit, I didn’t really care if tonight’s zin was good or not, it was just a glass to complete the dinner. So I was pleasantly surprised by the 2010 Black Pheasant Zinfandel. It was a steal in a WineInsiders special offer – $5.99 per bottle with $.01 shipping. It understandably did nothing for my pot pie. Black Pheasant isn’t necessarily meant to pair with pheasant. But, oooh, what a nice drink with the cinnamon rolls!

The cinnamon brought out hints of spice in the wine while taming the jam flavors. This is certainly a good wine to pair with desserts when you don’t want to brave a heavy dessert wine. The fruity-forward taste balances really well with sugary desserts.

So while tonight was not about gourmet cuisine or exceptional wine, it was about comfort, about making something easy and satisfying. It was about the 98 percent of the year when you just want something dependably good. Mission accomplished.  s

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