For the last month or so, my cookbook had been on a boat, an image which delighted me to no end. I pictured it heading to a dock at the edge of a continent, like Arya at the end of Book 3 of Game of Thrones, and hoping that someone would give it passage. I imagined it splashing through waters rough and calm on a long journey, like the one depicted in Lost and Found. And then I imagined it arriving at the shipping docks, unloaded by the likes of handsome Nick Sobotka in Season 2 of The Wire (er, hopefully under happier circumstances), its container being fitted to trucks or rail cars and heading to a warehouse where it would tap its feet impatiently until October 30th arrived and it could finally come out and see you.
And now you know the truth: the inside of my head mostly looks like pages from picture books and scenes from HBO. I don’t know how I hid it so long.
The first printing did indeed arrive at a warehouse in Maryland last week, but lest you think authorship has any privileges, I have seen but three copies of the book, one that I was allowed to hold briefly on QVC, one that was quickly snatched up by my parents, and a third one disappeared at my husband’s office for a while. The good news is, nobody hates it. The bad news is, people are kind of mad at me. “When did you make this and why didn’t we get any?” they ask and oh man, scrambling for answers is getting uncomfortable. My husband asked me this about a vegetarian taco dish that the babysitter and I completely inhaled the second I got the photo I needed, and decided to keep this information to ourselves. (Soo busted.) There’s a potato salad I didn’t share at all, just tucked away in the fridge and had for lunch for a perfect few days. (I’m not sorry.) And the giant pancake? Well, it’s not my fault that the toddler was too smart to share it all eight times I made it for him for breakfast.
However, there is one dish that my husband pauses and sighs, remembering favorably, just about every time it comes up, and that is this one, Pancetta, White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies. It spun out of my firm belief that if you’re limiting you pot pies to chicken, well, you’re missing some excellent opportunities. Pot pies, at their core, are the ultimate cooler weather comfort food and what makes them grand has little, in my opinion, to do with chicken. Beneath the lid is a velouté-like sauce, which is a fancy way of saying a broth that’s been thickened and enriched a little with a butter-flour roux. In short: it’s broth made much more decadent, and just about anything you add to it will be made ten times as delicious by its environment. In this case, I wanted an earthy fall stew, with some greens, beans and a little pancetta for smoky richness, though you can absolutely skip the pancetta if you’re looking for a vegetarian dish. The lid is the flakiest pastry I know how to make and together in the oven, your pies will bubble and bronze their way to an unforgettable dinner, the kind of thing, in individual portions, that’d be mean not to share. Especially if people will eventually find out.
Big book-signing news!: As excited as I am to get the book tour started, I, too, am bummed that I’m not going to be able to do signings in all of the cities I would like this fall. There isn’t enough time. There isn’t enough me! So, we have been working feverishly behind the scenes to find an arrangement that would allow people who cannot get to a tour destination to buy a copy
full of my chicken scrawl signed by me. We’ve teamed with the delightful McNally-Jackson bookstore in Soho and they have created a custom ordering page wherein you can request your personal inscription. If you order by Wednesday, October 24th, the book will ship on its release date of October 30th. Order by Tuesday, December 4th to receive in time for Hanukkah and by Thursday, December 20th to receive in time for Christmas. Quantities are limited by, frankly, my crazy travel schedule this fall but if for whatever reason there’s no way I will be able to keep up with the orders (and yes, I would absolutely file this under Good Problems To Have!) we will let you know. Whee! [Here’s the page with everything you need to know.]
Book previews: This is the third of four cookbook previews I am sharing on the site in advance of its publication date, October 30th. The first was Cinnamon Toast French Toast and the second was Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah. I wouldn’t say I’m saving the best for last (these recipes are like children; I could never have a favorite!) but oh man, the one that comes next has been almost unbearable to know about for two years and not tell you yet. You can sneak another preview in a few publications, such as The New York Times, which ran an adaptation of the book’s Leek Fritters over the summer. O Magazine ran an adaptation of one of the book’s birthday cakes for grown-ups this month and over on Amazon, you can already thumb through the book. But promise you won’t yell at me, okay? I really did mean to share.
Two years ago: Apple and Cheddar Scones
Three years ago: Jalapeno and Cheddar Scones
Four years ago: Acorn Squash Quesadillas and My Family’s Noodle Kugel
Five years ago: Hello Dolly Bars and Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
Six years ago: Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
Pancetta, White Bean and Swiss Chard Pot Pies
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
The pancetta, while adding a lovely, smoky base, can be omitted to make this vegetarian. In fact, I went back and forth many, many times about removing it so that this could stay in the vegetarian section, but in the end, decided it easier I leave the choice to you. For a vegetarian version, simply skip the pancetta and cook your vegetables in 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of 1. You can replace the swiss chard with any green you have around, from a hearty spinach to kale, adjusting the cooking time accordingly to make sure it wilts a bit before going into the oven to finish cooking.
As you can see from the photos, I really don’t own soup crocks. I have debated the value of purchasing some many times of the years, but you must trust me when I say I don’t have room for a single extra dish I don’t already own in my life right now. Instead, I just use two-cup bowls we already have that are ovenproof. (When buying a dish set, I always look to see if they are ovenproof, as you never know when this will come in handy.) If you don’t have ovenproof soup bowls, you can always make a large version of this in a casserole dish with one big pastry lid.
Weekday night tip: Make a double batch of the stew and lids. Keep them separate and for two to three nights, you can ladle what you’d like into bowls, roll out lids and bake them to order.
2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained
1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
4 ounces (115 grams or 3/4 to 1 cup) 1/4-inch-diced pancetta
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves from an 8- to 10-ounce (225- to 285-gram)
bundle (4 cups); if leaves are very wide, you can halve them lengthwise
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
3 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) all- purpose flour
3 1/2 cups (765 ml) sodium- free or low- sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or from one and a third 15.5- ounce
Make lids: In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the fl our and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is like uncooked couscous. In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball. Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Make filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium- high heat in a large, wide saucepan, and then add the pancetta. Brown the pancetta, turning it frequently, so that it colors and crisps on all sides; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels before transferring to a medium bowl. Leave the heat on and the renderings in the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if needed and heat it until it is shimmering. Add onions, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and begin to take on color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer all of the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the pancetta, and set aside.
Make sauce: Wipe out the large saucepan; don’t worry if any bits remain stuck to the bottom. Then melt the butter in the saucepan over medium- low heat. Add the flour, and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, until it begins to take on a little color. Whisk in the broth, one ladleful at a time, mixing completely between additions. Once you’ve added one- third of the broth, you can begin to add the rest more quickly, two to three ladlefuls at a time; at this point you can scrape up any bits that were stuck to the bottom — they’ll add great flavor.
Once all of the broth is added, stirring the whole time, bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook the sauce until it is thickened and gravylike, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the white beans and reserved vegetables into the sauce.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Assemble and cook pot pies: Divide the filling between four ovenproof 2-cup bowls. (You’ll have about 1 1/2 cups filling in each.) Set the bowls on a baking pan. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll it out into rounds that will cover your bowls with an overhang, or about 1 inch wider in diameter than your bowls. Whisk the egg wash and brush it lightly around the top rim of your bowls (to keep the lid glued on; nobody likes losing their lid!) and drape the pastry over each, pressing gently to adhere it. Brush the lids with egg wash, then cut decorative vents (smaller than mine, please, as they led to lots of draping) in each to help steam escape. Bake until crust is lightly bronzed and filling is bubbling, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Do ahead: The dough, wrapped twice in plastic wrap and slipped into a freezer bag, will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, and for a couple months in the freezer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a covered container in the fridge.