The irony of being a chef is that you rarely have time to cook good food for yourself. As a new cook I was dirt-poor, and frozen chicken pot pie was a cheap, hearty, easy dinner after a long day of work. I developed a taste for it. This recipe is a homemade version of commercial frozen chicken pot pie.
In Wales, cheese is the poor man’s meat. Welsh rarebit is simple tavern food – a thick cheese sauce mixed with draft beer and melted over rustic bread. It’s cheap and it’s good. And when done right, it’s super flavorful and super rich. It might look like an open-faced sandwich, but this is definitely knife-and-fork food.
When it was cold outside, my granny made vegetable soup from whatever root vegetables were available. She usually sautéed the vegetables and then simmered them for a few minutes in chicken broth with a piece of ham or other cured pork. It was like a light, brothy chicken soup but with root vegetables in place of chicken. This soup re-creates that dish from memory.
My great-grandmother on my mother’s side always hosted Thanksgiving when I was a kid. It was a family reunion with 70 to 100 people at her house in Fayetteville, Georgia. There was always banana pudding. But there was only one big baking dish of it, and it was hidden somewhere in the house. When it was announced that it was time to look for the banana pudding, whoever found it got the first bowlful. This is built from my flavor memory of my great-grandmother’s banana pudding. My mom tells me it’s spot-on.
My mom made pot roast the same way every time. She put the beef, vegetables, seasonings, and water in a slow cooker, turned it on, and let it go. I never liked it. Now I know why: All of the flavors blended into one and tasted flat. Here, I braise the meat with some vegetables to create a flavorful brown sauce, but I cook different vegetables separately to put on the plate; that way they don’t taste bland.