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CELEBRATING AMERICA'S MOM : For Marion Cunningham's birthday, 100 cooks, bakers, writers and restaurateurs threw a surprise party at the Robert Mondavi winery

March 05, 1992|RUTH REICHL | TIMES FOOD EDITOR

The chicken pot pies created for the party were a true Alice Waters special: They were made with free-range chickens, baby onions and carrots, fresh peas and both golden and black chanterelles. But when we asked Marion Cunningham for a recipe that was slightly less exotic, she sent us this recipe by Michael James. James, who worked with Simone Beck, is an old friend of Cunningham's, and his recipe is down to earth and delicious.

DEEP-DISH CHICKEN PIE WITH MUSHROOMS AND FRESH THYME

3 quarts poultry stock

3 pounds whole chicken breasts, at room temperature

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 dozen baby carrots, peeled

2 cups pearl onions, peeled

2 cups fresh green peas, or 1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas, thawed

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed and washed

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup flour

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Cream Biscuit Dough

Egg wash of 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Bring poultry stock to simmer in large pot. Add chicken breasts and poach gently 12 to 15 minutes or until slightly underdone and pink inside. Do not overcook or they will be dry. Remove chicken from stock and set aside to cool. Degrease and reduce liquid in pot to 1 quart.

Remove any skin and bone from chicken and shred meat with fingers into generous bite-sized pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy-bottomed skillet. Add carrots and pearl onions and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss or stir vegetables over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup reduced poultry stock. Cover and cook over very low heat 10 minutes. Add peas and continue cooking 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and liquid has reduced. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in another skillet over low heat. Add and gently saute shallot 1 minute. Add mushrooms, then toss or stir over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup whipping cream. Simmer over low heat until mushrooms are tender and cream has reduced, 8 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add flour and stir over medium-low heat 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining 3 1/2 cups poultry stock and bring to simmer, whisking constantly as sauce thickens. Simmer over low heat 6 to 8 minutes, whisking frequently. Adjust seasonings to taste and remove sauce from heat.

Whisk together 2 egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream in small bowl. Slowly ladle in few tablespoons hot sauce, whisking constantly. Gradually stir cream mixture into hot sauce in pan, return to heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes more, stirring constantly.

In mixing bowl combine shredded chicken, carrot mixture, mushrooms and cream sauce. Add thyme. Adjust seasonings to taste. Spread mixture evenly into 16-inch oval baking dish, or other baking dish large enough to hold mixture in 1 1/2- to 2-inch layer. (Dish may be completed in advance up to this point. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.) Pour over cream sauce.

Place Cream Biscuit Dough gently over baking dish (pastry does not have to completely cover chicken mixture). Make several deep slashes in dough to allow steam to vent. Brush thoroughly with egg wash.

Bake at 400 degrees 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is brown and cooked through. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

679 calories; 1,755 mg sodium; 237 mg cholesterol; 46 grams fat; 44 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 1.7 grams fiber; 61% calories from fat.

Cream Biscuit Dough

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup rendered suet (pork kidney fat), chilled until firm

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Stir together flour, salt and baking powder in small mixing bowl. Blend in suet, then moisten with whipping cream, adding extra drops as necessary to form dough into ball.

On lightly floured surface, roll out dough into oval (or other shape) slightly larger than baking dish to be used. Fold edges under and crimp to form attractive standing border.

For the birthday party, Waters created a super Green Goddess Dressing, a combination of fresh mayonnaise with watercress, fresh tarragon and pureed anchovy fillets. But Cunningham, a true fan of iceberg lettuce, suggests that this recipe, devised by Michael James, is even better at bringing out the cool, crisp quality of the lettuce.

WEDGES OF ICEBERG WITH WHITE CHEDDAR AND CHIVE DRESSING

1 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 ounces aged white Cheddar cheese, broken into 5 or 6 pieces

1/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

5 or 6 fresh chives or 1/2 cup watercress leaves, chopped

10 or 12 fresh basil leaves, rinsed

12 generous wedges iceberg lettuce

36 small golden or teardrop tomatoes, washed and sliced in halves

6 small basil sprigs

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