When I receive a cookbook, I can’t help it. I sit myself down with a small pile of paper torn into strips and slip them between pages as I go, to remember the recipes that spoke to me immediately. I can think of many such recipes from the new cookbook Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, by top Canadian blogger Aimée Wimbush-Bourque of Simple Bites fame, that received the torn paper treatment, like the Chia Pudding with Roasted Strawberries and Pistachio Crumbs or the Backpacker’s Banh Mi.
But in the spirit of the book, where recipes follow the season, for the book review posted here, I settled on comforting winter recipes: the Chicken Leek Shephed’s Pie and the Chocolate Beet Sheet Cake.
Traditional Shepherd’s Pie, a Parmentier-style ground beef and potato pie with corn in between, ranks in my top five recipes, a childhood staple for which I never lost my passion. The story goes that Chinese immigrants from a century ago, building the first train tracks to cross Canada from East to West, would eat Shepherd’s Pie day in, day out, adding plentiful and cheap corn to the old-style recipe. In Québec, we even call it “Pâté chinois” or Chinese Pie.
When I was pregnant with my son, I suffered from a severe case of morning (and noon and night) sickness and was off my food forever. To this day, Monsieur teases that I survived on roast turkey, charbroiled steak, steamed broccoli and pâté chinois for nine months. When friends would invite us for dinner and ask what I felt like eating, I would ask for, duh, pâté chinois. While it’s easy comfort food, it’s actually a bit labour intensive (so I asked with a wince and a smile), and Aimée’s chicken version does require quite a few steps. Using leftovers speeds the process appreciably but I rarely have leftover mashed potatoes or roast chicken lying around, so I prepared this one from scratch.
This recipe felt like a no-brainer to start with, meaning hassle-free, success-guaranteed, and family-friendly. It lived up to expectations. The creaminess of the leek béchamel meeting the buttery mashed potato made this more festive than good ole pâté chinois. I always tweak recipes as I go, in this case I cooked down the leeks more than the 5 minutes suggested because kiddo hates onions unless they’re battered and deep-fried. So I wanted to pre-empt any protest and bring out the sweetness of leeks. Did it make a difference, beats me. But my son inhaled his supper and asked for seconds.
Of course, I can just imagine the chicken and leek sauce as a base for another traditional childhood dish: chicken pot pie. If I ever decide to tackle pie crust from scratch, that is. Turns out there’s an all-butter recipe for that in the book too.
Recipe excerpted from Brown Eggs and Jam Jars. To find out more or to buy it from Amazon: