Happy 2018 everyone!
I hope you all had a happy and healthy holiday season. I know a lot of you might be starting your New Year’s cleanses, diets, or fitness goals. I'm right where I was last year, planning my mountain races for the new year.
Yes, I'm one of those wacky trail runners. I get a lot of questions about my diet and what I eat. My main rule of thumb is, I try my hardest to eat fresh whole foods and stay away from processed foods. It doesn't always work out that way, but as long as I stick to this rule 90 percent of the time, I'm good. I have a couple of races on the books for 2018 so far, and that means making sure not only that my weekly mileage and trail routes are planned, but also that I'm eating to keep my body fueled for those long training runs that can last 6 hours or more.
The winters in the PNW can be dark, wet, and chill-to-the-bone cold, so when I come in from a long day in the mountains I want some warm comfort food in my belly. I love a good chicken potpie fresh from the oven with creamy gravy bubbling up over its crust. I've been tinkering with my own recipe for a while, and I think I hit the jackpot with this one.
By the word “jackpot” I mean my husband will eat it! The evening I made this recipe, he came home and asked the proverbial "What's for dinner?" question. It wasn't even a second after I told him what we were having that he scrunched up his face like an 8-year-old and confessed, “I don't like chicken potpie.”
I think my reply was “There's a steak in the freezer.”
Thirty minutes later I took the dish out of the oven. He went over to investigate the yummy smell that was coming from the kitchen and with a smile said, “Oooo, there's tater-tots on top!”
Oh, I forgot to mention I don't make pie crust. I actually suck at it, so I gave up long ago. I also don't care for the texture of savory pie crust — it always tastes kind of grainy to me. I love spuds, so I was going to put thinly sliced Yukon Gold potatoes on top, but I didn't have those. I happened to have a bag of Alexia brand tater-tots in my freezer, which I put on top a la 1970s casserole memories from my childhood and as a nod to the most important fact of life: who doesn't like tater-tots?!
Yes, my husband loved it. He had second helpings, and I even caught him the next day eating the leftovers straight from the fridge. He said it’s even good cold — win!
This is also not your typical wimpy, sad-little-carrots-and-chicken-bits-in-a-bland-yellow-gravy potpie, either. I use meat from a whole rotisserie chicken from the market, fresh chopped carrots, shallots, and a small bag of frozen peas.
You can use whatever veggies you like: parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, roasted beets possibly? The sky's the limit here. Instead of using canned soup, I make this with a homemade cream-of-chicken bechamel base that you will spike with freshly grated Asiago cheese. I start with 1/4 cup of cheese and go up to 1/2 a cup if needed. Some Asiagos can be mild and others can have a very strong taste, so taste along the way and add to your liking.
You can make this dish vegetarian by swapping out vegetable broth, leaving out the chicken, and adding more veggies. Don't be afraid of making bechamel — it's easier and quicker to make than you think and, like all my recipes, I'll illustrate you through it.
Here’s to starting off the year warm and well-fed. Happy New Year!