“Is something the matter? You don’t seem yourself,” my dear friend inquired of me. “I don’t know. I feel a little….sad.” “Melancholy?” “Yeah, maybe that’s what it is…melancholy. I’m not sure why.” Here it was. The end of the school year for my eldest children. A day that I had been so looking forward to. A day that I had literally been counting down the minutes until its arrival and now, here it was and…..”sigh.” I couldn’t shake this…this…heaviness. Not wanting to cast a little black cloud over the end-of-the-year celebration, I tried to perk myself up by clinking glasses of champagne with my dear friends and tossing homemade chicken pocket pies out to the children. Then, after they’d inhaled their savory pie, hollering out to them that there were chocolate chip cookies for dessert…but they were already outside again.
Here it was the end of the school year and I should be rejoicing. No more lunches. No more homework. No more wondering whether my daughter would actually get herself ready for school in time to take the bus or once again, would I be driving the hour long round trip? Oh, I know, there are some of you dutiful parents out there thinking that I should teach her a lesson by simply saying to her, “If you don’t make the bus, then, you don’t go to school.” But, let’s think about that one. “Will that actually work?” and “Who really suffers from those consequences?” And, besides, I remember those junior high years. Spending hours in the morning on my Farrah Fawcett curls and my electric blue eyeliner. “And this too…shall pass.” We hope…
Being raised in a military family, I grew up saying good-bye…a lot. Whether it was our family moving or another family. I also grew up saying good-bye to my own father for months, even years at a time. It was he who always reminded us, over and over again, “Never say good-bye. Always say, “I’ll see you later.” I’ve always carried around his little nugget of advice with me and have tried as best I could to honor the sentiment behind his words of wisdom but as more and more time collects behind me, I’ve come to realize that sometimes, good-bye is good-bye. And the end of the school year, while joyous for so many reasons, can also be a bit sad. It’s the end of a chapter. In our lives. Our children’s lives. And, not everything from that chapter carries forward. We say good-bye to teachers. Amazing, incredible teachers that we feel completely inept to properly thank. Teachers that not only taught our children but genuinely cared about them. Good-bye to that 5th year, that 10th year, that 12th year of our children’s lives. Good-bye to a rhythm and tempo that was unique only for that one year. And saying good-bye can sometimes be…sad. Melancholy.
I left that Last-Day-of-School celebration with my spirits lifted a bit more thanks to the champagne Glee’s season finale Medley of Journey songs blaring on the stereo. Nothing quite does it for me like a round of “Don’t Stop Believin'” Takes me right back to those curls and electric blue eyeliner. And maybe my Dad’s right. Maybe it is just, “See ya later.” Look how “Don’t Stop Believin'” shows back up out of nowhere. After we thought we’d said good-bye to it a long, long time ago. And, as I moved into the days of summer, I felt less sad. Just a bit of wistfulness was left. I had all my chickens home. No more schedules. No more daily commitments. And stretched out in front of us was an entire summer of togetherness.
Before I closed the car door, I turned to my eldest son and said, “No taunting or teasing your brother.” Then, I turned to the littlest one and said, “Do not bite your brother again.” And to both of them I said, “And you guys…no more wedgies.” I could see them trying to choke back their smiles as I shut the door. As I ran in to get myself a latte yesterday morning, I thought to myself, “And, why were you excited for the end of the school year to be here? And why, exactly, were you sad?”
Now, let me say right off the bat, that this is not a weeknight recipe. No, this is a recipe you save for a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon and lucky for you, if you live in Portland, there are plenty of those kinds of afternoons to choose from right now. When you do find that perfect afternoon, make sure you double or even, triple this recipe. These little savory pies freeze beautifully and are a perfect snack for the members of your family with a bottomless pit for a stomach. Because I tend to be a vegetable-pusher, I decreased the amount of chicken from the original recipe and upped the amounts of carrots and celery but you could easily play around with those quantities to your own liking. Lucinda also has spinach & feta and beef empanada versions of these little pies in her cookbook that I can’t wait to try. Speaking of her cookbook, Feeding Men and Boys, I highly recommend it. She hooked me right at the start, when she says in her introduction, “Feeding my four guys has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Eating is something we have to do, so why give it short shrift? If you have to do it, make it beautiful and spread the beauty.”
Cream Cheese Pastry Ingredients
8 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 large egg for egg wash
1 cup of shredded/chopped chicken meat (I recommend purchasing an already roasted chicken from the grocery store for this or you could get crazy and roast your own.)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Start by making your pastry dough. Process the butter, cream cheese and cream in a food processor, electric mixer or by hand to thoroughly combine.
Then, add the flour and salt. Process just until combined and the dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into 2 pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is refrigerated overnight, take it out 15 minutes before rolling it out.
Next, chop up your chicken and your vegetables. Then, melt your butter in a medium-sized hot skillet and add the onion, celery and carrot. Sauté over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the salt and flour and cook for 1 minute more. Add the chicken broth and stir until thickened about 2 minutes. Stir in your chicken and the Parmesan cheese. Cool in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease or line a baking sheet.
Starting with one disk of dough, roll it out using a well-floured rolling pin on a well-floured surface until it is about 12 inches in diameter. Thin but not transparent. Using an overturned bowl, about 5 inches across, cut out circles about 3 at a time from each piece of dough. Gathering and re-rolling out the scraps until you can no longer cut out any additional circles. Do the same with the second disk of dough.
To form the pockets, place 1/8-1/4 cup of filling on one side of a dough circle. My filling mixture was fairly “soupy” so when I scooped up my filling I tried to let a bit of the “juice” strain out from my spoonful before putting it on the dough. Wet the edges of the dough with water or in my case, there was enough liquid from the filling to wet the edges. Fold the dough over to form a half circle. Pinch the edges of the dough together. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat the process until all the filling is used. Prick each pie on top twice with a fork. The pocket pies can be frozen at this point.
Place the pocket pies on the prepared baking sheet and chill for a few minutes. When ready to bake, beat the egg with 1 tbsp water. Brush the egg wash over each pocket pie. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
I served these for dinner one time along with a green salad and another time, I passed them out to my children and their friends. Definitely a crowd pleaser. Enjoy.
Yield: About 10
Saving/Freezing for later:
You can “save” these for later a couple of ways. You can place freshly prepared, unbaked pies in a single layer on a baking sheet and put in the freezer. Once they are frozen solid, they can be stacked together in a resealable bag or other container for easy storage. To bake from frozen, place on a baking sheet, brush with the egg wash and bake according to the recipe but for about 5 minutes longer.
You can also cool the freshly baked pies and then, freeze them. Your brood can then reheat them in the microwave to satiate their undying hunger in just a few minutes.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010