FOOD PAGE: Three 'white' meals please finicky eaters
It’s one of the first things people mention when they learn I have a 4-year-old daughter.
“Dahlia must be an adventurous eater,” they say.
The assumption is that because I have penchant for anchovies, pungent cheese and spicy regional cuisines, my daughter must, too.
But she doesn’t. And adventurous isn’t really the word I’d use to describe her eating habits. Picky would be more accurate.
This is despite my best efforts at eating a varied, spicy, green-vegetable-heavy diet when I was pregnant, with hopes of influencing my child’s taste buds in utero. Instead, Dahlia arrived a staunch lover of white food. It began, as it always does, with rivers of milk and has since settled into anything carb-heavy, creamy and unchallenging, preferably anchored by pasta, bread or rice.
It’s not that every morsel Dahlia eats is white. She makes exceptions for plain pizza, hot dogs and almond butter and jelly sandwiches, all things I’ve come to see as metaphorical “white foods,” uncomplicated and familiar as they are.
So before the last of winter’s cold has passed, or colorful spring produce arrives, let’s pay tribute to all that is good about white food. These three white (or beige) dishes are a last hurrah for coziness.
Those with sophisticated palates, take heart. Although these dishes look pale and bland, I created them to please white-food-loving children and their families. What they lack in color they make up for in flavor, which in these recipes is rich and deep without being in any way pungent or spicy (though serving hot sauce on the side is energetically encouraged).
What did Dahlia think? I’m happy to report that all three recipes easily passed through the locked gates of her pursed lips for a taste, with the macaroni and cheese and potpie both declared yummy.
WHITE CHICKEN POTPIE
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (19 tablespoons), chilled
2 leeks, thinly sliced, white and light green parts
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream, more as needed
1 small celery root or 2 small carrots, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups)
1 medium potato, peeled and diced (1 1/4 cups)
1 cup frozen peas, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from 1 1/2 lemons)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds
Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Let rest 15 minutes. In a medium pot over medium heat, combine chicken, stock, wine, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook chicken gently until no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer meat to a plate to cool completely. Strain and reserve cooking liquid (you should have about 2 3/4 cups). Once chicken is cool, shred into bite-size pieces.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with about 1 tablespoon butter.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add leeks and shallot; cook until softened, 5 minutes. Melt in 4 tablespoons butter. Add 1/2 cup flour and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in strained stock and 1 cup cream. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer. Add celery root and potato; simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas (if using) and zest. Scrape mixture into the pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, the baking powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cut remaining 10 tablespoons butter into cubes; using a pastry cutter or 2 forks, mix into flour until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk. Dollop mixture on top of pie filling (spaces between biscuits are OK). Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with almonds. Bake until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
WHITE MACARONI AND CHEESE
Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6-8 servings
Unsalted butter, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
1 pound pasta, such as farfalle, macaroni or shells
6 ounces Brie, rind removed and cheese cut into chunks
4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mascarpone
3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, grated ( 3/4 cup)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 2-quart gratin dish.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente; drain well.
Transfer hot pasta to a large bowl and toss immediately with Brie and cream cheese until melted and smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, mascarpone and Parmigiano. Stir egg mixture into pasta. Season with pepper and nutmeg.
Turn pasta into prepared pan. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Time: 50 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cinnamon stick or 4 cardamom pods
1 strip orange peel, 1-inch wide
1/3 cup golden raisins
Creme fraiche, for serving (optional)
In a medium heavy-bottom pot, combine milk, cream, sugar, rice and salt. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and drop them in along with the pod. Stir in cinnamon and orange peel. Bring mixture to a simmer; cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until rice is tender and mixture is slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes. Do not let mixture come to a boil and don’t let it get too thick, because it will thicken as it cools. Stir in raisins and let pudding rest for 5 minutes to soften them.
Serve pudding warm, room temperature or chilled, with dollops of creme fraiche, if desired.