Today I am so, so pleased to introduce you to my friend, the talented photographer (and passionate home chef), Bonnie Berry. Bonnie and I met through a mutual friend and on our very first encounter, while the three of us sat outside, happily chatting away and sipping cocktails on a deliciously warm Austin evening, she snapped the candid photos of me that you see on this blog. Ever since then, I’ve greatly admired her and the unique lens through which she sees the world.
While Bonnie has been a long time photographer of the human spirit, she is also a lover of food and enjoys shooting it as much as she does making and eating it. The concept for Deconstructed Kitchen came naturally to us both. For me, an untalented cook who truly appreciates good food and longs to be better in the kitchen, Deconstructed Kitchen is a column that not only inspires me with its beautiful photography, but also teaches me. You see, in each post Bonnie will share her sage advice… indispensable tips for the novice and/or for someone who is attempting the recipe for the first time. For Bonnie, this column is an opportunity to try something new and to express her love of food and photography in a way that benefits her family (in a rather satisfying way) at the end of each shoot. We both hope that you find this column as delicious as we do. Mange!
There is perhaps no one who is more of an accidental cook than me. I swore that I would never garden and I would never cook. Don’t get me wrong—I love food. I have always been an avid and appreciative consumer of other people’s cooking. So what happened you ask? Well, I decided to procreate and darn if these kids don’t want to be fed. So I figured that if I had to learn to cook, I would at least make it interesting and creative. I dove in headfirst. And I am surprised to find that not only do I enjoy cooking and baking, but that I then love to photograph the results. It is win-win for everyone, except for my family, who has to wait until I have photographed the food before they can dig in. Am I a great cook? No. Do I mess up? All the time. Is it always as pretty as it looks? Definitely not. But as a photographer, I have learned to fake it. And the gardening? Well, I do have a herb garden, but that doesn’t count, right?
BONNIE’S SAGE ADVICE The pancetta can be omitted to make this vegetarian. And if you are like me and find pancetta hard to locate on Texas grocery aisles, you can use bacon, which is what I used. I found that following the original recipe made too much lid and not enough filling. Next time I make it I am going to double the filling and keep the same amount of dough lid. Before you start this recipe make sure you have ramekins or oven safe bowls so that, like me, you do not end up scrambling at the last second trying to find something suitable.
2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained yogurt)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
4 ounces (115 grams or 3/4 to 1 cup) 1/4-inch-diced pancetta
1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves from an 8- to 10-ounce (225- to 285-gram) bundle (4 cups); if leaves are very wide, you can halve them lengthwise
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
3 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) all- purpose flour
3 1/2 cups (765 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or from one and a third 15.5- ounce (440-gram) cans (BONNIE I used one can because I did not want to have 2/3 of a can of beans left over)
MAKE LIDS In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is like uncooked couscous. In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball. Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
MAKE FILLING Heat 1-tablespoon olive oil over medium- high heat in a large, wide saucepan, and then add the pancetta. Brown the pancetta, turning it frequently, so that it colors and crisps on all sides; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and drain it on paper towels before transferring to a medium bowl. Leave the heat on and the renderings in the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if needed and heat it until it is shimmering. Add onions, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and begin to take on color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer all of the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the pancetta, and set aside.
MAKE SAUCE Wipe out the large saucepan; don’t worry if any bits remain stuck to the bottom. Then melt the butter in the saucepan over medium- low heat. Add the flour, and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, until it begins to take on a little color. Whisk in the broth, one ladleful at a time, mixing completely between additions. Once you’ve added one- third of the broth, you can begin to add the rest more quickly, two to three ladleful s at a time; at this point you can scrape up any bits that were stuck to the bottom — they’ll add great flavor.
Once all of the broth is added, stirring the whole time, bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook the sauce until it is thickened and gravy-like, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the white beans and reserved vegetables into the sauce.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
ASSEMBLE THE POT PIES Divide the filling between four ovenproof 2-cup bowls. (You’ll have about 1 1/2 cups filling in each.) Set the bowls on a baking pan. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll it out into rounds that will cover your bowls with an overhang, or about 1 inch wider in diameter than your bowls. Whisk the egg wash and brush it lightly around the top rim of your bowls (to keep the lid glued on) and drape the pastry over each, pressing gently to adhere it. Brush the lids with egg wash, then cut decorative vents (smaller than mine, please, as they led to lots of draping) in each to help steam escape. Bake until crust is lightly bronzed and filling is bubbling, about 30 to 35 minutes.
DO AHEAD The dough, wrapped twice in plastic wrap and slipped into a freezer bag, will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, and for a couple months in the freezer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a covered container in the fridge.