Did you survive back to school craziness? In my house back to school also means back to work for me (this year I'm working with grade sixes), and Kevin is starting grade 12.
I cannot even begin to express my excitement over the very idea of him being finished school. If you really want to know why, you can read about a gazillion posts over on Notes From the Cookie Jar. In the end, we know you're not here to discuss school, you came for a recipe, right?
Of course. Fall is coming. You can feel it in the air, can't you? That cool tinge, the dry leaves already on the ground, and the crazy thunderstorms working their way across the Lower Mainland are all clues. We're not used to thunderstorms and have spent a few nights the last couple weeks on our back porch, watching the sky light up and listening to the crack of thunder. I've started making more fall-type food as well.
Pot pies, usually made with chicken in my house, are a favourite but this time I wanted to try them with beans, veggies, and bacon. The original recipe had a home made pastry top as well but in the craziness of errands and back to school, one night I found myself staring at it and resolving that I was not going to be a slave to my kitchen, so I substituted phyllo instead. Light and crispy, it seemed to be the ideal topping. I must confess that I've never been a huge fan of pastry, so phyllo seemed to be the perfect alternative-and on a busy night, you bet that it is. You could still add chicken to this if you wanted-just throw in some leftover cooked bits if you have them floating around in your fridge somewhere. You can also use swiss chard instead of spinach, and make the whole thing dairy free if you want. It's that easy!
4 oz (115 grams) of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups (8-10 oz) thinly sliced baby spinach or Swiss chard leaves
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 cups white beans, drained and rinsed
3 1/2 tbsp butter (to be dairy free, you can use margarine or bacon fat)
3 1/2 tbsp flour
3 1/4 cups chicken broth
3 sheets of phyllo pastry
Bake your bacon in the oven. While the bacon is cooking away, it's a good time to chop all your veggies. Drain a little of the fat off the bacon into a deep fry pan and set over medium heat. Saute the onion, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and garlic until softened. Stir it frequently so that the garlic doesn't burn and turn the heat down if it appears to be a bit hotter than it should be.Stir in the spinach or swiss chard leaves and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes until they are wilted.
When the veggies are cooked, transfer them to a bowl and set aside. By now your bacon should be cooked as well. Drain on paper towels, chop and add to the bowl of veggies along with the beans.
In the pan that you cooked the veggies in, add the butter and set it over medium low heat until it is completely melted. You could, if you wish to make this dairy free, use the leftover bacon drippings instead. Stir in the flour. Continue to cook and stir a bit until it becomes a little browned. Begin adding the broth, little by little, stirring well as you go, to keep it smooth. When you have added all the broth bring the sauce to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow the mixture to continue to bubble away, stirring it frequently, for about 10 minutes until it's thickened.
Stir in the bacon, bean and veggie mixture, stirring until blended and heated through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you feel it's needed. Stir in the fresh thyme. Take the pan off the heat and set aside. Ladle the stew into 4 or 5 oven proof bowls.
Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
Unroll a sheet of phyllo as pictured below. Brush half of it lightly with olive oil.
Fold it in half, enclosing the part brushed with olive oil inside.
Brush half of it with oil again, and fold again.
You will end up with a rectangle or square of phyllo. Lay it on top of the bowl of stew, letting the sides hang over the edge. Brush the pieces hanging off lightly with olive oil and fold in the edges to make it look neat.
Place the bowls on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until they are browned and crispy.
This recipe makes four servings, and you can make the stew a day ahead if you need to.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen