Winter Vegetable Pot Pie – and “Messiah”

Recently on a sunny Saturday, after the farmer’s market, I stood in my kitchen and began to make soup. While I chopped and sautéed, the Trinity Church chorus and orchestra performed Handel’s “Messiah” in my living room, which is the same concert hall as my kitchen.

We take our technology for granted. We can download and listen to “A Christmas Carol” while driving to Christmas dinner; “Messiah” can accompany travel on an airplane or soup making in the kitchen.

I suppose every age is awed by its technology – a steam engine, yes – but a computer in one’s pocket? I cheer all the possibilities, in spite of my fondness for the flavor of old-fashioned life.

And we can also hear “Messiah” in person, like we did on Sunday, presented by 100 voices and an orchestra in a local high school auditorium. I smiled at the sight of my Gop friend in the chorus, the librarian with angel voice and a look of joy on her face as she sings. No matter the form, I always cry with the beauty of the music.

With so many holiday foods and sweets about, substantial, savory things are critical also – hence the soup. And here’s where we get to pot pie.

At Thanksgiving my daughter-in-law and I had a look at Deborah Madison’s “Winter Vegetable Pot Pie” recipe. We didn’t manage it in the crush of that holiday, but I’m going to try now.

The recipe reads like a CSA delivery: butternut squash, shallots, a small celery root, parsnips, turnips, and carrots. Thanks to the farmer I have all those sturdy, storage vegetables on hand. Deborah encourages adding the “oddballs” of winter’s vegetal world like salsify, parsley root, Brussels sprouts, or fennel.

I might use one of Deborah’s alternatives to traditional Béchamel sauce and her “Yeasted Tart Dough” instead of puff pastry.  (The wordsmith told me about a pie dough with cheese added – that would be tasty.) I like the idea of preparing the vegetables (some par-boiling, some sautéing) for this “pot pie with a lid.” It can be prepared ahead, making it a good possibility for a close to the holiday meal.

Deborah describes the pie when it comes from the oven – sauce bubbling, top brushed with egg, golden and puffed. Fit for a king – a dish George II might have eaten on a winter night.

With luck we’ll have more pastel blue winter days – sun strong but early to set. I will play Messiah again while I cook, and watch the sky pink and darken to a chorus of voices, singing hallelujahs and amens.

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