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From a Knoxville kitchen.

Dienesa Le is the first of several guest bloggers joining me for #31DaysintheKitchen. Dienesa is my best friend (you can read about her, with GIFs, here), which readers of this blog probably already know. She lives in Knoxville and shares my love of words and pie. Here’s what she has to say about comfort food, community, and canine kitchen companions. 

Once a week, a group of women and I share a potluck meal, pray, and fellowship with each other. It’s a sweet time where rest is found just by the presence of good friends.

This week, the potluck theme is “soup.” I take out a piece of paper, splattered and crinkled from multiple uses. It’s one of my favorite recipes, Vegetable Pot Pie with sweet potato as the key ingredient. Welcome Autumn. The recipe originates from one of my go-to blogs “Cup of Jo,” who uses this recipe for mini pot pies in ramekins. Since I do not own ramekins (yet), I take the “pie” label to heart and use a pie pan.

To start, I turn on Hans Zimmer’s “The Holiday” soundtrack and gather the ingredients.

Typical Kitchen Scene, Nora peeking out from below
Typical Kitchen Scene, Nora peeking out from below

The first set of ingredients includes one sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces, half a sweet onion, five sage leaves, and two tablespoons of butter. The second set includes a bag of frozen vegetables, two cups of vegetable broth, salt, and pepper. Lastly, flour for thickening and thawed puff pastry sheets for the crust.

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I place the first set of ingredients in the pot. Steam rises, and the smell of sage is first to waft into the hot air– the oven is preheating to 425°F. Yet, it feels like autumn in the kitchen as the ingredients begin to simmer. The window is cracked open; a breeze cuts through.

While the pot is cooking, I peek out the window and spot Nora playing in the backyard. I’ve skipped her evening walk to get a head start on the pot pie before the girls arrive, but Nora gets her exercise by romping around in the grass and fallen leaves.

From left: #1 First Set of Ingredients, #2-3 Second Set, #4 Flour Dredge (before it’s stirred in)
From left: #1 First Set of Ingredients, #2-3 Second Set, #4 Flour Dredge (before it’s stirred in)

Once the sweet potatoes are tender, I add in a bag of frozen vegetables, pour in two cups of vegetable broth, and season with salt and pepper. Then I make the flour dredge: two tablespoons of flour mixed with two tablespoons of cold water, together thickening into a paste. A couple tablespoons of the broth from the pot dilutes the paste into a thick liquid. I stir it into the soup. As the soup simmers to gravy consistency, I prepare the crust. The puff pastry comes in two square sheets, which I cut into strips with the aim of making a lattice top.

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Once the soup is ready, I pour it into the pie pan and weave the puff pastry, each strip comprising two pastry layers for a thick crust. The lattice isn’t perfect nor blog-worthy, but hey… we’re among friends. The pot pie goes into the oven for 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

mmmmmmm.
mmmmmmm.

The girls arrive bringing chicken dumpling soup and a vegetable soup from Three Rivers, a food co-op down the street. Paper bowls and a bag of bread are added to the table. Someone brings pumpkin pie. Another, beer. I unearth the pot pie from the oven and set it on the table.

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The soups are warm, and the beer is crisp. The Vegetable Pot Pie melds together the sweetness of this season, softened by the buttery pastry crust.

I’m happy in sharing this meal with the girls, and in sharing this recipe with you. When Anne and I talked about writing a guest blog, I felt it was akin to having a friend visit me in the kitchen. Today, my kitchen was a busy room full of heat and rich scents, then a room full of friendship and life. Thanks for visiting, and thank you Anne for inviting me to your #31DaysintheKitchen series!

-Dienesa

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