Have you ever been so in love with someone that you fail to notice their waning youth? They age and change, a little extra weight around their middle or a bald spot that continues to grow, and yet, in your eyes, they’re the same as when you met. That’s how I saw Sedona. On this trip, I finally grasped that Sedona today is not the Sedona I fell for over 20 years ago. Although I’ve visited over the years, I ignored its subtle transformation. To me, it was still the quirky little town nestled in majestic orange spires of incomparable beauty. Until this visit, I refused to notice the town changing, growing. Roads that were once dirt are now paved, the funky downtown has become a row of mini malls and chic shops, There are roundabouts everywhere to alleviate the traffic (there’s traffic!), and houses have sprouted on cliff-sides where before there were none. Too many cars, too many tourists. I’ve overlooked these changes, not wanting to admit my former Sedona is altered, polished, accessible. It’s still breathtaking, I confess, and anyone who didn’t know the Sedona of before would surely delight in its charms. I’m reminded that we can never really go back, though, can we?
Cabin Improvisations – water bottle as rolling pin.
Flaky pastry surrounds plump, juicy blackberries. These pies required another cabin improvisation – using a stainless steel water bottle as a rolling pin.
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups canola oil
6 Tablespoons whole milk
12 oz. blackberries
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Combine oil and milk in a measuring cup. Add oil mixture to flour and combine with a fork until dough forms a ball. Cover and set aside.
Combine blackberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon zest. Set aside. Divide dough into two equal portions and roll each portion out into a 12” x 12” square between two pieces of waxed paper. Cut each 12” square into 4 equal squares (you should have 8 squares).
Arrange about 10 blackberries on bottom half of each square and fold over top half, covering blackberries. Crimp sides with tines of a fork, cut 2-3 small vent holes for steam in each pie and brush with beaten egg.
Carefully transfer pies to sheet pan and bake until golden, 25-30 minutes. Cool slightly and enjoy.
When cooking in a secluded cabin in the woods, a chef must be content with improvisation. This dish began as chicken pot pie, but upon discovering that a fully stocked cabin kitchen doesn’t necessarily include an oven-proof baking dish, I resolved to switch pot pie for a stove-top version of chicken and dumplings. Without the essential baking powder in my limited pantry, the dumplings posed another problem. My culinary training to the rescue – milk, check. Butter, check. Flour and salt, check. Eggs, check. Pate a choux dumplings! The resulting dish is rich, satisfying, homey, and the perfect accompaniment to a stay in a cozy cabin.
Simmer together milk, butter and salt until butter is fully melted, but mixture has not come to a boil. Add ½ cup flour and stir until flour is fully incorporated and dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool dough in pan by running the sides of the pan under cold water. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in Parmesan. Set aside. Heat a small saucepan with 2 cups water until boiling.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Sauté chicken in a bit of oil in a large skillet until brown and cooked through. Remove chicken and add celery, carrot, and onion. Sauté until softened. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms have softened. Add peas and cook until vegetables are beginning to brown. Add vegetables to chicken. Add a bit more oil to pan and add 2 Tablespoons flour. Stir until flour is golden brown and bubbly. Add broth and cook until slightly thickened. Return chicken, vegetables and accumulated juices to skillet, reduce heat and simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, drop small teaspoons of dough into boiling water. Remove dumplings when they have risen to the top of the water. Drain on paper towels. To serve, ladle chicken into bowls and garnish with two or three warm dumplings.
My cozy cabin in the Oak Creek forest – Butterfly Garden Inn