"I don't cook for just one or two people," says James Whiteside, stirring a pot on his stove. "My mom taught me to cook and she had five kids. So when I do cook, I go in!"
Aside from breakfast (usually bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin), the American Ballet Theatre principal rarely cooks for himself during ABT's seasons. He prefers to "forage" for his lunch and go out or order in for dinner, saving the real cooking for when he has friends or colleagues to feed. "I like to have a lot of people tell me my food is delicious," he quips.
One of his favorite dishes to prepare for friends is chicken pot pie, using his mother's recipe as a base and combining it with one he found on the internet. "Every time I visited her I would make her teach me how to make something," he says of his mother, who passed away last summer. "She was an amazing cook. I know everyone says their mom is a good cook, but actually."
He's not one for being exact with ingredients—he might measure out the milk, add it to the pot, then shrug and pour in more from the quart. "Cooking for me isn't a fancy affair," he says. "It's incredibly personable and casual. It's about getting people you like in one room and having a good time."
His Chicken Pot Pie Recipe:
- 1 lb skinless boneless chicken breast
- 1 cube chicken bouillon
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1/2 cup sliced celery
- 2/3 cup butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/3 cups whole milk
- dash of hot sauce (Whiteside uses Cholula)
- 2 unbaked pie crusts (9 inches)
- 1 egg, separated
- Preheat oven to 375ºF.
- In a large pot, combine chicken, bouillon cube, carrots, peas and celery. Cover with water and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside. Remove chicken, cube or shred, and return to pot.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Add a dash of hot sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Add chicken/vegetable mixture and stir.
- Place the bottom crust in a nonstick pie pan and fill with chicken mixture. Cover with top crust, seal edges and cut away excess dough. Brush top crust with egg white. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
- Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes: One 9-inch pie