A Feast Noir

Ayda Robana of Om Sweet Mama serves up a menu of comfort food to
warm our waning autumn days and longer winter nights.

Ayda Robana - culinary artist, caterer, and private chef, is passionate about using locally-sourced, organic, farm-fresh ingredients. Highly influenced by her world travels and Tunisian-American upbringing, she founded Om Sweet Mama catering in 2008 and was among the first chefs in Santa Barbara to introduce pop-up meals in locations around town.  805.837.9009, omsweetmama.com

Chicken Pot Pie

Makes 6 individual pot pies or one large pot pie, serves 4-6

2 slices of bacon, chopped • 2 tablespoons olive oil • 2 small leeks
1 medium onion, diced • 1 clove of garlic • 4 small to medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped with the leaves • 8-12 mini red potatoes, halved • ½ cup frozen peas
½ teaspoon roughly chopped thyme • ½ teaspoon roughly chopped rosemary
4 tablespoons butter • 1/3 cup flour • 1/3 cup white wine
1 ½ - 2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces • 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms • 2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil • 1 teaspoon salt • ½ teaspoon pepper
1 or 2 thawed puff pastry sheets, cut to size • 1 egg for egg wash



In a saucepan, heat up 2 cups of chicken broth with the dried porcini mushrooms and let them rehydrate for 20 minutes, simmering over medium-low heat.

In a separate pot, parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes until fork tender.

Meanwhile, cut chicken into bite size pieces and blot with a paper towel. Cut two pieces of bacon and render in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add in the chicken. Cook until bacon is rendered and chicken is lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Sauté leeks, onion, parboiled potatoes, carrots, celery, garlic. Strain out the porcini from the stock and chop the mushrooms, then add to the sautéing vegetables. Add salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Add ¼ cup of the chicken-porcini stock. Sauté for 10 minutes, until vegetables soften and onions are translucent and flavors start to meld together. Remove the veggies from the sauté pan and set aside in a bowl with the chicken.

In a saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add in the 1/3 cup of flour, whisking it until it becomes a paste. Gradually add in all the rest of the stock and the 1/3 cup of white wine, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook down until it coats the back of the spoon, making sure to whisk any clumps vigorously. Add in the chicken and vegetables and the frozen peas.

In oven safe ramekins, baking dishes, or whatever vessel you want to use, put your filling in and lay the sheet of puff pastry over it, crimping the sides. You can fasten the pastry to the perimeter of your container by brushing with egg wash. Pierce a couple of small holes in the top of the puff pastry, and brush the top of the pot pie with egg wash.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden all the way through.

Poached Pears in Wine with Strained Yogurt, Rose and Crushed Walnuts

Serves 4-6

For the pears:

6-8 small pears • 1 bottle red wine • 2 cups of cherry, pomegranate or cranberry juice
1/4 cup brown sugar • 1 orange, stripped into several peels (with vegetable peeler)
2 cinnamon sticks • 1 vanilla bean • 2 star anise • Small pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cloves • 1 teaspoon cardamom pods 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorn



Toasted and lightly crushed pistachios • Dried rose petals, lightly crushed • Drizzle with honey

Peel the pears and place in a large pot with wine, sugar, peel of orange, juice of the orange, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean (contents scraped into mixture and the exterior of the vanilla bean as well). Place star anise, cloves, cardamom pods, and peppercorns in a tied sachet of cheese cloth and pop into the wine mixture. Add salt and cook on a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Baste pears with liquid and bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until pear is soft when pricked with a fork.

Slide the pan off heat and allow cooling to room temperature (about 2 hours or overnight for a totally saturated pear). Remove spice bouquet when ready to serve.


For the strained yogurt:

1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek yogurt • Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon cardamom powder • 1 teaspoon rose water

In a cheese-cloth lined strainer, set yogurt over a bowl in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight. Toss out the strained liquid and stir in orange zest, cardamom and rose water with strained yogurt, set aside until ready to serve.


To assemble:

Place a dollop of strained yogurt into the bottom of each individual serving glass, compote or small bowl, split the pears in half and tuck into yogurt. Drizzle a few spoonfuls of mulled wine on top of pear, top with dusting of crushed pistachios, rose petals and a little drizzle of honey. Snuggle in and enjoy this cozy fall favorite.