Home-made Pot Pies

Whether you prefer to make them single serving size, or make larger family sized pies, pot pies are a wonderful dish to serve warm on a cold evening.

You can use traditional recipes, making your crust from scratch and cooking up a stew-pot of sauce and veggies. You can also use a lot of modern day short cuts as you will see below.

CRUSTY CONCEPTS
For single serving pot pies, grab a can of biscuit dough in your favorite variety. Separate the biscuits on a board and using a rolling pin, roll them out flat while retaining their round shape.

Using a cup cake tin, line each cup with one rolled out biscuit. Add your filling (we’ll discuss that below), and use a second rolled out biscuit to cap the cup. Inch the edges together and slit the top for a steam vent. You might also use a quarter of a biscuit on top as dumpling instead of a cap.

Bake these as directed on the biscuit container. When they come hot out of the over, top with a bit of grated cheese and serve warm.

Another crust short-cut for family sized pies is to use pre-made pie crusts or pizza dough. For pie shells, pre-bake them for ten minutes before filling. This will give you a better, less soggy texture. Pizza crusts are great to slice and weave for a beautiful cap on the pies. You can also skip the lining crust and just use a lattice on top to reduce your carbs a bit.

FILLINGS
Broken meats, or meats purchased specifically for pie fillings are both good to work with. Canned chicken, turkey, beef or ham will bring an extra load of salt and preservatives to the dish, but they are also very handy.

If your meats need to be cooked first, use a fat-free or low-sodium broth to start your filling out.

Fresh vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, or turnips should be diced to 1/2 inch cubes and tossed in with the cooking meat to cook through. Peas and mushrooms, which cook much faster, should be added later in the process. Remember that mushrooms release a lot of water.

Leftover veggies are also great for this dish. They are precooked and ready to be tossed into the sauce. Baked potatoes, savory yams, buttered carrots are all likely candidates. Drain them well, skin them if you prefer, and dice them to a comfortable size before adding them.

Canned veggies, which are of course already fully cooked, should be drained thoroughly before being added to anything. Again, low or no-salt is encouraged.

For the sauce, follow your recipe for the next few steps. If you are taking short cuts, you might consider a condensed cream soup such as a cream of mushroom, asparagus, chicken or potato. Do not add any liquids! You do not want your sauce to be runny.

Turn the soup out into a bowl. Fold in your meats, veggies, and additional spices you may desire. Garlic, onion, rosemary and thyme are a good mix for most meats.

If you find yourself in need of a thickening agent, don’t rely on corn-starch. While it works very well, it also adds a lot of carbs/sugars and calories to your dish. Use finely grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano, as thickeners. These are a tasty addition as well adding extra protein.

Fill your pastry cups 3/4 of the way with whichever mixture you decide to use. Cap, lattice or dumpling the tops and bake as directed.

SERVING
Unlike most dishes that are called “pies” the inside of a pot pie of this sort will not gelatinize. You will wind up with a very thick stew in a shell. Be prepared to spoon out some extra filling if you serve family sized pies, and to be very careful when popping the individual pies out of the baking cups. Place your serving in a dish, sprinkle with some shredded cheese and a slice of toasted baguette.

If all of this sounds vague and less like a recipe than an idea, that’s because it is. The variations are seemingly endless, and the choice of ingredients is up to your own tastes. Make your pot pies creamy with chicken and mushrooms, or a bit more tart with turkey and turnips. Use Italian spices and tomato paste for a roseate alternative, or wild onion and venison in a brown gravy style sauce. No matter what angle you choose, it’s sure to be delicious!

— Ann Cathey

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