It has been a while since I posted here. And it’s not because Brandon and I haven’t been eating. Since I last posted, we purchased a house and moved. So WHAT we have been eating has not been very adventurous as we continue to unpack and become acquainted with the new kitchen. Oh, and there’s this little thing called a job that gets in the way, too!
[P.S. Be on the lookout for a new blog about our adventures renovating the house..]
Regardless, I am currently on vacation (!!) and have had time to start a lot of renovation in the house, and to do some cooking. Last night for dinner I made something that Brandon and I enjoy, but have not had for quite a while – pot pie.
The reason that I titled this post the way I did is because I view pot pies similarly to frittatas. They are an excellent place to hide leftovers! We have made pot pies with chicken left over from a roast and when the refrigerator is spewing a random assortment of vegetables that need to be used, wrapping them in a pastry crust and homemade sauce is a perfect use. For this purpose, we also supplement whatever fresh vegetables we have on hand with frozen vegetables (which we only use in a preparation such as this and do not nuke them and call it a side dish with dinner!).
While the veggies for this particular pot pie count as the “something old,” the “something new” is the pastry. Making the pastry is the first of two techniques important for creating the perfect pot pie – and it is the more scientific since pastry dough needs to be measured well. [I provide Ina Garten’s recipe at the end of this post because it is where I first learned both of these, but as you can see from the photos, I don’t follow her recipe anymore.]
I have written about creating pastry doughs before, so here is a refresher.
- COLD butter, COLD water
- Pastry blender to cut the butter into flour mixture until it is the size of peas (it really is not worth the hassle of washing the food processor for cutting 30 seconds off the time it takes to make the dough)
- Add more water if the dough does not hold together. Add more flour if the dough is sticky. You want to avoid doing too much of this (though it’s sometimes unavoidable) because you dilute the butter and baking powder and the dough will not rise well.
- Chill the dough for 30 minutes before using it.
The second (and less scientific) technique is in making the sauce for the pot pie. The first step is to essentially make a roux, which is a butter-and flour thickening agent. After the vegetables have all sautéed in olive oil (Be sure to add any frozen vegetables and allow them to give off all their water before making the sauce! The roux will not work if the vegetables are still very damp), the pan is typically pretty dry since I like to get come carmalization on the veggies. So, I add a pad of butter, just enough so that when it melts it VERY lightly coats the vegetables. Then, sprinkle the veggies with a coating of flour and stir to coat. At this point, the pan will again be very dry. I continue stirring for about 30 seconds longer than I think I should for fear that things will burn in order to (as Ina says) cook the raw flour taste out.
The second step in the sauce creation is addition of liquid. The “something old” adage comes into play here, also. The half-used box of stock in the back of your refrigerator will thank you! I do always start with about a tablespoon of dry vermouth to deglaze quickly and then I pour in stock (vegetable stock if you want this to be totally vedge) about half a cup at time and continue until there is a sufficient quantity of sufficiently-thick sauce. A splash of milk, cream or half-and-half once the sauce is done is really the icing on top here. Be sure to taste for seasoning (salt, pepper, whatever herbs you have on hand – i used rosemary and thyme in this particular batch)!
All of these steps can be done ahead of time, as I did yesterday and just finished things off when Brandon got home from work. Just scoop the filling into whatever oven-safe containers you would like to use. I use these dishes from IKEA: they’re shallow enough to make sure that each bite of filling has a bite of flake pastry as well!
An egg wash (a beaten egg with 1 Tbs water or milk added) is important for two purposes. It secures the pastry to the lip of the dish, and it also helps the pastry to brown well in the oven. I also salt (think pretzel!) and pepper the top of the pastry after the egg wash to make sure it has great flavor. Cut a few vent holes in the top of the pastry as well.
Since everything in the pot pie is already cooked, putting the pot pies in the oven is essentially to bake the crust. Be sure to place the dishes on a baking sheet in case the pot pie bubbles over at all. Pour yourself a glass of wine and in 30-40 minutes in a 400 degree oven, the dishes will emerge: golden brown and delicious!
Be sure to allow the pot pies to cool for a bit before eating!
Vegetable Pot Pie (Ina Garten’s recipe, use as a guide for above)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.
For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.