Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The BEST Pot Pie

I don't remember when I started to make pot pies instead of heating up the frozen ones, but I think it was in San Diego after a Thanksgiving dinner with lots of turkey left over and probably a newspaper recipe. My little tattered recipe card is stored in the "American Cookery" book by James Beard as I used his Chicken Pot Pie method  along with my ingredients from the card for many pies. The recipe has evolved along with my culinary skills and "everything fresh" attitude to what it is today. I tweaked the pastry crust, inspired by Bobby Flay, to an herby tender wonderful dough.

It was time to get the recipe cleaned up and written down. Originally I used canned Franco-American chicken gravy and Cheez Whiz with Jalapenos for the sauce. Everyone loved it!  James Beard showed me the virtues of making a veloute although I still add cheese and chilies so I guess it is Mornay sauce. Once when I was in a panic I used Pillsbury boxed dry pie crust with very good results as once you add herbs it tastes pretty good and is quite flaky so feel free to do that. I have also used  frozen pie crusts with mixed results.

Pot Pie reminds me of those days after the holidays where friends came over to watch football or just hang in front of the fireplaces we had in our past homes. One of our requirements for a living space was a fireplace and still is. Of course we always had mucho vino to consume with the dinner.  Usually I made a green salad with  a homemade vinaigrette. I started making my own when I figured out how good they taste compared the bottled stuff. Simply, Dijon mustard, red wine, balsamic or a fruit vinegar, olive oil, salt & pepper. I used to get crazy with fruit vinegars; cherry, cranberry, raspberry, blueberry, spiced grape etc. My pantry looked like a laboratory but they made such a difference.

My inspiration on this freezing rainy Saturday was a jar of Cranberry Relish I discovered in the back of my refrigerator. I made it after Christmas and it was still tasty. The acids and sugar preserve it for many moons. I usually freeze it but there was a jar I missed.  For some reason Cranberry relish means Turkey or Chicken pot pie time!  As luck would have it there was a half of a Rotisserie Chicken staring at me and a variety of Farmer's Market root veges. Out came the cookbook with various notes written on a sheet of paper and the little tattered recipe from long ago. Steve was chomping at the bit as we only had pancakes for breakfast and I think he was hungry.  I put him to work sauteing while I whipped around the kitchen getting things together so we could eat before midnight.  Once it was put together we enjoyed a salad with beets, feta cheese and pine nuts and the pie was ready before 8pm! Woo Hoo.

Pat's Poultry Pot Pie
Use your favorite or use my favorite which is this one:
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. mixed chopped fresh herbs, sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary
  If you don't have fresh use 1/2 tsp. dried sage, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme and 1/4 tsp. chopped dried rosemary and omit the parsley. It will taste good either way.
6 oz. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" dice
3 1/2 oz or less of ice cold water

Combine flour, salt and herbs in a food processor and whirl until combined. Blend butter into flour and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal but some butter chunks remain.  Gradually add enough water so the dough comes together into a ball.  Don't overdo it on the water or the dough will be tough.
Scrap the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form a disk.  Chill at least 1/2 hour or until you are ready to use it.  This can be frozen with great results in which case I double the recipe and form it into 2 disks.

4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4" slices
1 med. turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
     Steam these separately until they just give, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a "Large Bowl".
Add to this bowl:
18 frozen Pearl Onions
1/2 c. frozen peas
2 c. chopped Chicken or Turkey (white and dark meat)
Mix together and set aside.
1 leek, thinly sliced up to the pale green part and rinsed well.
1 shallot, minced
 1/2 small onion, diced
          If you don't have the leek or shallot hanging around just up the onion to 1 whole small one.
2 cloves garlic, minced
Optional: 1 Serrano chile, minced
Melt 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet and saute leek, shallot and onion for about 5 min. until they soften up. Toss in the garlic and optional minced chile.
1 cup sliced or quartered Mushrooms. 

This is important...If you can get an assortment of wild mushrooms please use them.  Chantrelles are super delicious as are hedgehogs, lobster or whatever. At the very least use brown crimini's. I have never used shitake mushrooms however but they probably would be good too, just not the tough stems.
Okay, saute them with the onion-garlic mixture until they start to release their juices and brown up a bit.
At this stage I pull out my bottle of Cognac and douse the mushroom mixture with 2 Tbsp. or so. Let it simmer until the cognac cooks down.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Add to the "Large Bowl".
For the sauce:
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram (ditto)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
dash Tabasco
1 cup shredded cheese ( cheddar, fontina, truffle, or whatever you have on hand as long as it has some flavor and melts)

In the mushroom skillet melt butter and add flour.  Cook this roux until it is a rich golden color. Stir in 1 cup of chicken stock and whisk until smooth ( be careful as it may splatter and it will be hot).  Gradually add the rest of the chicken stock, whisking as you go.  Next comes the heavy cream, all herbs and the Tabasco.  Taste for seasoning. Let reduce a little before adding the cheese. Stir until it is melted. If it is too thick add more cream or stock.
Pour this over the contents in the "Large Bowl" and stir to combine.

You will need a 2 qt. casserole or baking dish.  It can be oval or round or square. Pour the contents from "Large Bowl" into this dish.

Roll out the pastry dough to fit said dish.  Lay it over the filling and crimp the edges.
Make a few slits in the top. Sometimes I brush the crust with heavy cream. ( J.Beard combines an egg yolk with the cream for a super golden crust).  Place on a baking sheet and pop into a preheated 375* oven.  Bake 30-40 min. until crust is golden and the filling is bubbly. This depends on how deep your dish is.
Let cool a little before cutting into it.

Serve with Cranberry relish or Chutney and a bottle of fruity red wine like Zinfandel or a Rhone blend. A green salad is a good accompaniment too.

This will serve 4-6, 4 with leftovers, 6 with them licking the bottom of the dish.

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