Friday, July 11, 2014

Comfort Food — Turkey Pot Pie

Mmm. Pie. With turkey
This is one of those “I don’t know why I didn’t do it long ago” items. When I was growing up, my mother would often deal with leftover turkey by making turkey pot pie (on the other hand, this was not something James’s mother made). On a purely linguistic note, the phrase “turkey pot pie” refers to turkey and vegetables cooked in a casserole covered with a pastry crust, and this is often how my mother made it, with the dish forming the “pot” of the name. The term is often used, however, for any meat pie, including those with both a top and bottom crust.

I opted to make a two-crusted pie (which my mother did), but going completely against maternal precedent, I decided to incorporate some whole wheat flour into the mix. I consulted a variety of sources and realized that with white whole wheat, I could get a lot of whole wheat into it. I decided not to chance a 100% whole wheat crust, but I could do nearly 50%.

Here’s what I did for the crust:
3 1/2 ounces white whole wheat flour
4 ounces all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 ounces butter
About 6 tablespoons ice water

Cube the butter, and chill it in the freezer for an hour or more.

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Add the chilled butter and pulse until the butter is cut into fine pieces.

Add the water a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until water is evenly distributed. When dough starts clumping, stop adding water and pulse until dough gathers into a ball.

Wrap and flatten into a disk. Chill in the refrigerator at least a half hour.

When ready to bake, divide dough. Roll out on a well-floured surface.
Part whole wheat pie dough
That’s the dough. Then came the question of the filling. Pot pies are essentially a way to deal with leftovers. There you are, in an era before refrigeration or microwaves. How do you get those leftovers to the table in an edible fashion? Bake it in a pastry.

I’ve read that medieval practice was to make a crust of just flour and salt; it was a box, not something intended to be eaten. I’m not sure when the short crust (flour and fat) came about. It’s the nicer choice, because you get to eat the box. (In those medieval kitchens, the pies were probably shoved into the coals, so even if the pastry was nice, it wouldn’t have been at the end.)

James was incredulous when I told him how long the pie would spend in the oven (just about 30 minutes), but the filling is already cooked. The process is simple: cook up some vegetables (or use leftovers), mix in a thickened liquid, and bake. My mother, I regret to say, thickened hers with cornstarch, which is the wrong consistency, but many people find it easier than a flour sauce (except me). I did some hunting about and found a recipe that called for enriching this further with some milk (what do you get when you cross a velouté with a béchamel?). The next bit was easier than pie.

You could eat this out of
the skillet
I chopped up some carrots, celery, and an onion. I could have sweated these in butter, but wasn’t there enough in the crust? Time for the olive oil. Not the extra virgin stuff, just a light olive oil. While that was cooking, I tore up some leftover turkey. Once the vegetables were softened, I added some flour, and kept cooking for a couple minutes. In with some chicken stock and then some milk. The flour bloomed and I had a skillet of meat and vegetables in a creamy sauce. Ready to eat!

Here it is recipe style, but the number are approximate.
1 cup carrots, large dice
½ cup celery
1 medium onion
1 cup peas (can be frozen)
olive oil
⅓ cup flour
1 ¾ cups chicken broth
⅔ cup milk

Heat a skilled and add the olive oil to it. Cook the vegetables until they being to soften, adding some salt as they cook.

Layer pie pan with one crust. Preheat overn to 425°.

When they are softened, add in the flour, shaking it over the vegetables, and stirring it it. Allow the flour to cook for a minute or two, then add the chicken broth and the milk. Simmer for about 5 minutes; the sauce will thicken. Add the peas (they take little cooking), the salt, and the pepper. (Note for next time: I’m adding thyme.)

Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with the second crust, seal edges, removing excess dough. Cut slits for steam.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.
When we reheated the pot pie, we used the oven, since that keeps the crust nice. Be careful: I burned my lip on a piece of hot crust.
Almost ready for the oven
(don't forget to cut the slits)

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