Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beef Pot Pie


Is there anything nicer on a cold night than a home-made pot pie? Chunks of tender meat and sweet root vegetables, folded into a savory gravy and tucked under clouds of home-made biscuits?

Pot pie is easy to make, especially if you have the right leftovers on hand. Last week I made a nice pot roast, with plenty of vegetables in the gravy, served with boiled potatoes. Now, the leftovers are fine on their own, but they also can form a great base for a very nice, quick pot pie. And if you make time-saving cream biscuits as described below, you can have it in the oven in 20 minutes.

Start by preparing the filling. Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Cut the leftover beef (or chicken, or turkey!) into bite-sized pieces, add the leftover potatoes, and (cheating on this one), half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. (Normally I would cut and cook fresh vegetables, but it was already 7pm and we were hungry.) You can also use other leftover vegetables you have on hand, especially peas, corn, carrots, winter squash, green beans and the like. Choose vegetables that are not too strong-flavored (no broccoli here, please), and which will hold their shape. If needed, stir in some well-flavored stock to moisten the filling, as the biscuits will soak up some of the gravy during the baking. Turn the mixture into a casserole that is 3"-4" deep. If it's too shallow, the filling will spill over. If it's too deep, the biscuits will not brown and rise evenly. I ended up with about 5 ½ cups of filling, which was just right for this old-fashioned casserole dish.

Put the casserole into the oven before you make the biscuits to heat the filling thoroughly. This is very important. If you put raw biscuit dough on cool or even warm filling, the biscuits will bake properly on their upper surfaces, but will end up undercooked on the bottoms, which is unappetizing and wasteful. When the filling is heated to 400˚F or so, the biscuits will cook from the bottom and the top, and they will be perfect. This is the secret to good pot pie!

While the filling is getting hot, make the cream biscuits. Combine:

2 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour (don’t bother with other brands)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional, but I add it)

Add all at once 1 ¼ cups heavy cream:

Blend quickly. The dough should come together easily to form a rough ball. If it looks like this…

 …then you need more liquid. Add a bit more cream – say, a quarter cup:

That's better:

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface:

Knead with a very light touch just until the dough is smooth and cohesive, about a half-dozen turns, or about thirty seconds:

The goal here is simply to distribute the ingredients and smooth out the dough a little. Over-kneading will result in a tough, chewy biscuit. This is altogether a different sort of kneading than is used when making yeast breads.

Roll or pat the dough into a circle about ¾” thick. As with the kneading, use a very light touch. It’s better to end up with an irregular shape than try to manipulate, re-roll, or re-knead. With biscuits, less handling is always better.

Cut the dough into any shapes you like, depending on the shape of your casserole dish. For my round dish, I could have simply cut the dough into rounds or wedges, but I remembered that I have this heart-shaped cutter:

Remove the scraps from between the cut shapes:

Now, what to do with those scraps? Don’t bother re-rolling and re-cutting; they’ll just get tough. Enjoy them as they are! Put them on a little baking pan and throw them in the oven to bake when you take out the filling. Here they are - overbaked by about five minutes. They were a bit crunchy, but still good!

OK, back to the pie. Remove the hot casserole from the oven – the filling should be boiling hot. If it isn't, give it a stir and return it to the oven for a few more minutes. Here's the bubbling hot filling:

Put the biscuits carefully on top of the hot filling. They will start to cook at once, so plan carefully before you start laying them down.

Put the pie in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes, until the biscuits are as brown as you like them. The timing will vary depending on the size of the pan and the size and thickness of the biscuits, so watch carefully after just ten minutes. Here’s the pie, ready to serve:

Notice that the biscuits are nicely puffed on their lower surfaces, incidating that they cooked all the way through.

This beef pot pie was delicious! And so easy to make from leftovers and “pantry” ingredients. It took about a half hour of prep time, plus about 15 minutes in the oven.

All my recipes may be viewed here:

They are further organized as follows, with some overlap:

Breads http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Breads
Desserts http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Desserts
Fruits http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Fruits
Main Dishes http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Main%20Dishes
Meats http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Meats
Soups and Stews http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Soups
Vegetables http://quodlibet-sarah.blogspot.com/search/label/Recipes%20Vegetables

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