Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cheating at Pot Pie

Looking through the freezer today, I noted a package full of ice that was supposed to contain meat. The label proclaimed it turkey sausages, which are rarely wonderful at the best of times. Fortunately, they were almost untouched by freezerburn. (Note for bachelors: the nice packages of meat at the store with lots of air and space to display the meat inside are NOT good for freezing the meat! Remove it to a ziplock with the air pushed out and relevant meat & date information written in Sharpie! Your taste buds will thank you!)

How to turn unimpressive turkey sausages into good dinner? Why, by surrounding them with a thick, rich, flavorful gravy that will provide all the moisture and flavor, and vegetables that will give a good contrasting texture. Sounds like a recipe for pot pie to me!

Now, I cheated a little at first. By the time I had cooked the sausages enough to know they'd turn out to be okay, I did not want to wait another two hours while pie crust pastry relaxed in the fridge. I also object to paying $2.30 for $0.35 worth of ingredients, plus the half-hour it'd take to run to the store and buy pie crusts. So, instead of cutting refrigerated butter into flour, I reached into the freezer, where I store the bulk of the on-sale butter until ready to use. Also, instead of spilling salted flour all over myself and the floor while exercising restraint on cursing, I cut the frozen butter into the flour using the food processor. I adore technology! As for the very cold water - I just ran cold tap water into a glass of ice cubes before I started messing with the flour and butter, and it was plenty chilled to dribble on and fork the dough together. In the end, the dough rested for roughly 30 minutes while I sauteed the veggies. (And the glass cutting board rested in the freezer, to make rolling dough easier.)

When it came to sauteeing the veggies, I cheated a bit. Sure, I used the last onion that was going soft, and the celery that was starting to wilt a little, and chopped one carrot - but after they were sauteed, I reached into the freezer and pulled out a bag of mixed vegetables. As they've been frozen, they will be softer than raw veggies, and don't really need to be sauteed as much as warmed up. Stirring them in, I added garlic, and black pepper, thyme, sage, and rosemary. As the veggies were steaming, I chopped up the sausages, and added the coins of meat back to the mix, stirring them so they soaked in the juices.

I rolled out the dough for the bottom crust, and draped it gently into the pie plate. Then I considered my filling. It wasn't quite thick and savory enough. I should make a roux or a gravy, to provide a savory note that the turkey sausages lacked...

Instead I reached into the pantry shelf, and cracked a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. I try very hard not to use the soup mixes - I try to make everything from scratch. I view it as a failure to resort to them - in fact, my test for a good slow-cooker cookbook is how many recipes in it do NOT call for "can of cream of X soup." But I was tired, and it was late, and dinner was already 45 minutes of baking away...

It tasted wonderful. Calmer Half thoroughly enjoyed it, and Housemate stated that this should definitely go on the make again list. The buttery pie crust was light, crispy, and flaky - even the bottom crust. The filling was wonderful, savory and redolent with herbs, and dense with meat and vegetables. And if it was this good with turkey sausage with a touch of freezerburn, I think it's going to be wonderful with some of the venison still in the freezer and awaiting a dish to delight its hunter.

To paraphrase Larry Corriea, "If it's cheating and it rocks, then it rocks!"

Flaky Buttery Pie Crust Recipe


  1. > Remove it to a ziplock with the air pushed out and relevant meat & date information written in Sharpie! Your taste buds will thank you!)

    It turns out that not much of the Sharpie flavor really gets through the plastic - so it's your tastebuds and organizational sense that will thank you... ;-)

    But, joking aside, yes. I store meat exactly the way you say, and I store stock and other liquid items in square Rubbermaid storage thingies, which stack quite nicely...and which also get labelled with a Sharpie.

    (Also, I keep a spray bottle of denatured alcohol (filled from a jug from the paint section at the hardware store) in a cabinet to melt the Sharpie off the Rubbermaid when I'm done)

  2. Okay, that's not fair. Now I've drooled on my new shirt. :)

  3. Yummy. I made Turkey Meatloaf tonight with mac n cheese. I needed comfort food. This is going on the list of things to make too.

  4. And the other corollary, if you're not cheating, you're not trying... :-)

  5. Hint from Pacific Pie Company: freeze the flour for 30 minutes before doing the food processor thing, the flour being cold will help the butter not get gooey too quickly.

  6. Freddy - If I ever have to do this with non-frozen butter, I'll definitely use your advice. The butter being frozen instead of merely cold means room temp flour is fine - if I work fast.

    The secret to pie crusts is to chill out. Chill flour, chill butter, chill mixing bowl, chill the water, chill the dough, chill the cutting board, chill the pie plate... keeping it cool keeps your cool.