I have discovered that, much as I enjoy baking, I am not and may never be a master of the finicky, temperamental beast that is homemade pie crust. Fortunately, this did not hinder me when I embarked on my major repurposing-Thanksgiving-leftovers meal last week. No, I shamelessly bought a package of pre-made pie crusts to lovingly enclose a turkey pot pie.
We had a big turkey this year, and after stripping off the meat and making stock from the bones, I decided both could be put to good use in a pie. Since the weather has been so chilly, baking is a good way of warming up the house and therefore a good way of choosing dinners. Never having attempted pot pie before, I surveyed a few likely looking sources for potential recipes before scrapping them all and making it up myself. Here’s how it went down:
I chopped up three or four cloves of garlic, about ¼ cup of onion, and five or six cremini mushrooms, which I sweated down in olive oil until they were soft. While this was happening, I chopped up a couple of carrots and a handful of fingerling potatoes into small pieces. I tossed these into the pot with the aromatics along with some poultry seasoning and a splash of white wine, and then added about 2 cups of turkey stock and heavy cream stirred briefly together. In a flash of genius, I realized this was an opportunity to use up the mushroom gravy my mom had made for the big Thanksgiving meal. Everyone seems to stress about gravy – avoiding lumps, getting the right consistency, producing a good flavor without drowning the sauce in salt, and then it doesn’t get used up. It coagulates into a strange, meaty jelly in the refrigerator and just doesn’t microwave right. Most years we throw the leftovers away. But mixed into my pot pie filling, it melted back into a slightly thickened liquid, bringing all its flavor with it. I added some extra poultry seasoning and slapped the lid of my pot on to let the vegetables cook.
In the mean time, I assessed the crust situation. Thanks to one of my cookbooks, I had decided to do a lattice top crust. I’ve never made a lattice top crust before. It looked daunting. Helpfully, I found a diagram of how to do it, so while the potatoes and carrots slowly softened I cut my top crust into about twelve strips of semi-even thickness with the tip of one of my sharper knives.
When the potatoes and carrots were almost done, I added a handful of green beans to the filling, probably around a cup of frozen peas, and about two tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with water. That way the filling could thicken while the green beans cooked. When things were thickened up nicely, I carefully slopped the steaming filling into the bottom pie crust, which I had carefully laid into my pie plate.
I carefully completed the lattice-work top (I don’t think I can explain without step-by-step pictures, which I unfortunately neglected to take, but it’s not quite as complicated as it looks) and then brushed it with an egg wash. There was a little bit of filling and a few strips of crust left, so I made two mini-pot pies in tiny corningware dishes to use up the remainders before putting everything into the oven.
After 40 minutes or so at 425F, the pot pie was done.
The crust was golden and crunchy, the insides smelled delicious, and even though the whole first piece I cut fell completely apart, it was glorious. Though N. enjoys my cooking, he is usually demure about his compliments, but not this time. He proclaimed “I think I love this,” after only a bite or two, which I interpreted as ultimate triumph. The veggies were tender but not mushy, the sauce had bubbled up on the sides and had a rich, meaty flavor, and the turkey itself was as delicious as it had been fresh off the bird. I used only dark meat, which I think kept things moist and extra flavorful. We glutted ourselves on turkey pot pie, and life was good.