How to Lose an Evening Making Pot Pies

Nothing in my entire life has ever been able to hold my attention like cooking a meal (except for maybe a Law and Order: SVU marathon, but I’m choosing not to count that). I remember an episode of Grey’s Anatomy once where the doctors are talking about how time doesn’t exist in the operating room. Their needs and concept of time disappear because they are so focused and invested in what they are doing. This is exactly how I feel about my time in the kitchen. It might not be a matter of life and death, but my focus in the kitchen makes everything else fade into the background, until of course, the meal is in the oven and I’m looking at a sink full of dishes, then time snaps abruptly into focus: “I’ve been cooking for 3 hours? How did that happen?”

This happened to me last night while making Smitten Kitchen’s Pancetta, White Bean, and Chard Pot Pies (at least, thats what they were called on her site, my pot pies only had one of those title ingredients). I decided that since I was leaving work early and had many similar ingredients that the recipe called for, I would treat myself to a long evening in the kitchen. The recipe included everything I love to do: chop vegetables, use my Le Creuset, and above all, I got to make dough! I love working with dough. When it works and does what it is supposed to do, there is no better feeling in the world. I’m learning to understand dough and all of its needs. Cold ingredients, a pastry blender, and the ability to not add more flour and more water until there is no hope of dough left. I learned most of what I know about dough from Smitten Kitchen recipes, so I tend to trust everything Deb has to say about dough and how to make it.

I started cooking at 5:45 last night. I made my dough (it was a bit dry, but I didn’t want to over water it) and put it in the fridge for an hour for the gluten to relax (at least I think that’s what was happening…) I figured that the rest of the pie would take about an hour from when the dough came out of the fridge. I was so unbelievably wrong. I ate dinner last night at 8:45. Honestly, reading over the recipe now, I have NO IDEA what took me so long. I remember simmering the gravy at 7:45, but I don’t know how it took me an hour to mix the ingredients, roll out the dough, and cook the pot pie for a half an hour. I thought I was efficient!

(As a side note, when I looked up at the clock last night when I sat down to eat, I really appreciated how hard it would be to cook on Chopped. When I watch that show, I always think that if you’re focused, it really can’t be that difficult. I would be a disaster. The victory for me would be having any food on the plate.

Anyway, the pot pies were delicious and well worth the 3 hour cooking time (probably about an hour and a half would be recommended). I have always been a bit wary of chicken pot pies because I think peas are stupid and chicken in gravy always seems rubbery and stringy to me. These pot pies though were super tasty and I’ll definitely revisit this recipe when I have 3 hours to kill.

Dough, in other places: Turkey Bacon Biscuit BLTs
Cooking, in other places: Risotto: My Everest
Smitten Kitchen, in other places: Brunch vs. Dinner: My Trials and Tribulations

Chicken Sausage, White Bean, and Spinach Pot Pies
(Formerly Known as Pancetta, White Bean, and Chard Pot Pies)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I can’t bring myself to cook with pork. Its the last remnant of my jewish upbringing. I’ll eat bacon when I’m out, I’ll even search for it sometimes, but I can’t bring myself to buy bacon or any pork products and cook them at home, so the pancetta in these pot pies was out. I used italian chicken sausage with great results. Also, I didn’t have any chard or access to a farmer’s market, so spinach went in to replace the chard.

It’s not a secret that I love Smitten Kitchen recipes, but the author Deb Perelman has inspired me so much in the kitchen. She is the reason that I was even confident enough to substitute ingredients and make this recipe, and any other recipe, my own.

I only made two pot pies last night and in both I rolled my lid out too thin so it fell into the bowl. It didn’t affect taste so much, but I was sad to not have a pretty picture to show. Hopefully the other two will come out better.

Serves 4

2 cups (250 grams) all- purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
13 tablespoons (185 grams or 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (90 grams) sour cream or whole Greek yogurt (i.e., a strained
1 tablespoon (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1/4 cup (60 ml) ice water
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
2 Italian Chicken Sausages, casings removed
1 leek, finely chopped (white part only)
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large, or 2-3 small, stalk celery, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 oz baby spinach, roughly sliced
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
3 1/2 tablespoons (25 grams) all- purpose flour
3 1/2 cups (765 ml) sodium- free or low- sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups white beans, cooked and drained, or from one and a third 15.5- ounce
(440-gram) cans

Make lids: In a large, wide bowl (preferably one that you can get your hands into), combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut them up and into the flour mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Keep breaking up the bits of butter until the texture is like uncooked couscous. In a small dish, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and combine it with the butter-flour mixture. Using a flexible spatula, stir the wet and the dry together until a craggy dough forms. If needed, get your hands into the bowl to knead it a few times into one big ball. Pat it into a flattish ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Make filling: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium- high heat in a large, wide saucepan, and then add the chicken sausage. Brown the sausage, turning it frequently, for about 8 minutes. Remove it with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a medium bowl. Leave the heat on and the renderings in the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil if needed and heat it until it is shimmering. Add leeks, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and a few pinches of salt, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened and begin to take on color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the greens and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with the additional salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer all of the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the chicken sausage, and set aside.

Make sauce: Wipe out the large saucepan; don’t worry if any bits remain stuck to the bottom. Then melt the butter in the saucepan over medium- low heat. Add the flour, and stir with a whisk until combined. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time, until it begins to take on a little color. Whisk in the broth, one ladleful at a time, mixing completely between additions. Once you’ve added one- third of the broth, you can begin to add the rest more quickly, two to three ladlefuls at a time; at this point you can scrape up any bits that were stuck to the bottom — they’ll add great flavor.

Once all of the broth is added, stirring the whole time, bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cook the sauce until it is thickened and gravylike, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the white beans and reserved vegetables into the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Assemble and cook pot pies: Divide the filling between four ovenproof 2-cup bowls. (You’ll have about 1 1/2 cups filling in each.) Set the bowls on a baking pan. Divide the dough into four pieces, and roll it out into rounds that will cover your bowls with an overhang, or about 1 inch wider in diameter than your bowls. Whisk the egg wash and brush it lightly around the top rim of your bowls (to keep the lid glued on; nobody likes losing their lid!) and drape the pastry over each, pressing gently to adhere it. Brush the lids with egg wash, then cut decorative vents (smaller than mine, please, as they led to lots of draping) in each to help steam escape. Bake until crust is lightly bronzed and filling is bubbling, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Do ahead: The dough, wrapped twice in plastic wrap and slipped into a freezer bag, will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge, and for a couple months in the freezer. The filling can be made up to a day in advance and stored in a covered container in the fridge.


2 thoughts on “How to Lose an Evening Making Pot Pies

  1. Pingback: Hurricanes Amplify My Control Issues « Think well. Love well. Dine well.

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