It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had a pot pie. Partly that’s because we think of it as a winter dish that uses up some of the Thanksgiving day leftovers, and partly because we haven’t had the right mix of vegetables in the house. This past weekend, we’d picked up bags of frozen peas and frozen green beans (both of which we think are almost required in pot pies), so we were good to go.
We just make up our recipe for pot pie as we go along, but there are a few things that we feel are very important: make a good gravy, par-boil the vegetables, and use a good crust. To make our gravy, we relied on the broth from re-hydrating dried mushrooms, and for the crust we went with a batch of Best-Ever Biscuits. Both are pretty easy, so let’s scratch out this pie!
If you don’t have dried mushrooms, use fresh along with some very good stock; after all, the key to good pot pie is the gravy. As far as the types and amounts of vegetables, that’s really up to you to decide. Those listed are just the vegetables we used. If, for some reason, you’re one of those people who don’t like biscuit crust, feel free to use a savory pie crust. We recommend this one. Just remember that many pie crusts need to rest in the refrigerator before use and plan accordingly.
Procedure in detail:
Rehydrate and chop mushrooms. Place the dried mushrooms in a heatproof bowl or other container and cover with about 4 cups of boiling water. Let stand for at least an hour, then remove mushrooms from broth and slice into bite-size pieces, discarding any tough stems.
Filter broth. Often, dried mushrooms have some sand or grit attached that washes into the broth when you re-hydrate them. You don’t want to eat grit, so strain your broth. We use a coffee filter set in a funnel to strain our broth. It takes a while, but we’d rather spend the time now than bite down on a piece of sand later.
Sear mushrooms. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add enough mushrooms to form a single layer and allow the mushrooms to sear on one side for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir to turn the mushrooms over and sear the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. This searing really helps to bring out a lot of mushroom flavor, so don’t skimp and omit this step. Once you’ve seared the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, remove from the pan, and repeat with the remaining mushrooms until they’re all cooked.
Make roux. Turn the heat to low and add the flour and butter. Cook, stirring often and scraping up the brown flecks on the pan, until the mixture is nice and brown, about 10 minutes. Ten minutes is the amount of time it takes for the raw flour taste to cook away, so you want to watch the clock.
Add onion and garlic. Stir in the onions and garlic and allow them to cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add wine. Pour in the wine and stir, scraping up everything that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. It should all come up pretty easily, and it adds great flavor to the gravy. The alcohol in the wine will also help bring out some flavors that aren’t soluble in water, making everything taste even better.
Add broth. Pour in the broth in two additions, stirring continuously, until the gravy thickens and bubbles, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Season. Add the thyme and vinegar, taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Using vinegar brings out the flavor of everything else. Just as with using the proper amount of salt, you won’t taste it in the dish, but you will taste the effects. Finally, add the mushrooms and lower the heat to keep warm.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Parboil vegetables. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a rolling boil, add one vegetable at a time, cook until tender, then remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander to drain. We find that carrots take 4 to 5 minutes, squash about 2 minutes. The potatoes take the longest at about 7 minutes. We also put any frozen vegetables into the boiling water at the end, at least long enough so that they’re thawed and hot, about a minute. Drain everything thoroughly.
Layer and top. Place the vegetables in an ungreased 9×13-inch baking dish, stirring so they’re nicely mixed, then spread the mushroom gravy on top. Finally, top with the biscuit crust. Don’t worry; you can let the pan sit while you take the 5 minutes needed to make up the biscuit dough.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 325°F and continue baking for 30 to 35 minutes more. Finally, for a crisper and browner biscuit crust, if your pan is broiler-proof, broil for 1 to 2 minutes.
It seems like a lot of work to make a pot pie from scratch, but there really are three steps: make a gravy, parboil vegetables, and make a crust of some sort. That’s it, besides putting everything together and baking. The other nice thing is that you can make the filling in advance, then just pop on a crust, and you’re good for a nice dinner. And nothing really says home-cooked meal like a pot pie. Definitely four stars, possibly five.