Monday, January 15, 2007

Blame it on Swanson's

How could it have taken me so long to fall for the charms of Pot Pies? I can only figure it is the sour memory of those early Swanson pot pies from the early 1960's. Back in those days, my Dad did a fair share of traveling, so Mama Gladys saw this as a welcome break from cooking. I was an eager enthusiast of the TV Dinner, but balked at the less exotic Pot Pies that were another option Mama Gladys opened. The weirdly thick gravy, the ubiquitous peas and carrots, and most especially the tough and partially uncooked bottom dough.... I just never really found a connection.

Lately though, I've had a few moments of pot pie enlightenment. Maybe it's my personal attempt to seduce the winter to show up here in the Northeast. Enough of these 60 degree days, already! Mind you Diva Nature I'm not looking for eight foot drifts and electrical outages, but a little frost on the windowpane could be a prefect garnish for some soups and stews.

And that's really what's at the base of a good pot pie. Make any savory stew or chunky soup, thicken the broth with a little roux or cornstarch slurry (go easy on the thickening agent kids, better loose than gluey), turn it out into a gratin dish, pie plate or individual ovenproof casseroles, top it with some pastry and bake it off. Pour a glass of wine, if you haven't already, toss a salad and in about half an hour you get to serve a dinner that's at least an 8 on show appeal and a 4 on stress.

So, how to put it together? Fly loose and let your inspiration flow unchecked. This post is really about hints, suggestions and support, so no recipe my pretties; as if what I normally post could be confused as a recipe by anyone in the know. But let me throw some inspiration at you in any case....

Personally, I could eat some form of soup or stew at least 4 nights a week, so Big Mary has no lack of inspiration or motivation for what lies beneath the crust. If you are stew challenged, go to any cookbook, especially ethnic inspired ones and look for any braised meat or vegetable recipes. Keep in mind the scale of the food, all ingredients should be about 1/2" - 3/4" in size. Classic American flavors work great, but so do Mexican, Thai, French, Spanish, I could go on and on... For me, I get excited about the crust options; because I never thought about anything beyond the pie crust or puff pastry options. How little did I imagine.... I always suggest a crust on the top only. There's just no way of successfully enclosing the pot pie with a top and bottom crust. More importantly, there's no need.

I offer for your consideration ....

Beef Pot Pie with Carrots, Parsnips, Mushroom and Peas with Classic Pate Brise Pastry Crust (Pie crust for the french challenged)

Chicken Pot Pie with Shallots, Carrots, Wild Mushrooms, Fines Herbes and Vermouth with Puff Pastry Crust

Chicken Pie Gran Mere with Mushrooms, Leeks, Pancetta and Chestnuts with Tarragon Chive Drop Dumpling Crust

Turkey Pot Pie with Roasted Vegetables, Dried Cranberries, Sage and Bread Cube Stuffing Crust

Pork Pot Pie with Chilies, Posole and Poblano Peppers in Cornbread Cheddar Crust

Thai Green Chile and Coconut Chicken Pot Pie with Straw Mushrooms, Peppers, Thai Basil and Phyllo Crust

Greek Lamb Pot Pie with Swiss Chard, Tomato and Feta with Kataifi Crust (a shredded phyllo product available in Mid East Stores

Indian Vegetable Pot Pie with Cauliflower, Peas, Spinach and Mushrooms with Curried Potato Cashew Crust

Contented Eating My Pretties,

Big Mary

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