Sunday, July 28, 2019

pot pie: the dry run

Some time ago, I had promised pot pie to a group of hungry folks, but we've had trouble coordinating a meet-up. Since I had already bought all the necessary ingredients, I decided I'd go ahead and practice making a pot pie or two—mainly to master the pie crust. I normally think of the pot-pie filling as a thick version of a chowder, so I was pretty sure I knew how to handle that part of the pie. I decided to amp up the filling by using double cream (gently simmer heavy cream for 60-90 minutes, stirring constantly until you're at about half the original volume; double the density = double cream); otherwise, the pot-pie filling's ingredients were all pretty conventional: diced carrots, diced potatoes, onion, minced celery, frozen peas, bacon, chicken breast, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Making the filling took some time because I was making a huge batch of it. I used a gentle poaching method to have tender chicken breasts; everything else went by the numbers. What really worried me was the pie crust: I've never made pie crust before. Luckily, there are plenty of online resources to teach a person how to make a "no fail" pie-crust dough, and I followed a recipe for food-processor dough that I'd seen on YouTube.

One big mistake I made was to try adding frozen butter to the dough. The recipe calls for the butter to be cold, but not frozen, and I found out why: when you start pulsing the ingredients in the food processor, the butter is supposed to break up and help form pea-sized clumps of dough; this can't happen when the butter is too hard. When the butter is frozen and you start pulsing the blade, you end up with giant chunks of butter that refuse to break down into anything smaller. So I left off and let the flour/butter mix stand for a full hour before I resumed my work. Next time, I'll know simply to use refrigerated butter.

I erred on the side of butteriness and used a bit more ice water than the recipe called for. Luckily, that all worked out fine. My next mistake, though, was in presentation: I had zero finesse when it came to layering the top part of the pot-pie crust over the filling. You'll see what I mean below: the mess makes it look as if I have a learning disability.

But overall, the crust came out perfectly. It was magnificently flaky and tasty—arguably better and more attention-grabbing than the rather conventional filling which, despite the double cream, didn't taste like anything other than regular old pot-pie filling.

Here are my results below. You'll just have to trust me when I say the crust came out perfectly. I kind of wish I'd taken video of when I dug a spoon into the pie.

Wide shot:

Food-porn closeup:

With some pie dug out:

On the plate:

This was a great learning experience. Despite the mistakes, I was successful where and when it mattered. I now know the dough is relatively easy to make, and I like the proportions of the recipe I'm using (slightly altered to my personal taste). Perhaps for the get-together, I'll try making individual-sized pot pies in muffin tins. Two little pies per person sounds about right.


John Mac said...

I've got to tell you, that looks fantastic. I love me a good pot pie. Well outside my ability to make though. In desperation I found a Marie Callender's chicken pot pie in the frozen section at the grocery store. Better than nothing I suppose. But not much.

Kevin Kim said...

I bet you could make a pot pie pretty easily. Tons of simple recipes on YouTube.