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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Beef Pies

As promised yesterday, here's how I make my pot pies... or turnovers. They're really all the same expect for the shape. Sometimes I'll make a regular pie. They just take longer to bake. The real reason I like the turnovers better is because I can freeze them individually and have pot pie whenever the heck I want. And, I'll tell ya, it's a darn lot better than those frozen things you get at the store. Granted, I can't reheat them in the microwave, but they still reheat pretty quickly.

Now, like so many of the dishes that I make, this is one that has a general formula that always slightly varies. In general, making a pot pie filling involves making some kind of a stew filling and then thickening it up. I'm going to post the most basic version, but you can alter it to suit your tastes. Add whatever vegetables or meats or herbs you like. If it tastes good on your spoon, it will certainly taste good in a pie, so taste as you go and get creative.

The first step is to saute up some aromatics. I used the standard onion, parsley, and garlic here.

I browned the aromatics just slightly in vegetable oil before adding the meat. I use chuck steak because it is a very flavorful cut that becomes quite tender during this cooking process. It also helps that it has a bit of fat in it so stays moist and flavorful. Make sure your pan bottom is big enough so that you don't end up boiling your meat. If you don't have a big enough pan, just cook the meat in a couple of batches. This is important because you want to form some good browned bits on the bottom of the pan - these don't form if there is too much steam or liquid in the pan.

Once the meat is nicely browned, I add some broth to deglaze the pan and then cook the other vegetables, in this case potatoes and carrots. This is where I also start throwing in the seasoning. You can see the bay leaf here (just don't forget to take it out at the end!), but there is also some thyme and oregano. Cook at a simmer just until the vegetables are al dente. If you haven't already made up the crust dough, this is a good time to take care of that. I like to use a whole wheat crust for these, but you can also use regular crust.

Once the vegetables are about cooked, it's time to thicken. While you can mix the flour with a little water to be sure it's lump-free, I've started to use a small fine-mesh strainer to sift very light amounts of flour over the stew which I can then stir in without having to worry about lumps at all. When the stew is thick, turn off the heat and let the filling cool.

While the stew is cooling, start rolling out your dough. I used a bowl as a template for the rounds. For turnovers, 6-8 inch rounds work pretty well. Too big and they're ungainly; too small and you can't hardly out any filling in them. This is a good time to start preheating the oven to 400 degrees F.

Once you have your round cut out, put a spoonful of filling inside. Be careful not to overfill, but under filling is really no good either. Just fiddle with it until you get it right.

Use a little egg wash to seal the seams together and then press the edges with a fork. Cut two or three slits in the top to allow the steam to escape and - voila! -your pies are ready to bake.

If you are not baking them off immediately, or not baking all of them immediately, place the ones you want to freeze on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then place into zip top bags until you need them. To bake frozen pies, turn on the oven to 375 degrees (note it's cooler than for the fresh ones) and place the pies in immediately. Letting your pies hang out in there while it is preheating cuts down their baking time and helps the filling to thaw. Bake until the crust is golden and firm and the filling starts to ooze out the holes on top, maybe 30 minutes or so.

Beef Pie Filling

Yield: enough for 1 9-inch pie or 4-6 turnovers
1 TBS oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1 TBS minced garlic
1 lb diced chuck steak
2 cups beef broth (canned or from bouillon is fine)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt (be careful, will vary with the type of broth used)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 cups diced potatoes
1-2 cups diced carrots
3 TBS flour

Saute the onions, celery, and garlic in the oil until lightly browned and translucent. Add the beef and brown, keeping the heat high enough to form some good browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Deglaze the pan with the broth. Add the seasonings and remaining vegetables. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are just about done. Add the flour, either by mixing with some cold water first or by using a small sieve to add as a fine powder (both techniques help with the whole flour lumps thing). Cook until nicely thickened. Let cool before putting into the pie crust.
Filling and Baking Pies
Be sure the filling is cooled before adding it to the crust. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Make either turnovers as shown above or a regular pie. Bake until the crust is golden and firm and the filling is bubbling out of the vents. For turnovers shown above, this is about 25 minutes. For a full-sized pie, maybe 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

1 comment:

  1. Great idea. I think that this will work well for me. I do not have an oven. I bet can bake it in a skillet. Thanks!


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