What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions "pot pie"? Chicken and veggies swimming in a gooey cream sauce, topped with a basic pie crust?
Something that comes frozen in a cute little aluminum tin?
Suitable images, to be sure, but Diane Phillips wants us to know that pot pies can be so much more, and she has the cookbook to prove it.
"Pot Pies — Comfort Food Under Cover" does for pot pies what Victoria’s Secret has done for underwear: gussies up a classic but boring staple.
Her inspiration came from a surprising source.
"My son, Ryan, who loves pot pie, told me, ‘Why don’t you do a whole book about pot pies?’ " she says. "I responded that since the only pot pie he likes is creamy chicken without vegetables, it would be an awfully short book."
Once she gave the idea some thought, however, she decided there were many possibilities for updating the dish. She started by dressing up the core ingredients with Asian, French, Italian, Latino, Southwestern, Cajun and all-American flavors.
Then she fiddled around with toppings: Yorkshire pudding, challah, polenta, focaccia, puff pastry, corn bread, soba noodles, phyllo, crab cakes, grilled vegetables, red beans, spinach pesto and an array of flavoredmashed potatoes and biscuits.
When the experimenting was over, she ended up with an array of unusual pot pie recipes for the 2000 cookbook, including Barbecued Beef with Challah Crust, Steak and Ale Pie with Yorkshire Pudding Crust and, appropriately enough, "Ryan’s Pie" —aveggie-freeconcoction.
It’s a far cry from the pot pie’s early days. Food historians speculate that these entrees began as one of those leftover Monday casseroles so dear to farm wives back when Sunday dinner was chicken. The leftover meat was stripped from the carcass, then diced or shredded and combined with a handful of chopped vegetables and a generous dose of flour, mixed with milk to gravy it up.
Creative cooks like Phillips and Alton Brown, however, love to tamper with tradition. Brown, host of the Food Network show "Good Eats," recently jazzed up the pot pie concept thusly:
For a puff pastry pot pie, he combined two cups of shredded chicken with four cups of frozen vegetables he roasted to a golden brown to bring out the flavor. He tossed in a teaspoon of curry powder, then added the mixture to a cup of chopped onion and celery sautéed in three tablespoons of butter. He put it all together in a simple white sauce (see our recipe on Page 1), then topped it with storebought puff pastry, which he rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter.
"Now each serving of pot pie will have its own intact crust," he says.
Foracleveruse of extra Chinese food, he combined a pint of leftover rice and two pints of leftover garlic shrimp with two cups of chicken stock over low heat. Then he added a half-cup of cream and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and poured it into a wellgreased pie plate. The finishing touch: toasted panko bread crumbs, also known as Japanese bread crumbs, which create a terrific, crunchy crust. (Panko is available in Asian markets.) He baked the pie for 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
You don’t have to be a professional chef to update the pot pie. The trick is to think about what you have on hand, or what foods you might like to pair in pie format.
Don’t have leftover meat or chicken? Go meatless and make a vegetarian tamale pie. Tired of basic pie crusts and want something different but easy? Try puff pastry. Or stick with the classic, but use refrigerated dough to streamline the preparation time.
It’s as easy as pie.