Thursday, June 17, 2010

Savory Pie
(with thanks to my friend who named it for me)

I am not one who does a lot of cooking according to recipe.  My mother wasn't, either, and I did learn a little bit by watching her.  I will follow a recipe for some things, but many of my favorites are done in the old way: a bit of this, a pinch of that.

This is one of those things.  I have always liked pot pies...and the first time I served one to my grandson, he was overwhelmed.  "Mmm...mmm...mmmmm....That's my FAVE-WIT, Bamma!"  Not bad for a cheap, frozen Banquet pot pie.  I started learning then to bake my own.  I've gotten pretty good at it, but they turn out differently every time, because they always start with leftovers, 'a la Maison' to quote, once again, my friend.  That's just a fancy way to say, 'with whatever I happen to have on hand'!

Here, then is more of a road map than a recipe, and it's a favorite way of using up leftovers at my house.  You'll need some stuff:
  • Pastry for a two-crust pie, and there's nothing wrong with buying it out of the dairy case at the grocery store!  Years ago my mother, who was well known for her pies, served me a slice and said, "This is a new crust recipe...what do you think of it?" to which I replied, "Mom, I think that's the best piecrust you've ever made!"  "FINE," she said, "It's PILLSBURY!" 
  • Leftover cooked meat: pork, chicken, turkey, beef.  My favorite is pork tenderloin and I always buy a much-larger one than we need, just to make sure there is some left over.
  • Pan drippings and some flour and milk, or leftover gravy. You might need a jar or two of ready-made gravy to be sure you'll have enough. Remember, this is about making something good to eat, and making it as easy as you can.
  • Your choice of vegetables.  My choice is usually fresh-sliced carrots, and frozen broccoli, peas, corn, and pearl onions.
  • Seasonings to taste.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Place one crust in a pie pan, and prick the bottom a few times with a fork to allow the steam to escape.
Heat gravy in a large pot, or make gravy from drippings (see below).  Stir in cubed meat and vegetables until the mix looks 'right'.  Only you know what proportion of meat to gravy to vegetables will make you happy. 
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc., and heat until bubbly.
Ladle filling into the pie crust. If you made too much, freeze the extra for a future pie. If too little, add more stuff!
Cover the filling with the second crust, seal and crimp the edges, and cut a few slits in the top.
Bake at 350 for approximately one hour, or until crust is nicely browned.  Oh, and remember to place an old cookie sheet under it to catch the drips, if you filled it too full!
Take the pie out of the oven and let it rest for five minutes or so before serving.

My hard-and-fast nearly-foolproof method for making gravies and white or cheese sauces:
Heat your drippings, butter, juices, etc., in a large pot.  Add the same amount of flour as you have liquid, that is, if you have three tablespoons of liquid, add three tablespoons of flour, stirring constantly with a wisk or perforated spoon until the mixture is thickened and smooth.  Add milk or water a little at a time, continuing to stir until your sauce/gravy is the desired consistency.  Add cheese if you're making au gratin, stir until cheese is melted, and remove from heat.
Shhhhhh....a little secret of mine: if I'm making a cheese sauce I like to saute a little fresh garlic or garlic powder in the butter before adding the flour.

Bon appetit!