Make-Ahead Beef and Mushroom Pot Pies
Homemade Pot Pies Are Comforting and FestiveA year ago, my friend Sue hosted our Christmas book club meeting and served up gorgeous beef pot pies. I was so impressed that I vowed to create a recipe for this year's Christmas menus. If you are my age and a child of the 50's and 60's you probably have fond memories of eating frozen chicken and beef pot pies. These pies were part of the frozen food industry's push to sell pre-made meals that were supposed to be the working woman's answer to "what do I make for dinner?" All I know is my mom worked, we frequently ate frozen pot pies and I LOVED them.
What Was in Those Frozen Pot Pies?I'm sure part of the attraction was they were filled with salt. I shudder to think why I thought these were so wonderful. Here are the unwholesome ingredients to one of the more popular commercial frozen pot pies: Chicken Filling (Water, Ground Chicken [Cooked Chicken, Water, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate [Soy Lecithin], Carrageenan, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Spice Extract], Carrots, Cooked Mechanically Separated Chicken, Potatoes [with Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate to Maintain Color], Modified Food Starch, Seasoning Blend [Bleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Malted Barley Flour, Potassium Bromate, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin), Salt, Maltodextrin, Whey Powder, Whey Protein Concentrate, Garlic Powder, Soy Lecithin, Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Spices, Xanthan Gum, Turmeric Extract and Annatto], Peas, Chicken Fat, Chicken Flavor [Salt, Chicken Powder, Chicken Fat, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Invert Sugar, Chicken Broth, Onion Powder, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and Cottonseed Oil, Grill Flavor (from Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and Cottonseed Oil), and Tocopherols]), Crust (Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Shortening [Lard, Hydrogenated Lard, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, BHT and Citric Acid to Protect Flavor], Water, Dextrose, Salt, Caramel Color, Protease Enzyme with Wheat Starch and Maltodextrin). Yikes! Did you catch the "chicken powder?" We can do so much better! Keep reading, we have a great recipe for pot pies without all the junk that will conjure up the appeal of pot pies from your childhood with a wholesome, healthy and festive dish.
Make-Ahead Wins the DayThis year my Thanksgiving menu was all about make-ahead dishes. Make-ahead meals take so much of the stress out of holiday hosting. The filling for these pot pies is made ahead. The recipe is suitable for serving 2 or 20. Any extras can be frozen. Add a salad and a dessert and you have a great holiday meal. If you keep a stash of stew and pastry sheets in your freezer, you can knock out a great meal for unexpected drop-in guests, or a delicious weeknight meal.
Puff PastryI cheated on the pastry and give you permission to do so too! Seriously, the whole idea behind this recipe is to be able to make it ahead of time so when the time comes you can serve it without a lot of fuss. You can certainly make your own pastry, and go you if your do, but also feel free to take a shortcut and buy the premade pastry. I use Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets. Thaw them for about half an hour before you assemble the pot pies, roll them out with a little flour and cut circles about 1" larger than your soup bowls. Fill the bowls with stew and put a circle of pastry over each bowl, gently squeezing the edges against the outside of the bowls. Slice the top of each pie three times with a sharp knife to allow the pie to vent as it cooks. Then put the pies in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Oven-Proof Bowls and a Heavy-Bottomed Stew PotThere are two things you need for this recipe: oven-proof bowls and a heavy-bottomed stew pot. Oven-proof serving bowls that can handle a 400 degree oven temperature are essential for this recipe. I used 13-ounce porcelain ramekins I purchased at Sur La Table. You can get 12-ounce ramekins at Amazon in packs of four or twelve. They are also available in an 18-ounce size, which my hungry husband would prefer. A heavy-bottomed stew pot is needed to sear the beef for the beef stew. My personal favorite is my Le Creuset Dutch Oven. This is an investment piece that will last a lifetime, but may not be in this month's budget. A very reasonable alternative is a Lodge Dutch Oven, which is also an enameled cast iron pot. I gave my son one and he loves it. To me the main functional difference is the lid does not fit as snugly as a Le Creuset, but the price of the Lodge is a fraction of the Le Creuset. Whichever brand you chose, I recommend purchasing the largest one you can afford. I use my 9-quart Le Creuset for everything and it is a good size for this recipe.
Note: SNFD is an Amazon Affiliate and may make a small commision when you purchase something through one of our links. We have no affiliation with Sur La Table.
Make-Ahead Beef and Mushroom Pot Pies
Yield 8 - 10 servings
Make-Ahead Beef & Mushroom Pot Pies are a healthy, festive and fun holiday meal reminiscent of the frozen pot pies of my childhood, only healthier and tastier.
- Olive oil
- 2 1/2 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 head garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 pounds beef stew cut into 3/4" pieces
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out the dough
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 11-ounce bottle Guinness Stout
- 4 cups beef broth
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 T tomato paste
- 2 T Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pound red potatoes, diced but not peeled
- 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
- 1 14-ounce bag frozen pearl onions
- 1 14-ounce bag frozen peas
- 2 sheets puff pastry (I use Pepperidge Farms puff pastry)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Heat a large heavy bottomed pan such as a Dutch Oven over medium heat. When hot add pancetta and saute until crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Set pancetta aside reserving the oil released in the pan.
- Add the garlic and onion and saute in the reserved pancetta grease over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Depending on how much pancetta grease is left, you may need to add a bit of olive oil to supplement. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and set aside.
- Aggressively season the chopped beef with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the seasoned meat in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of flour over meat and toss with your hands to coat. Heat the pan with the residual pancetta grease and olive oil, adding more olive oil if needed. Sear the meat one half at a time, without overcrowding the pan, stirring frequently and taking care not to burn the bottom of the pan. This will take about 10 minutes per batch. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. There will be brown (not black) fond stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is a good thing.
- Add about 1/2 cup of red wine to the hot pan to deglaze the pan over medium to medium/high heat and scrub the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the fond. This released fond will add tremendous flavor to your stew. Keep scrubbing the bottom of the pan until all the bits are released.
- Add the pancetta, meat and onions back to the pan. Add remaining wine, stout, beef broth, herbs, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.
- Add potatoes, carrots and mushrooms to the pot. Return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until potatoes and carrots are al dente -- firm, but done. Add the frozen pearl onions and peas and cook another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. At this point, the stew can be cooled and refrigerated or frozen or you can proceed to assembling and baking the pot pies.
- Heat your oven to 400 degrees. While the vegetables are cooking, remove the puff pastry from the freezer, unwrap and remove paper and allow to thaw on the counter for 20 - 30 minutes. Sprinkle a clean surface, preferably marble or granite, with a handful of flour. Roll out the dough and cut out circles that are about 1" larger than your oven-proof serving bowls.
- Ladle the stew into each bowl, filling it up to within 1/2" of the top of the bowl.
- Place a circle of dough over each stew bowl, sealing the edges over the top and sides by gently pressing the dough around the bowl. Take a sharp knife and cut three slits in the top of each pie. Sprinkle each pie with a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until top is golden brown and insides are hot. Serve immediately.
- Fond is the bits of flour, meat and oil that sticks to the bottom of the pan. When you deglaze it with wine, water or broth, the fond provides rich flavor for the stew. As long as the bottom of your pan is brown and hasn't burnt, the fond will enhance the stew. If, however, you burn the bottom of the pan and the fond is black and has a burnt smell, you should not attempt to add the deglazed contents to your stew. All is not lost, however. If you have burnt the bottom of the pan add a little water to the pan, and scrape the bottom of the pan just like you are deglazing. This will help you remove the burnt bits. Instead of adding to the stew, wash the pan and discard all the burnt bits in the sink. Rinse the pan clean and continue making the stew as directed.
- I use Pepperidge Farms Puff frozen pastry, but if you have the time and the will, feel free to substitute homemade pastry.
Cuisine Traditional American