The world of pot pies is something that seems to have gone away for most home chefs, and that is a real shame. Supermarkets always have a few brands and varieties of frozen pot pies of the single serving variety, and now and then you might find large pot pies refrigerated but not frozen in chains like Market Basket®. As you might guess the small frozen pot pies tend to be all gravy, typically mostly artificial, with very little meat or fowl and only a few vegetables. They are pathetic, and an expected result of commercial producers trying to maximize profit by cheating the consumer. The larger pies are typically made by small local producers, like pork pies in New England, and they are of better quality but also rather expensive relative to the cost of ingredients.
I cannot recall exactly when as a child I ate a seriously great turkey pot pie that was homemade, but I did, and thus I remembered that a pot pie made well is an unforgettable delight and comfort food, especially during the winter. Thus, as one can't find a great pot pie commercially without paying an arm and a leg I decided to provide my fabulous recipe in Food Nirvana. As you might expect the arrival at perfection was the product of some experimenting and making essential changes.
What I have done here is to provide two separate recipes representing a starting point with Marie and then my quest for perfection a few years after she died. Read the first recipe in terms of what you might choose to do with leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. Read the second recipe in terms of what is the best way to create an inventory of the finest homemade frozen turkey pot pies. Let's proceed.
Marie made a great Turkey Pot Pie from the leftovers of a roasted turkey.
We started with about 4 lbs. of breast and darker meat, all skin and fat and gristle and other extraneous matter removed, and then the meat was chopped. We also had about a pint of leftover turkey gravy with mushrooms. Marie added two cans of chicken broth and about one cup each of chopped carrots, celery, frozen peas and ½ tsp. each of onion powder, salt, and pepper. She simmered the mixture for 15 minutes on medium heat. I added a mixture of 1/2 cup of flour mixed in about one cup of water, to thicken the contents prior to making the pie.
Marie rolled out a traditional Crisco® pie dough … a double batch … 4 cups flour, 1 1/3 cups Crisco®, 1/2 cup water and one teaspoon salt. She sprayed Pam® lightly into a 9"x13"x2" glass baking dish, lined the dish with a thin layer of the dough and then I poured the simmered turkey mixture into it. Marie then covered the top of the baking dish with a somewhat thicker layer of dough and baked it at 400ºF for 75 minutes. Note that the baking time seems a bit long … so if you make this pot pie keep an eye on it during baking so the crust doesn’t get too dark. Also, the longer the baking cycle the more moisture that will be lost from inside the pot pie. Adjust the time to suit yourself.
What a fine and tasty meal! It was very satisfying on a cold winter day. Now we will move on to the second recipe.
Ray's turkey pot pie recipe:
I decided one day to make a lot of single and double servings of turkey pot pie that could be taken from the freezer and put on the table ready to eat in about 45 minutes. I also decided to make everything from scratch, entirely moving away from the idea of using leftovers. My pot pies taste so good that they almost make me shout with pleasure eating them. I promise you will love these pies if you follow my directions. Note: The recipe for roasting the turkey is elsewhere in this section of Food Nirvana, so refer to that recipe to get started.
The amount of pot pie filling produced following this recipe, two gallons, is a whole lot of product. Thus, the number of ceramic or other oven proof containers required to use all of it depends on the volume of the containers. I recommend that you plan in advance to have enough oven proof containers, considering the volume of all of them, and the fact that some of that volume will be used by pie dough. Also, the task of making all the dough for the containers is considerable, particularly when you consider having to roll out the equivalent of eight or more very large dough areas of about 14" in diameter. In short, there is a lot of time involved overall in making the full recipe of the turkey pot pies as described. Figure on six to eight hours of work overall. The yield is considerable and note that I freeze the pies, then vacuum seal them, then return them to the deep freeze, where they store very well and provide lots of joy for six to twelve months!
Finally, note that the amounts of salt and pepper used are intentionally low for the volume of product made. The idea is that each person can season their pie as desired when it is served.
Ingredients: (Makes approximately 2 gallons of pot pie filling)
One fourteen to sixteen pound turkey, just roasted
Gravy made with the pan drippings, skin, bones, etc. in the roasting pan (see the directions below)
3 cups of diced carrots, blanched separately from all other ingredients for two minutes in boiling water
3 cups of frozen peas, thawed
3, 8 oz. drained net weight cans of sliced mushrooms (use the liquid when making the gravy)
3 cups of fresh, frozen or canned corn, drained
3 cloves of fresh garlic, diced
1 tbsp. of sea salt
1/2 tbsp. of ground black pepper
3, 14 oz. cans of chicken broth plus up to two more cans to adjust gravy volume to 3 quarts
3, 14 oz. cans of water
6 tbsp. of corn starch
4 (or more) double recipes of two layer deep dish Crisco® pie dough (found in Food Nirvana under Pies and Piecrusts)
A variable number of single or double serving sizes of porcelain oven proof dishes, at least seven or eight of each type
Remove the roasted turkey from the oven and allow it to cool for two hours in the roasting pan, uncovered. Then put the turkey on a wooden cutting board.
Defat the contents of the roasting pan to the extent necessary to please you and using the method of your choice.
Completely remove/cut all the meat from the turkey, putting all scraps back into the roasting pan, including the skin and the bones.
Chop and shred all the turkey meat into pieces no larger in volume than a 3/4" by 3/4" cube. Having smaller pieces is fine. Discard any gristle found. Set the processed turkey meat aside.
Put the three cans of chicken broth and three cans of water into the roasting pan and mix and heat the contents to boiling over high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium and boil the contents for 15 minutes, stirring regularly to assure the bones are submerged in the liquid.
Turn the heat off and pour the roasting pan contents through a large strainer into a large bowl. Discard all the scraps, skin and bones.
Measure the volume of turkey gravy broth and add extra chicken broth as necessary to bring the final volume up to three quarts.
Pour the broth back into the roasting pan. Add the six tbsp. of corn starch gradually while whisking to assure complete mixing.
Add the salt and the pepper and the diced garlic to the broth and heat it on high heat stirring slowly continuously until the mixture comes to a full boil and the gravy thickens.
Reduce the heat to low and add the carrots, peas, corn and mushrooms and mix well. Then add the turkey meat and again mix well. Turn the heat off.
Make the recipes of pie dough and roll out enough to cover the inside surfaces of the porcelain baking dishes, and put the rolled dough into the dishes all the way over the top edge of each dish, as if you were making a pie. Cut off any excess dough with a table knife, cutting vertically along the outside perimeter of the baking dish.
Gently mix the turkey and gravy mixture with a large wooden spoon and use a soup ladle to extract enough of the mixture to dispense into each of the dough lined porcelain dishes. Fill each dish to slightly below the top edge.
Roll out the remaining dough and cover each dish with a dough layer, cutting away excess dough from the edges and pinching the dough layers together to form a fluted design of sealed dough.
Use a table knife to cut four air vents in the top dough surface of each pie.
Freeze the pies in the deep freeze for a minimum of four hours, until they are totally frozen.
Remove the pies from the freezer and put each one into a separate vacuum sealing bag and vacuum seal the pies.
Return the pies to the freezer until you are ready to eat one or more of them.
Directions for preparing the frozen pies for a meal:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Put the frozen pie(s) onto a cookie sheet that has low sides around the perimeter. This is to avoid possible dripping into your oven during baking.
Bake the pie(s) for 45 minutes and test for doneness by sticking a fork into the top center of a pie and checking the temperature of the extracted fork using the palm of your hand to gauge whether or not the center of the pie reached the necessary hotness to complete the baking. The crust should be a light to golden brown, not darker. If necessary (This should not be necessary, unless the porcelain dish depth exceeds 1 1/2 inches) the final heating of the interior of the pies can be done individually in a microwave oven, about one minute each on high heat. The idea is to avoid over-browning the crust while assuring the entire pie interior is very hot.
Serve the pie(s) along with salt and pepper shakers to allow each person to season the pie to her/his own liking. For double serving pies, provide each person a wide, shallow soup bowl and then dispense equal portions from the porcelain dish into each soup bowl.
I have found that making some supplemental gravy immediately before serving the pies is a good idea to assure enough gravy to completely moisten the baked pie dough. Simply boil two cans of chicken broth on medium heat to reduce the volume to one half of the starting volume, and then add two tbsp. of corn starch that has first been mixed into 1/4 cup of water, stirring continuously for a minute during the final boiling to complete the gravy.
Serve the gravy in a gravy boat with a gravy ladle so that each person can use it as they choose.
The flavors are so rich and good that your family and/or guests will moan with delight as they eat the pies. No one will walk away hungry.