Making Simple Pot Pies

...and not so much crust

If you bought grocery store or food factory pot pies at any time in your life, you were probably very disappointed in the amount of crust (way too much), the amount of meat or vegetables inside and the overall flavour. This recipe is designed to be flexible, simple and taste less like the cardboard box that falsely represents what is inside. This very simple process makes two good sized versions so additional portions for meals are unnecessary, although an added salad would balance out a nice meal.

One of the key elements for this version is the proper ovenproof container and nothing works any better than the item shown in the attached picture which is a Corning plain white and very solid dish with a nice handle (lid not required). It is advised to place these dishes on a cookie sheet with high edges on the oven rack so that overspill will not make a mess of your oven.

I use packaged dry crust mix to make two tops using a tea cup saucer as a template. At least I found a use for those plates that get included in every dinner set that seldom find their way to the table. Just place the plate upside down on the rolled out crust and cut out a circle that you will place on top of the ingredients in the Corning cooking dish. The package crust is a little bland so sprinkling it with olive oil and dry herbs will help make it a little more interesting (after you brush it with egg and water mix). If you find the mix a little too sticky to handle just add some flour to make it drier and easier to handle. A bonus of the mix is that you can make tarts as a dessert. You decide on the filling and a non-stick muffin pan works very well as the baking dish that goes in after the pot pies are done. The added benefit is that the time the tarts take to bake is a good cool-down time for the pot pies. If you eat the pies too soon, you will most definitely burn the inside of your mouth since the internal temperature is close to that of molten lava.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F before you start with filling the serving dishes. Take the two Corning dishes and fill the bottom with vegetables, some meat or fish and spices. You can change it up from time to time to make the menu varied to keep them from getting boring. I like to use baby carrots and small pieces of broccoli or cauliflower. Stir fry mixed vegetables are a good option as well as frozen vegetable (especially those that have a blend of vegetables). Mushrooms, cut up celery and a little bit of onion (green, red or otherwise) add to flavour.

To make a simple sauce, just use a can of just about any cream of whatever soup. Cream of celery is a good choice that goes with almost any added ingredients whether they are just vegetables or chicken, beef, or seafood. The meat ingredients are best pre-cooked so leftovers can be used in a pinch. I add ½ cup of milk to the soup in a Pyrex cup and mix in some spices or herbs and just pour half over the ingredients in one serving dish and the other half goes into dish two. Don’t fill too high but don’t make it so sparse or there won’t be much difference between your creation and the boring store-bought versions.

I place the crust on top of the mixture and brush it with an egg/water mixture (one egg). Just pour what is left over on top of each of the two dishes. Sprinkle with olive oil and some herbs or spices to make the crust tastier. Spear the top a few times with the tip of a sharp knife to let out steam.

Place the two dishes on the cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until golden brown. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving. The second dish can go into the refrigerator wrapped in tin foil for reheating later in the week if you are just cooking for one. Reheating in the oven is preferred since microwaves don’t do a very nice job with pastry.

Don’t forget to make tart desserts or a small pie with the leftover crust mix that you didn’t use to make the two pot pies. Use your imagination and whatever ingredients you have around. Canned or fresh fruit with sugar/corn syrup/cornstarch or pudding mix topped with coconut, add nuts, raisins, chocolate chips all make for a tasteful and interesting small dessert portion or just several small tasteful morsels that go down with a nice glass of milk. Tarts seem to need higher temperatures so bump up the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for around 12 minutes until you get browning of the edges of the crust.

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