Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vegetable Pot Pie - For A Quiet Night At Home

Pot pie is one of those home-y recipes, that speaks to me of nurturing and goodness. It is warm and forgiving and flexible. A yummy mixture of whatever vegetables you want to use, bound together in a lovely sauce and capped with a pastry crust. What could be better? And an unexpected cold snap this week, meant it was even more perfect. This recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, is lovely, and a great way to spend an hour or so, pottering around the kitchen. I halved the butter and skipped the pernod (had none) and baby onions (no frozen baby onions here), and halved the quantities, to get two very lovely pies, which I shared with the darling daughters. In fact the vegetable mixture was so delicious, I couldn't help but nibble at it while waiting for the pastry. If you were in a rush, or felt a little intimidated by making pastry, simply use pre-rolled shortcrust and continue with the baking.

I made the vegetable pot pie for this week's Barefoot Blogger challenge, chosen by Debinhawaii from Kahakai Kitchen. For me it really was a challenge. I have rarely ever made pastry from scratch and I have certainly never made it with shortening. In fact, the only thing I make here with shortening is chocolate crackles. So I have some questions for my friends in the blogosphere unanswered by the recipe:
1. Do I melt the shortening before using? If so, do I then need it cool it to room temperature?
2. Do I simply chop shortening? This is what I did, but I wound up with two funny melty patches on my pastry, where I did not chop the pieces small enough. Or should I grate the shortening to get even smaller pieces?
Any advice from the Barefoot Blogging troupe would be most welcome!!

Regardless of a couple of odd patches in my pastry, this was a great recipe. Thanks Deb for the choice. You can see the beautiful pastry created by the others here.

adapted from "The Barefoot Contessa Parties"

12 tbls unsalted butter
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup plain flour
2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
1 tablespoon Pernod
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes
1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound)
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.


Lorraine E said...

I agree this week's unexpected cold snap was the perfect time to make a pie and this one looks great!

Natashya said...

We had a cold snap here in Ontario too. Your pies look so good!

For pastry - I chop the butter and the shortening and put them both in the freezer.
In a large food processor, I mix the flour, salt, etc (dry stuff). Then throw in frozen butter and shortening and pulse until the size of peas or smaller. Add the water, bit by bit from bowl with ice cubes in it. Pulse until just coming together. Take out and form, (handling the dough as little as possible) press into disk and wrap with plastic - refrigerate for an hour and use. This is Dorie Greenspan's method and can be used for most recipes. It took the fear out of pastry for me.

Debinhawaii said...

Yeah! Your pies turned out so well! I am glad you liked the pick but I'll leave trying to answer pastry questions to the masters! Great job!

Audrey said...

I love what you said about this being a nice way to spend an hour pottering around the kitchen (that's how it made me feel too!) You were braver than me to try the piecrust. I do know you cut both the butter and shortening into the flour but that's the full extent of my pastry skills...

Summer said...

Looks yummy! I can't help you with the pastry as I cheated and used pre-made. Your post reminded me that I forgot to mention I omitted the frozen onions too. My neighborhood markets don't carry them. Glad you and the girls enjoyed it.

Kirsten said...

Your pot pies look fantastic. The crust is the perfect golden brown!

Cathy said...

It looks just beautiful! I keep my shortening in the freezer and cut it in to the pastry straight from the freezer. I'll be curious to see the answers you get from other bloggers! I'm glad that you all enjoyed this -- it really is the perfect meal once the cool weather hits!

Veronica said...

I do the freezer thing with the shortening too-it really makes for a flaky crust, I think. Your pies look great!

Anne said...

Your pie looks perfect! I agree it's perfect for a nice cool night.

As for the shortening- I line my measuring cup with Saran Wrap and then measure it into the cup. Then, I lift out the plastic, fold it over so it's all packaged up, and toss it into the freezer for a little while. (No dirty cup makes it all better, too!)

Then I chop or break it into pieces when it goes into the pastry. Dorie's method always works for me, too, but if you just have a pastry cutter, a gentle hand works great.

chocolatechic said...

I freeze my shortening and then chop it into bits.

Yours look great.

One other thing that I do for shortening/butter if it is for pie crust, I will freeze it then grate it.

Peggy said...

This was a perfect time for pot pie wasn't it? Yours look fabulously delicious.

Cynthia's Blog said...

Yep, I even freeze the flour, everything COLD for pastry.

I needed this recipe. I just ate some leftovers for lunch. Even better.

Esi said...

I wish I had the answers to your pastry questions. I made a pretty different pastry than the recipe stated. Yours looks lovely!

Prudy said...

I'm lazy with shortening and never chill it at all. I add it in after I cut in the butter so it won't get too smashed. Your pies look oh so good! A quiet night at home with these sounds just about perfect.