Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Make Time for Pot Pie

Spring is tickling Charlestonians’ senses with warm weather, a blush of pale green, and bouquets of blooming beauty. It’s all so intoxicating, it’s almost easy to forgive the brutality of this past winter.

But not so fast! No matter where you live, winter has a nasty way of roaring back with raw cold and wind in the fickle month of March, and that’s the perfect time to make pot pie.

(Photo by Helene Dujardin)

Pot roast, that soul-warming classic, gets all dressed up with a flaky pastry lid in this dish. By braising the meat with the vegetable aromats until the meat’s tender and the vegetables have dissolved into the sauce, you’re ensured layers of flavor. A jolt of red pepper flakes provide a little flavor surprise that will take the chill off any cold, dreary late winter day. If you can’t find collards, substitute kale, spinach, or arugula.

This takes a little time the day before, but the taste and aroma dividends are well worth a little slow-cooked effort and handmade, buttery pastry.

Pot Roast Pot Pies
(Makes 6 – 8 individual pot pies)

Equipment needed: Six to eight 8 – 10 ounce oven-proof ramekins or bistro bowls
One 6″ round pastry cutter

For the pastry:

2 1/2 cups White Lily All Purpose flour (use only 2 1/4 cups if using another brand)
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
2 sticks (or 1 cup) best quality, AAGrade unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4″ cubes
Ice cold water – about 3 tablespoons or enough to just hold the pastry together

For the pot roast filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds pot roast
1 onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 stalks celery, trimmed, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/2 cup red wine
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef or vegetable stock (or enough to cover the roast just over half-way)
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley

To finish:

2 cups baby carrots
3 cups collards, washed, tough stems removed, and cut into 1″ squares
3 cups baby, fresh potatoes, scrubbed and pierced with a fork
1 – 2 tablespoons ketchup
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, splash of water, blended together.

The day before service, prepare the pastry. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour and the salt. Add the very cold butter and pulse rapidly, 40 – 50 times, or until the butter is the size of very small peas. Gradually, drizzle in the water in drops, while running the machine. Add just enough until the pastry forms a clumsy ball. Pour it out onto a lightly floured surface. Form a flattened disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate over night.

Next, prepare the braised stew filling. Heat a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the olive oil and butter. Season the pot roast, generously, on all sides, with salt and freshly ground pepper. When the fat is sizzling (but not burning!) add the roast to the pan. Brown,undisturbed, for about five minutes. Turn the roast and repeat on the second side. Remove the browned roast from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, garlic, celery, salt, pepper and herbes de Provence to the pan. Stir to coat and pick up any brown bits. Cook until softened, about five minutes. Deglaze with the red wine, stirring to pick up all the brown bits, and reduce the wine by half.

Return the roast to the pan. Add the tomatoes and stock. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar. After about four hours, add the red chili flakes and parsley, stirring in to blend. Remove the meat from the pan and allow to rest and cool. Meanwhile, using a shallow ladle, skim any excess fat off the surface. When the meat is cool enough to handle, chop it coarsely, removing any excess fat or sinew, which should be discarded. Return the beef to the pot and add the baby carrots, collards, baby potatoes and ketchup. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If too much water has evaporated, add enough water to thin to a stew consistency. Simmer, covered, another forty minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender. Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate overnight.

The following day (or the day of service), roll out the prepped pastry into a large circle (about 1/4″ thick) on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 6″ rounds, using your pastry cutter. Return the rounds to the refrigerator to chill for about twenty minutes. Meanwhile, remove the stew from the refrigerator and skim off any remaining fat which may have coagulated overnight. Arrange the ramekins or bistro bowls on a baking sheet. Fill each with 1 1/4 cups of the stew. Top each with a prepped pastry round, sealing the excess pastry down around the rim of the bowl (it should be about 1/2″ deep). Cut three slits into the top of the pastry and brush the top and sides of each lightly with the egg wash using a pastry brush. (Note: The pies can be compiled and refrigerated for several hours before baking, or go directly into the oven at this point).

Preheat the oven to 375F and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until bubbling, golden and beautiful. Set aside to cool for ten to fifteen minutes before eating.

March never tasted so good!

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