When I was a child, my mom would buy those ghastly frozen individual pot pies at the grocery store when they were on sale. Chicken, turkey, beef.. all encased in a fat laden crust that turned golden brown when you baked them. I loved those things. Every now and then, she would make big ones from scratch, usually after Thanksgiving when she was looking for ways to use up leftover turkey. She'd get the big 9-by-13 baking pan out (there were 8 of us) and she'd put a pastry crust on the bottom, load it up with turkey and frozen peas and carrots and cooked diced potatoes in a yummy gravy and top it with more crust.
I'm a sucker for anything in gravy to this day. Luckily, I married a man from northern Wisconsin who fell in love with me because I was the first woman he'd met that knew how to make gravy. I wowed him over and over with these one dish pot pies. As the years went on, I learned better ways to make that dish that were a little healthier, most times, using my organic produce from the garden and leaner cuts of meat and sometimes no meat at all. I make the pie crusts with butter instead of shortening, and use whole wheat pastry flour or at the very least unbleached flour to make the crust. Sometimes I make it with no bottom crust, and a biscuit crust on the top. That's what we have today.
We belong to a discussion group that started out reading and discussing sustainability and ecology and food choices. At the end of each session, we have a big vegetarian potluck. This is fun because we have so many good cooks and there is a magnificent array of dishes. One time I was trying to decide what to fix with what I had on hand, and it was a cold winter evening and I thought, boy...pot pie would be good. I went sleuthing around in the pantry and the cold room where we keep our root vegetables, came out with a handful of yummy things and an idea for a roasted root vegetable pot pie.
You can make this dish with whatever you like. One secret ingredient in this added a layer of sweet richness to this that knocked everybody out. I washed and thinly sliced an apple. It made a world of difference in the taste.
Here's a list of ingredients I used for the filling. I decided to make the biscuit crust for this one (simpler). After rummaging around in the pantry, I came out with.
• 3 carrots
• 1 small butternut squash
• 1 large sweet potato
• 1 large onion
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 overripe apple
• 2 medium-sized red potatoes
In the fridge I found a stalk of celery, some wild mushrooms (hen of the woods), and some butter. In the cabinet, I found some dried basil from last years garden, some sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
My vegetables are all organic. I wash them, I peel the ones that I have to (in this case the squash) and scrub the potatoes. I plant Beauregard sweet potatoes which have a very thin skin and we eat them skin and all. You can peel them if you want to, but I'll take the easy way every time.
1. Cut the vegetables into bite sized pieces, spread out on a baking pan.
2. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and roast them in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven. Roasting vegetables first will bring out the sweet earthy flavors of the caramelized sugars in them. And experiment with different kinds of vegetables. Does your family like turnips? Or beets? Parsnips ? Play with this dish and make it your own !
3. In another pan, melt some butter and slice your celery and mushrooms and apple into it.
4. Saute gently until the celery is tender.
5. The mushrooms should put off enough liquid to make a broth base, add some hot water and your spices.
6. Basil or rosemary or thyme will all complement your vegetables. I have all 3, but I always have more basil than anything and that's what I grab first.
7. You can lightly thicken this mixture if you want a nice gravy. Use cornstarch mixed in a little cold water.
8. When your veggies are finished roasting (expect this to take about 30 minutes), you can mix all this together and pour it into a baking dish. For this amount, I used a round quiche dish with high sides.
Now, the biscuit dough recipe I use is from a friend named Mary who lives in South Africa. We have been friends for several years and we were chatting one day and she mentioned she was making scones. And I said-- "oh! I love scones ! Send me your recipe." And she did. And as I looked at it, scratching my head, I thought, "this looks like my granny's buttermilk biscuit recipe." Well sure enough, the scones that we eat in this country are a whole different animal from the classic scones in Europe and beyond, which are, actually, biscuits. Apparently. At any rate, they're the easiest and best tasting biscuits I have ever eaten.
• 2-1/2 cups flour
• 3-1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tbsp. sugar
• 1-1/2 tsp salt
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 cup softened butter
• 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1. Mix together the dry ingredients.
2. Cut the stick of butter into small cubes and then work into the flour mix with a pastry cutter.
3. Once the mixture is nice and crumbly, stir in the buttermilk.
4. You don't want to overwork this dough, so knead it on a floured piece of waxed paper about 5 times.
5. Then gently pat it out to about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick.
6. Use a cookie cutter of your choice (I had to decide between the angel and the star), cut out the biscuits and lay them on top of your pan of vegetables.
7. Cook this beauty in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven until the biscuits are done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
8. When it comes out of the oven, brush those little angels with some butter to make them glisten and shine.
It's a beautiful dish, healthy and hearty, and sure to please your family and friends.
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