How often does the smell of sautéing onions and celery in butter waft through the Oak Bluffs library? Well, it did the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving. We were gathered to learn a creative way to use our leftovers from the holiday dinner. Of course, you can use any ingredients you wish in the pie, so don’t worry if you’ve noshed away all the leftovers.
The first step in making your pie is perhaps what distinguishes it — the sauce. You could thicken a gravy if you wish (especially for a dairy-free version), or make it from scratch, as we did.
Carolina Cooney, program coordinator at the library, led us through the relatively easy process in one of her ‘Make and Take’ workshops. “I see pot pies as something you can be fairly experimental with,” Cooney said. “It’s a put-in-about-anything-you-have-in-the-refrigerator-type thing.”
First, cut your onions and celery. I watched with admiration as Cooney deftly used an 8-inch chef’s knife to cut off the top and bottom of the onion and then halve it. Placing the dome shape face down on the cutting board made the slicing and dicing quite easy. Cooney kept the celery leaves on the stem, rather than tearing them off, and sliced from the tips, moving inward.
As Cooney warmed the butter in the saucepan, she offered a tip: “You want your butter to be hot, but make sure it doesn’t burn. You want to sauté until the vegetables soften.”
She added thyme, garlic, black pepper, salt and a splash of Tabasco. “Just because I like it,” she said. “Even though it’s not in the recipe.” Others used herbs and spices, as well as chives and turmeric. It appeared Cooney, an experienced cook, eyeballed her amounts. “I don’t measure much, except when I’m baking,” she said. (Although the recipe below includes measurements, should you want to reference them.)
When the vegetables are translucent, Cooney sprinkled in the flour, stirring constantly, until no flour remained. Then, it’s time to slowly pour in the cream. “The recipe calls for heavy cream, but I’m using light,” Cooney said. You can also use half-and-half. Repeat with the chicken broth, continuing to stir until thick and bubbly. (You can substitute chicken broth with sherry or white wine.)
Now this is important: When you remove the sauce from the heat, make sure you let it cool. Pouring hot filling into your unbaked pie dough will make for a soggy crust.
Cooney moved over to her filling options. She added cut-up turkey and various vegetables in a bowl. I included cooked sweet potatoes, and another woman used mashed. The sky’s the limit with pot pies. Spoon enough sauce into the bowl, and mix until all the ingredients are covered.
When your mixture is cool enough, mound it into your pie crust, which you have either prepared ahead of time or bought premade.
We used refrigerated dough and mini pie tins, first inverting the pie tin onto the dough, measuring out a pie top, and cutting around the circumference. We did the same for the bottom crust, this time making sure to cut the circle ½ to ¾ of an inch bigger than the tin’s circumference so there was room to pinch the edges together when it came time to assemble.
We cut four slits in the top crust in a star shape, but if you want to get fancy, you can decorate the top with shapes made from the leftover crust. One person in our group made a bird. We wrapped our pies to bring home and bake there.
Creamy Pot Pie
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup sliced carrots
½ cup sliced celery
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken or turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup heavy cream (or light cream or half-and-half)
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup frozen peas
2 Tbsp. minced, fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 (1 bottom, 1 top) unbaked pie crusts
Preheat oven to 375°F, making sure there is an oven rack on the bottom level of the oven. Add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the carrots, celery, onion, salt, garlic powder, thyme, and pepper. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes until vegetables are cooked and onions are golden.
Add the poultry, and then the flour. Stir well, until no dry flour remains. Slowly stir in the cream and then the chicken broth. Cook until bubbling and thick, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in the peas and parsley. Let cool completely, for 15 to 30 minutes, before filling the pie. (You can make your filling ahead of time, and store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.)
Fit one bottom pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon the cooled filling into the pie. It should be enough so it will mound up a little, since it will cook down during baking. Add the top crust, and crimp edges all the way around, sealing the top and bottom crusts together. Cut 4 slits in top crust to allow the steam to escape.
Place the pie on a baking sheet. This will help cook the bottom pie crust. Bake for about 30 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Cool for 15 to 30 minutes before slicing and serving.