Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Passion for Homey, Versatile Pot Pies: Pure Comfort in a Crust

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Passion for Homey, Versatile Pot Pies: Pure Comfort in a Crust

Article excerpt

TO A GENERATION of children, a pot pie for dinner meant one thing: Their parents were going out for the evening.

But there's a world of pot pies beyond the freezer case.

The pot pie is a versatile one-dish meal that's easy to make from scratch, especially if you use a store-bought pie crust or refrigerator biscuits.

"My mother made the best pot pies," says Jeff Smith, TV's Frugal Gourmet. "When the frozen variety first came out, I begged my mother to buy one. So she did. She also made one of her recipes and set them side by side for me to choose which one would be the best.

"I've never had a frozen pot pie since."

"A pot pie is a most elegant way of redoing leftovers," says Anita Frank, who teaches cooking. "They can be an economical treat."

The modern pot pie differs greatly from its culinary forebear, a shallow meat pie with little flavor. The English used the top crust to cover poor-quality meat mixed with salt pork.

Americans took the basic concept, deepened the dish, added more flavorings and called it pot pie.

Although it probably will never qualify as diet fare, the pot pie lends itself to reductions in calories and fat.

The basic pot pie is thickened with flour and cream, which boosts calories. Frank suggests reducing the fat by using a filling of vegetables and turkey pieces flavored with vegetable juices and thickened with cornstarch.

The outside layer can be as interesting as the filling, Frank says. Some offbeat options: corn bread, tortillas, biscuits or scones.

*****

BEEFED-UP CORN BREAD

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal, divided

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs, well beaten

1 cup milk

1 (17-ounce) can cream-style corn

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 red or green bell pepper, diced

2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cornmeal in a well-greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until cornmeal is lightly browned; set aside.

In another skillet, cook ground beef until browned, stirring to crumble meat. Drain well and set aside.

Combine remaining 1 cup cornmeal, salt and baking soda. Add eggs, milk, corn and oil. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour half the batter into prepared cast-iron skillet.

Sprinkle with cheese, onion, bell pepper, jalapenos and ground beef. Top with remaining batter. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 482 calories; 26g fat (47 percent calories from fat); 122mg cholesterol; 806mg sodium.

From "The New Southern Living Cookbook" by Susan Carlisle Payne (Oxmoor House, 1987).

*****

STEAK AND MUSHROOM PIE

3 slices bacon, diced

1 1/2 pounds chuck steak, well-trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

About 1 1/2 cups canned beef broth

1/2 cup red wine

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 pound sliced sauteed mushrooms

2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or to taste

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, rubbed, or to taste

Salt, to taste

Ground black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pastry for (9-inch) 2-crust pie

Heat a heavy cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. …

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