When I was a young boy (and teenager, too) we were too unsophisticated to understand “comfort food.” We had lots of home cookin’, not that my mom was a great cook because she wasn’t. It was just the way it was. Home cookin’ involved slow cooked meals, casseroles, etc. There was biscuits and gravy, chicken and dumplins, beef stew, homemade chicken and rice soup, Cincinnati (“Yankee”) Chili (mom was from Ohio) and chicken pot pies. When you went out to dinner you had fancier foods like steak, pork loin, fresh fish, etc. Growing up I never heard of “comfort food” and was rather surprised years ago when the name began to take hold. To this day I think the classification is somewhat of a misnomer. For instance, I’m always comfortable when I eat and food always comforts me. It’s that way with everyone or why do we always plan social events around food or take friends food when they are sick or need love and comfort. I have yet to find one food more comfortable than another. “Comfort food” is simply a classy way of marketing good ol’ home cookin’ to make what the masses eat acceptable to those who eat at fancy restaurants who charge a lot more for the things my mom would make or that they sold at the local cafe.
Anyway, I digress. I mentioned pot pies. I love pot pies. My first pot pie was a Swanson chicken pot pie as a child (Remember, I told you mom wasn’t the greatest cook in the world–too busy chasing three sons 2-1/2 years apart). I fell in love with it and ate it at every opportunity. I had my first scratch pot pie at the local cafe. I love pot pies to this day and would make them periodically for my kids when they were growing up (Yes, they ate the Swanson pot pies, too). While reading through my cookbooks one day, I chanced upon a recipe for a much fancier pot pie and made it. It was delicious but could be improved. So I doctored the recipe and viola here it is. I think this is the very best pot pie I have ever eaten. It’s vegetarian (not vegan), relatively healthy, silky smooth and packed with flavor. You will not miss the lack of meat. Nonetheless, the addition of lobster to this dish is intriguing me and I am going to change the recipe soon to take the lobster into account. If it’s successful, you will see it posted here. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.
For the Filling
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks)
- 2 cups diced onions – 3/4 inch dice
- 1 large fennel bulb, top and core removed, diced – 1/2 inch dice
- 4 cups rich good chicken stock (preferably homemade)
- 1 Tbsp Pernod, Ouzo, Ojen, Absinthe, or another anise flavored spirit
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch saffron threads
- 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1-1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
- 1-1/2 cups green beans, cut 1 inch length
- 2-1/2 cups peeled, diced butternut squash – 3/4 inch dice
- 1 cup green peas
- 1 cup quartered crimini (button) mushrooms not stemmed
- 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
For the Pastry
Although I have a nice pastry dough recipe, of late I have been using The One Pie Dough to Rule Them All found at ChezPim.com (Remember, in a previous post I told you I was an equal opportunity plagiarizer). It is a nice dough, relatively simple and is the one depicted in the photos. Any pie dough with which you are familiar and comfortable will work. It’s a pot pie, home cookin’ right?
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and sauté 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 green beans, peas, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, mushroom quarters and parsley to the sauce and mix well.
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, if desired). Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot. Remove from oven.
Place on a plate, serve and enjoy.
NOTES: This recipe only calls for a top crust. The pie dough recipe makes enough dough to do a bottom crust if you prefer both a bottom and a top. If you close to do so I would use a baby spring form pan so you take the pie out of the dish. It’s up to you.