Comfort food, but in this version no one will miss the meat (especially if you don’t bother to tell them it’s not there…)
There is one dish everyone in my family agrees on – a pot pie. Chicken pot pie, turkey pot pie, and seafood pot pie are the favorites, but I think they’d eat anything encased in a crust. It is comfort food at its most decadent: pastry, tons of starchy vegetables, and everything blended together with gravy, lots of gravy. It’s naughty, and we don’t have it often, which is probably why everyone comes to the table salivating when it is served!
The meat is not really the star, so with the harvest vegetables fresh and beautiful this time of year, I thought it would be fun to use those as the star of the dish rather than just as starchy background fillers. Roasting the vegetables makes them even tastier!
Lots of flavor here
There’s no lack of flavor in this pie. The vegetables I used are fennel, mushrooms, carrots, sweet and white potatoes, and peas. Fresh sage and tarragon from the garden provide substantial interest, as does the cognac!
I made my own stock for this from my vegetable trimmings and it was packed with flavor (instructions below). I highly recommend you do so; it doesn’t take much time, and using every bit of those vegetables is both economical and good for the environment. But you can also substitute a favorite stock in a pinch.
I roasted the vegetables two days before because I planned them for dinner that night. I made lots extra since I was chopping and roasting anyway, and reserving half for this recipe two days later made me feel totally organized! This made quick work of putting the pot pie together.
This pie features a quick puff pastry crust from the freezer. Look for one that contains butter and not hydrogenated shortening. You can also make this using regular pastry, in which case I would make it with two crusts, top and bottom. The family might not complain about the lack of meat, but they will probably grumble about no bottom crust. However, the puff pastry is thick and delicious, so they might not notice…
I used half-and-half here for my cream, but you can use any plant milk if you cannot have dairy. It all works! You can even use all stock.
Substitute any of your favorite autumn vegetables. You can add turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, butternut squash, or even golden beets. Use what you like. Once roasted, you should have about a quart of mixed vegetables (not counting the onions and mushrooms).
Autumn Pot Pie. You won’t have to tell them twice to come to the table.
Autumn Pot Pie with Roasted Vegetables
2 bulbs fennel, chopped
1 small sweet potato, chopped
2 white potatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, whole, in peel
1 tbsp. butter or vegan butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
10 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 rib celery, minced
2 tbsp. cognac
1/4 cup flour
1 cup vegetable or mushroom stock
1 cup cream, milk, or plant milk
1 cup thawed green peas
1 tbsp. fresh sage, minced
1 tsp. fresh tarragon, minced
Salt and pepper
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator, or vegan pastry
1 egg and a little water, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and heat up a rimmed baking sheet.
Prep the vegetables. Once the sheet is hot, drizzle with olive oil and add fennel, potatoes, carrots, and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the hot oven.
Roast for 15 minutes, turn, and remove the garlic if it is softened and mash it up (reserve this). Continue roasting for another 10 minutes and check. If vegetables are tender, remove from the oven to a large bowl. You can roast these vegetables a day or two before you make the pie.
In a large skillet, add butter and oil and heat until the butter stops sizzling. Add the onions, mushrooms, and celery and reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the onions are softened and the mushrooms have shrunk and are cooked through.
Deglaze the pan with the cognac (or brandy, or water), and once the pan is dry again, sprinkle with the flour. With a flat bottomed wooden spoon, keep the mixture moving and cook the flour for a minute or so.
Add the stock and cream, the reserved garlic, some salt and pepper, and keep stirring until it comes to a boil and thickens.
Add the roasted vegetables, mix well, and add the peas, sage, and tarragon. Taste and correct the seasoning.
Mound the mixture in a pie pan and set aside. I use a deep-dish Pyrex glass pie plate. Let the mixture cool slightly so you don’t melt the pastry!
Roll out the puff sheets on a lightly floured board, and, with a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 3 cm strips (1 1/4 inches) which is exactly the width of my metal ruler which makes this an easy task. Place the strips back in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water to make an egg glaze.
Cover the pie with your strips, weaving them in a nice pattern if you like. You can also just roll it out and cut it into a circle. Cut out some leaves or other decorations with the leftover dough (my granddaughter gave me great assistance here!). Gently brush the egg glaze over the pastry, being careful to not hit the edges which could act like glue and keep the pastry from puffing up.
Bake for 25 minutes and check; you will probably need to turn the pie for it to brown evenly, and it will probably need another ten minutes in the oven.
Let cool for 20 minutes before slicing. You won’t want to wait, but you really have to.
To make the stock:
In a saucepan, add the stems of the mushrooms, peelings and tops of the onion plus one half additional onion and tops and peels, carrot tops, the fennel stems and fronds, some of the celery base and tops, stems of the parsley, sage, and tarragon, garlic peel and a couple extra cloves of garlic.
Bring the mixture to a boil with two or three cups of water, a bay leaf, and a little salt and pepper. Once boiling, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for a half hour or longer. Strain. You will have more than you need for this recipe, but it freezes beautifully.
I use it any time stock is called for, and always when making rice and soups. If you have a lot extra, cook your pasta in it! It really makes a difference in flavor.
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