This weekend, Americans will fire up their grills to celebrate the beginning of a summer living in the shadow of a pandemic. What’s wrong with this picture? After almost three months of faithfully washing our hands, wearing masks in public and social distancing, we will face the one season that encourages us to ignore all these habits.
In summer we enjoy gathering outdoors for picnics at parks and beaches. We are more likely to eat food with our hands that others have touched, often from a communal platter. Our 'new normal' will fluctuate, as the progress of an invisible enemy is recalculated from one day to the next. When conditions get this stressful, I retreat from warm weather fare to the warmth of old-fashioned comfort foods like turkey pot pie.
Blanched, deboned and skinned turkey wingettes
There is something inherently satisfying about a one pot meal with its wholesome, concentrated flavors of meat and vegetables. A pastry lid of contrasting texture and richness turns this combination of everyday ingredients into a feast. To this classic recipe I offer a few tips to speed of its preparation without sacrificing quality.
The ingredient that guarantees quality is a good, honest broth. My go-to vegetable stock takes one and one-half hours to prepare, most of the time unattended. Blog reader and longtime student Judith Campbell wrote to me of her success making chicken stock overnight in an slow cooker from the carcass of a roast chicken and the usual vegetables. I was ready to purchase one, had I the space on my counter for it.
Turkey thighs, drumsticks or wingettes (the meaty upper portion) will work in this recipe. These dark meat pieces are flavorful but tough. My timesaving method involves a quick blanching of whole pieces, then boning, removing the skin and cutting the meat into bite size pieces across the grain. A short period of continued cooking with the vegetables tenderizes the meat more quickly than a long braise of whole pieces.
To make the pastry more user-friendly, I replace some of the butter with shortening which is solid at room temperature thus easier to roll out. If you use butter exclusively, chill the dough longer after forming it and before baking. Another shortcut is the substitution of a cornstarch thickener for the classic French sauce veloute made with butter and flour. roux.
TURKEY POT PIE
Ingredients for 8 servings:
4 - 5 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
4 pounds turkey thighs, wingettes or drumsticks
1 cup frozen white pearl onions
1 cup frozen petite peas
1 cup green beans, cut in 1" pieces
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" slices
1/4 cup fresh herbs, minced (flat leaf parsley, chives, tarragon)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
kosher salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco, to taste
1 – 2/3 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
4 tablespoons shortening
3-4 tablespoons iced water
Turkey/Vegetables/Veloute: Prepare a vegetable or chicken stock. Rinse the turkey pieces and place them in a large saucepan. Cover the meat with stock, adding water if needed to cover the pieces. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Meat will be firm but not fully cooked. Remove the turkey pieces and, when cool enough to handle, remove the bones and skin. Return the bones to the stock and continue simmering. Cut the meat across the grain into 1/2" bitesize pieces. Remove the bones, return the meat pieces to the stock and simmer another 10 minutes. Add the vegetables to the stock and simmer another 10 minutes. Strain the stock from the vegetables. Reduce the stock to 2 cups. Add the cream and reduce again to 2 cups. Stir 1/2 cup of the sauce into a slurry of cornstarch and water. Pour this back into the pot, stir as the sauce thickens and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Fold this sauce and fresh herbs into the meat and vegetables and distribute in a heavy 2 quart casserole.
Pastry: Mix the flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor, electric mixer or mixing bowl. Add the butter cut into ½” pieces and blend to the texture of coarse sand. Work in the shortening the same way. Add 3 tablespoons iced water in rapid succession with the machine running or all at once if by hand. If a dough does not form easily, add an additional tablespoon of water. Place dough on a floured sheet of wax paper. Sprinkle dough with flour, and lay on another sheet of paper. Carefully press the dough into a disk or rectangle about the size of your casserole. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Assembly and Baking: Center the oven rack and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Finish rolling the dough so that it is 1" larger than the opening of the casserole on all sides. Lift off the wax paper, and turn the dough over on the pie filling. Remove remaining sheet of paper and crimp the dough around the edges of the pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until the pie is golden and bubbly.