Saturday, November 9, 2013

Beef Pot Pie Casserole Recipe

I am, against all odds, still sick.  HOWEVER, last week I met with a new doctor whom I adore, and I think she's got me on the road to recovery.  At least, it kind of feels like it.  I mean, we'll see.  I'm optimistic.

Anyway, do you guys like comfort food?

It's a chilly Autumn day and I finally remembered to thaw out the stew meat I had in the freezer, so I'm making one of my specialties.  It's a recipe I came up with last winter when I was trying to think of something new to make that The Kid would eat.  I wanted to make beef stew but since he's a little picky (but loves crust), I decided to make it into a giant pot pie instead.  I call it a casserole since it's in a casserole dish.

This recipe is easy to follow and is often unattended, but it definitely takes a long time to cook--about five hours from start to finish, ideally.  If you begin after lunch, you should be all set for dinner, but I find that it's best to prepare it on a day where you don't have much else to do, like a lazy Sunday or Saturday.


Ingredients for stew:
About 1 lb. stew meat (beef)
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-32 oz. carton of good beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 TB dried parsley
3 medium-sized potatoes, cubed (peeling optional)
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

...or maybe just one and half carrots.
Heat a two-quart sauce pan over medium heat.  Coat the stew meat in a mixture of the flour and salt & pepper to taste (probably about 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp pepper).  I like to use a ziploc bag, but you could do it on a plate. Pour a tablespoon or so of oil into the hot pan, then add the stew meat along with any leftover flour mixture.  Brown the meat on all sides, then remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more oil if needed and throw in the onions.  Cook them until they're translucent, then throw in the garlic for a couple of minutes.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape any meat remnants from the bottom of the pan while the onions and garlic cook.

Put the beef back in the pan along with the beef broth and all the spices.  Turn the heat way down and simmer for three hours with the lid on, stirring every so often.  You can cook it for less time, but the longer you simmer, the better it will taste.

Ingredients for pie crust:
2 1/2 c flour
1 c cold butter, cut into small cubes (or 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c shortening if you prefer a flakier crust and don't mind partially hydrogenated oils)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
ice water

While your stew is simmering, you can prepare the crust.  Combine all ingredients with a pastry blender until the consistency is that of a coarse meal (tiny lumps throughout).  A tablespoon at a time, add ice water, mixing with the pastry cutter and then your hands until the dough sticks together and can form a ball.

On a large piece of saran wrap, press the dough out flat with your hands once (this is what makes the finished product flaky) and then form it into a ball. Wrap it up in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

After your stew has simmered for a few hours, cube the potatoes and cut up the carrots (or use baby carrots, if you like) and add them to the pot.  Simmer for an additional hour, or until you can stick a fork through the carrots but they're still quite firm.

Remove the bay leaf.

If your stew is still thin, you can mix up cornstarch and cold water and add a tiny bit at a time, until it's the consistency of the inside of a pot pie.  It should look more like gravy than soup.

Season with salt and pepper (or Lawry's Seasoned Salt, which I prefer) to taste and remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Get out a 2 qt casserole pan (mine is glass and 8 x 11").  Lightly flour a large clean surface and roll  your dough out to larger than the top of the pan with a rolling pin or wine bottle. If it sticks, use a little more flour, but try not to add too much.

Turn the pan over on top of the dough. With a butter knife, cut about an inch away from and around the pan.
Like this.

Remove the pan and place it on a baking sheet (Do not skip this step.  Putting the dish on a baking sheet will make it 10x easier to put in and take out of the oven, and will catch any mess if it bubbles over), then fill it with the stew mixture.

Fold your crust four or five times so you can pick it up and carefully transfer it to the top of the pan, unfolding once it's there.  Pinch a crust around the sides, onto the pan.  You'll need to work quickly because the hot stew will be melting your crust.

Stars. Because it's too early for Christmas trees and I didn't have any turkeys.
If you didn't tear any holes in the top during the transfer (it happens) cut several slits in the crust with a very sharp knife.  You can lightly flour and roll the leftover dough out again and cut it into shapes to put on top of the crust.  (I like to do this because the crust is my family's favorite part.)

Bake, uncovered, at 425F for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Serve in bowls.  Feeds however many people can eat a whole casserole dish full of food (six or less).

Get in my belly!

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