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The Greatest Gifts Of Turkey Come Days Later

The first bite of a homemade pot pie is always the most satisfying. Credit: Susan Lutz

The first bite of a homemade pot pie is always the most satisfying. Credit: Susan Lutz

As far as I’m concerned, the best part of holiday meals is the leftovers and the ultimate repurposing of a holiday bird is to make it the star ingredient in a homemade turkey pot pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas bring a frenzy of foods, all consumed in too large a quantity to be able to savor individually. Of course, there’s something wonderful about this particular form of gluttony. But in the days following a holiday meal I revel in the leftovers, when each dish can be enjoyed on its own, and on its own terms.

In the days after Thanksgiving, I eat cornbread-sausage stuffing for breakfast. I eat pecan-topped sweet potatoes for lunch. But the greatest form of leftover is turkey. While it’s on the holiday table fresh from the oven, turkey actually doesn’t do much for me. I find turkey covered in gravy somewhat dull. Cranberry sauce doesn’t help all that much. Yet I hatch plans to horde leftover turkey, often eating very little turkey during the meal, and noticing with careful detail how much is left on the bird’s carcass. Because after the holiday is over, I intend to transform my least favorite holiday dish into my all-time favorite post holiday meal: pot pies.

My love of pot pie goes back to my childhood. I loved watching my Grandma Willie roll the pie dough for the pot pies she made each winter. In my grandmother’s day, pot pies were what she called “work-a-day food” — a one-dish meal made for men working in the fields. This simple farm food, passed down from my grandmother to my mother and now to me, has become a staple in our house; one that comforts city folk just as well as it did my farmer ancestors.

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Cutting pie dough to form the crust of the pot pie. Credit: Susan Lutz

The beauty of pot pies is that once you’ve assembled them, they make the best convenience food you’ll ever eat. This was the reason they were created for hungry farmers, and the reason they became an early staple of industrial frozen dinners. But those glutinous grey masses in a doughy shell, with only occasional glimpses of a pea or a perfect cube of turkey flesh, are a far cry from the creamy, rich, vegetable-packed delicacies that came from Grandma Willie’s kitchen. Pot pies can be made in any size, but in our house, we make single-serving pot pies in individual tart pans and store them in the freezer.

I didn’t make pot pies much during the 20 years I lived in Los Angeles. The warm climate doesn’t call out for hearty rib-sticking food. But now that I live in a place with cold winters and the first snowflakes have already fallen, the season for pot pies has arrived. On days when the weather is too wet and cold, when my daughters are spent and cranky, and I’m too exhausted to try to fling some sort of meal together, I can take these leftover remnants of holiday turkey out of the freezer and quickly serve a post-holiday meal, compliments of Grandma Willie.

Grandma Willie’s Pot Pies (with Turkey or Chicken)

Adapted by Linda Lutz, daughter of Willie Phillips and heir to the pot pie legacy.

This recipe makes two 9-inch pot pies or 9 individual pot pies using 4- or 5-inch pie or tart pans. Pot pies can be frozen unbaked. They are best defrosted overnight in the refrigerator before baking.

Ingredients

2½ cups chicken stock, divided (1 cup for cooking vegetables, 1½ cups for gravy)

½ cup chopped onion

½ chopped carrots

2 cups cubed potatoes

1 cup frozen peas

6 tablespoons butter or margarine

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup milk (Milk with 2% fat will work. Whole milk is even better.)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cooked turkey or chicken in small dice

Your favorite pie dough recipe (enough for two 9-inch crusts)

Directions

1. Place 1 cup of the chicken stock in a saucepan and heat until simmering.

2. Add the chopped onion and chopped carrots and cook for five minutes.

3. Add the cubed potatoes and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

4. Add the frozen peas and cook until all vegetables are tender.

5. While vegetables finish cooking, begin gravy by melting 6 tablespoons of butter or margarine in a medium skillet.

6. Add 6 tablespoons flour and cook over medium heat for one minute, stirring constantly.

7. Add the remaining 1½ cups of the chicken stock and 1 cup milk and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

8. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Pour gravy in a large bowl and add the diced turkey or chicken. Stir to combine.

10. Drain vegetables and add to gravy and meat mixture. Stir gently.

11. Spoon mixture into pie tins and top with a round of pie dough cut ½ inch larger than the diameter of the top of the pie tin, pressing gently to remove any air pockets between the filling and the pie dough.

12. Press dough into the crevice between the outer edge of the filling and the side of the pie tin. The excess dough should stick straight up into the air. Once you’ve removed any air pockets between the filling and pie dough, fold the excess dough flat onto the flat lip of the pie plate to get a good seal.

13. Place pot pies on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

14. Bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. If after 25 minutes the crust isn’t brown enough, turn up heat to 425 F and watch carefully until crust reached desired color.

15. Let cool for a few minutes before eating. In our house, we often dump them upside down on a plate to cool. It’s not the most elegant way to serve a pot pie, but it is the most efficient cooling method.

Top photo: The first bite of a homemade pot pie is always the most satisfying. Credit: Susan Lutz



Zester Daily contributor Susan Lutz is a photographer, artist and television producer. A native of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, she lives near Washington, D.C., where she is writing a book about heirloom foods and the American tradition of Sunday dinner. She also blogs about the subject at Eat Sunday Dinner.

5 COMMENTS
  • Lisa* 12·13·13

    Looks delish! Though in my world it’s gotta have that bottom crust 😉

  • Terry 12·14·13

    I’m so excited to have Granny’s pot pie recipe! Maybe I’ll get more snow days so I can actually make some.

  • Susan Lutz 12·15·13

    Lisa*- I hear you. When we make a large pot pie using an 8 or 9-inch pie pan, we add a bottom crust too! But in the “personal size” pot pies, it throws off the crust to filling ratio to have a bottom crust as well as a top crust.

  • Susan Lutz 12·15·13

    Terry- If you try to pot pies, please let me know. I’d love to hear how they turned out!

  • Eileen 12·17·13

    Oh, yes. The comfort food of comfort foods. I have made so many of these delectable pies. As a matter of fact, I was making pot pies for the freezer the day I went into labor with Ron. It was so nice to know that I had a hearty meal at hand during those very busy days after bringing a new baby into the home.

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