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Some People Pack Before They Move. I Make Pot Pies.

January 14, 2011

Yesterday I finished my first trip since coming back from medical leave.  Overnight in Grand Junction, CO? Boooo.  Making money and getting out of the house?  Yaaaaaay!!

As I mentioned a few days ago, Andy and I are moving out of Denver in a few weeks.  Our place is filled with boxes and we’re starting to tell our friends not to send money and cookies here anymore (haha).

Where are we moving, though?  Not sure.  It was San Diego, but yesterday Andy’s friend offered him cheap rent on a condo in Las Vegas, so we will be checking that out this weekend.

Anyway, with the moving date quickly approaching, I’m not doing any grocery shopping.  We have to use up what we have in the pantry, which is getting less and less appealing every day.

But a couple days ago I wasn’t bitching so much because I made POT PIES!

When I visited my mom last week, she gave me a pair of gorgeous Italian ramekins.  (I asked for ramekins on my Xmas wish list because I’m dorky like that.)  Immediately I remembered the phyllo dough that had been sitting, neglected, in my freezer since before Thanksgiving, and knew I’d be attempting to make pot pies with a flaky pastry crust when I got back to Denver.

It would have been nice to have a traditional “chicken” pie, but I didn’t have chicken-flavored seitan and wasn’t about to make any.  Nor did I have ANY fresh vegetables, outside of cabbage.  (Would cabbage have worked?  Hmmm…)  If there had been any celery or carrots around, I’m sure I could have done something really special.  Ah well.

What I did have was:

–Tofurky Beer Brats, which I won’t buy again because they had a weird flavor and were very high in fat.  I used two in the pies.
–1/2 can of coconut milk, left over from a lunchtime soup experiment gone wrong.  (Miso-curry spinach soup, yuuuuuucko!)
–1/2 can of garbanzo beens, left over from a salad.
–About 1/3 of a carton of Imagine Foods No-Chicken Broth (my favorite!)
–1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, green beans, corn), of which I used half.
–A lemon, which I kept intact and just zested.
–Dried shiitake mushrooms
–Onions, garlic
–Nutritional yeast
–Olive oil, butter-flavored Crisco
–Black pepper, cayenne pepper.  (There’s a bottle of thyme in the picture but I didn’t use any.)

First, I let the mushrooms soak in about 1/2 cup hot water from the tap.

Then I peeled and coarsely chopped the onions and two cloves of garlic and threw them in the food processor.  Lazy, yes, but I didn’t feel like dicing/mincing by hand and though I prefer my onions and garlic “rustic,” sometimes Andy makes comments if the onion pieces are too big.  Also for Andy’s benefit, I took the amount of garlic I would have used if I were cooking for just myself (three) and subtracted one clove.  Hmph, the things I do for love.

Sooo I then fired up a saute pan on the stove at medium-high heat, added some lovely olive oil and the onion/garlic paste.  Once that started to brown, I chopped the mushrooms up (saving the soaking liquid) and threw those in.

Next, I added all the liquids and powders–the mushroom-soaking water, the coconut milk,  almost all the broth, a pinch of cayenne pepper, two heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast, and a couple twists of the pepper mill.  I gave it a big stir, and let it simmer on low heat until it thickened up.

Meanwhile, I unwrapped the phyllo dough and put it inside the ramekins.  The dough kept ripping but I just did the best I could.  I used kitchen shears to cut off any parts that were hanging too low around the outside edges, and wrapped up the remaining sheets of dough so they wouldn’t dry out–I’d need more for the top layer of my pies.

The manufacturer’s instructions for the ramekins said they must be placed in a cold oven and allowed to gradually heat up–extreme temperature changes would shatter them.  So that’s what I did, I put the dough-filled dishes on a cookie sheet, placed them in the unheated oven, and set the oven for 350 degrees F.  I would say they were in the oven about 15 minutes.

My sauce had gotten a little too thick, so I stirred in the remaining No-Chicken broth, along with the frozen vegetables and chopped beer brats.  By the time I did all that, it was time to remove the now-slightly-overbrowned pie shells from the oven.  (I should have let the veggies and faux brats simmer in the sauce for a couple minutes, but I was afraid that the vegetables would heat up more in the oven and overcook.  Oops.)

After unrolling some more phyllo dough, cutting it to size, and coating it with a thin layer of olive oil, I spooned the pie filling into the ramekins.  I grated a little lemon zest over the top, for pizazz.  Briefly I considered leaving the pie openfaced, but what’s the fun in that?  I slapped the top layer of phyllo onto the pies and put them back in the oven for 10 minutes.

And ta-da!!

A little, uh, artsy-looking perhaps, but still good.  10 minutes unfortunately wasn’t long enough to heat the barely-thawed vegetables in the filling, so we missed out on the piping-hot burst of steam and bubbling ooziness most people expect from a pot pie.  I tried putting them back in the oven for another 10 minutes but it was no use.  The crust was getting too brown, while the inside remained barely warm.  But we ate it all anyway.  I was really pleased with the use of coconut milk in the filling instead of making a traditional roux to thicken things up.  A little cold but still yummy!

There’s still more dough left, hmmm.  I think phyllo dough (or puff pastry, which is different but kinda the same) will become a permanent addition to my freezer.  Any time you put pastry dough around something, it’s ten times more gourmet.  Right?

I’m curious: what’s your favorite meal that YOU made, using only neglected pantry/freezer items?

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