Contemporary Thanksgiving is a secular holiday with a quasi-religious feel. It taps into being grateful, and for most of us that sparks devotion, but without an overt construct in any one organized religion. I love that everyone celebrates the same holiday without retreating into their respective ethnic or religious corners. All across the country, people sit down to their version of an autumnal feast -- turkey, cranberry sauce, green beans, pumpkin pie, or whatever meal they have devised. As my colleague Karen Paul-Stern noted so beautifully in her recent post, "Thanksgiving Tidings," even in difficult times, we have much to be thankful for.
So this is what's left over: the feeling that in spite of family nuttiness and logistical challenges, we can all say we are thankful. This thankfulness manifests itself in the joy of sitting down together to a wonderful meal. After the cooking, the eating, the football watching, the cleaning up and the sneaking down to the kitchen in the evening ("I can't believe I'm hungry again!"), we contemplate The Leftovers.
This year, after packing up our cousins from Los Angeles and my brother and sister-in-law and their kids with portions of turkey, Brussels sprouts, squash, green beans, pumpkin roll and cookies, my mom and I ended up in a tug of war over what remained. I had promised my family a turkey pot pie with the leftovers and obviously I needed a critical mass of turkey. She was counting on a few more meals from the two roast turkeys, which had somehow dwindled to only a few slices. I ended up with an overload of the Brussels sprouts, some squash, green beans and some cookies. I netted a couple of large slices of turkey.
After our four-hour ride home, I got to work. For me, pot pie is an ultimate comfort food. My mother rarely served it when I was a child, and if she did, it was a frozen thing from the supermarket that probably wasn't very good, but I considered it a huge treat. It never occurred to me that I could actually make one myself.
The pot pie recipe I use is based on one for a chicken pot pie that I found a few years ago in Everyday Food magazine. I make it regularly and it's always easy and it's always good. It is a great way to use leftover chicken, turkey or beef (just use beef broth instead of chicken or vegetable) and it's usually a bigger hit than the original dish. I know there are purists out there who think a true pot pie by definition requires both a bottom crust and a top crust, but I disagree.
This calls for only a top crust and uses store-bought frozen puff pastry to make it. I reason that if open-face pies are legitimate (and I've never heard an argument against them), then this works as well -- it's simply the inverse. And it's less caloric that something with two crusts. Whether you consider it a true pot pie, or a covered stew, I think you'll like it.
TURKEY POT PIE, based on Chicken Potpie in Everyday Food magazine, which lists each serving as having 478 calories, 27g of carbohydrates, 20g of fat and 45g of protein.
Use a 2-quart casserole dish, serves four
4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose flour
salt and pepper
4 cups low-sodium broth (turkey, chicken or vegetable)
3 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup frozen peas (or cut up green beans -- see leftover inventory above)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 egg yolk
1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and cook until onion softens, about six minutes. Add flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently until mixture is pale golden, has a nutty aroma and is the texture of cooked oatmeal, about five minutes.
2. Whisking constantly, add broth and bring to a boil. Stir frequently, until mixture thickens, about eight minutes. Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 more minutes. Stir in turkey, peas or green beans and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Pour into casserole dish and refrigerate until room temperature, about 20 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pasty to about a 1/8 thickness and drape it over the casserole dish with approximately an inch hanging over the sides. Cut vents in the pastry and place dish on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolk with a little water and brush egg wash on top of pastry. Bake until pastry is deep golden and pie is bubbling, about 45 minutes.