Words and Photography by Laura Silverman
Fall makes my head spin. Like every critter out there, I go crazy stocking up for the onslaught of cold weather. There are tomatoes to harvest, herbs to dry, apples to pick and a spectrum of jewel-toned jams and chutneys to make. But most of these activities take place indoors and where I really want to be at this time of year is deep in the woods. There is nothing better than a fall hike beneath a turquoise sky that is the brilliantly art-directed backdrop for leaves in flaming tones of saffron, russett and scarlet. In the distance, the hills appear to be wearing Missoni sweaters. Inhaling air this crisp is like gulping a bracing spirit, so refreshing and invigorating. The cool damp brings out endless varieties of wild mushrooms—colorful crust fungi, slick taxi-yellow witch’s butter and wolf’s milk slime mold that oozes bubblegum pink, not to mention choice edibles like angelically pale oysters and ruffled hens of the wood. Before you know it, you’ve been tromping around for hours, your fingers are cold to the bone and your belly is rumbling.
Back home, you want three things pronto: a stiff drink, a roaring fire and a hearty meal. There’s nothing cozier than a pot pie. Break through the golden crust and a finger of steam beckons you toward tender chunks of goodness bound in a creamy sauce. It’s classic farmhouse food Pot pies are a great repository for leftovers—chicken, shortribs, even fish—or any odds and ends rattling around the vegetable bin. Use what you have on hand. If you make a batch of pastry dough ahead of time and stash it in the fridge or freezer, you’ll be ready when the temperature drops.
The traditional pot pie cloaks its innards with a white sauce. I like to make mine with a lighter and tangier combination of stock, cream and buttermilk, further enhanced with sharp, salty pecorino. I usually have a batch of homemade stock frozen in king ice cube trays for easy access. If not, I’ll use the soaking liquid from a small handful of dried porcini mushrooms to create a rich earthy base. For this vegetable pot pie, I combine celery, carrots, fingerling potatoes, tiny Brussels sprouts, frozen peas and those rehydrated porcinis. Things like squash, turnips, radish, celeriac and greens would also fit in nicely. Dice them into small, uniform cubes that cook quickly and give the pot pie a small measure of refinement.
You can make one large pot pie in a pie plate, or two individual pies in small casseroles or ovenproof bowls. Stir the vegetables into the sauce, spoon it all in and crimp the pastry over the top. Brush with a little cream and bake for half an hour, during which time you can stoke the fire and nurse your drink. It’s just what the doctor ordered.
Vegetable Pot Pie
- Galette Dough for one 10″ tart (see recipe below)
- 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 1-2 celery stalks, diced small
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
- 2-4 fingerling potatoes, peeled and diced small
- 1 cup small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 leek, pale green and white parts thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons flour (I used brown rice)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1/2 cup chicken stock, or strained mushroom soaking liquid
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino
Make galette dough and chill. (Can be done ahead and dough can be stored in fridge or freezer, depending on when you want to use it.)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Place porcinis in a small bowl and pour over hot water to cover. Set aside.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Add some salt and the celery, carrot, potato, Brussels sprouts and peas and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside. (You should have about 3 cups vegetables.)
Drain porcinis, reserving the liquid, which you can strain and use in place of the chicken stock or store for another purpose. Chop the mushrooms and add to the other vegetables.
In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the leeks and salt and sauté for a few minutes.
Stir in the flour and rosemary sprig and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the flour turns golden and loses its raw smell. Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring as the sauce thickens. Then gradually add 1/2 cup of heavy cream, stirring all the while, followed by the buttermilk. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens nicely. Turn off the heat and stir in the pecorino. Let cool slightly, remove the rosemary sprig and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir the cooked vegetables into the sauce until well combined.
Remove galette dough from fridge and roll out on a floured surface to about 1/8″ thick.
Divide the vegetable mixture evenly between two small casseroles or oven-proof bowls. Cut out two pastry rounds about 1/2″ larger in circumference than the bowls and lay over each bowl. Crimp the edges as you would a pie. Cut slits in the top and brush all over with the remaining tablespoon of cream. Sprinkle a little salt or chile pepper over the top if you like.
Place pot pies on a baking sheet (they may bubble over a bit) and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove, cool slightly and enjoy right away. Once entirely cooked and cooled, you can wrap and freeze. Reheat in a 325ºF oven, directly from freezer.
makes enough for two 10″ tarts
- 2 cups flour (I used C4C gluten-free)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 6 ounces unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup ice water
Combine the flour, salt and sugar (the sugar helps the pastry brown). The butter should be cool—not cold and hard, but not too soft either. Cut half the butter into the flour mixture and work it in lightly until the dough is roughly the texture of cornmeal. Add the other half of the butter in marble-size chunks. Work it into the dough very briefly, leaving the butter in unevenly incorporated bits. Lightly fork in the ice water just until evenly moistened. Divide and gather the dough into two balls, cover separately with plastic wrap, and knead very lightly through the plastic wrap, forming the dough into two even disks.
Refrigerate the dough and let it rest at least 1 hour. It can be kept for a day in the refrigerator and frozen, well wrapped, for 2 months. Allow time outside the refrigerator for the dough to warm until it is just soft enough to be rolled out on a floured surface.