I can't be the only one who buys a turkey much larger than needed to feed the family and friends who gather around the table for Thanksgiving dinner. I can't be the only cook who finds, at the end of the traditional meal, that a heaping dish of mashed potatoes will seem to have disappeared only slightly and cooked carrots will languish in their crystal serving dish, butter sauce beginning to congeal around them. I do have an excuse for this. I was raised by a mother whose motto was, "It's better to have too much food than not enough."
This year, what's left of the bird, after late-in-the-day snacks of turkey sandwiches, will go into little pies. Pot pies. Homemade pot pies.
Chunks of cooked turkey and tender vegetables will rest on a bed of mashed potatoes. Their blanket will be a creamy, flavorful white sauce. Their garnish - an already baked pastry crust.
There are so many things to love about these individual-size Turkey Pot Pies. Each bite brings comfort along with delicious flavor. The filling can be made in advance and refrigerated until meal time. I like to bake the crust toppers ahead of time rather than right on the pies. This gives each person the option of having a pot pie with or without crust. When you use a little cookie cutter to remove a small shape from the middle of each crust, the little cutouts can bake right along with the toppers. For those who want more than a topper or for those who just need a nibble, these little baked shapes come in handy.
Refrigerated or frozen pie crust dough from the grocery store will be perfect for this recipe. If you have time and love to make your own pastry dough, do it. I happened to have some Rich Pastry Dough in my refrigerator, left after making another batch of Sweet Surprise Holiday Tartlets. This is the dough I raved about in my column a couple of weeks ago. And no wonder. There are so many ways to use it. This time the rich dough created several flaky, melt-in-your-mouth toppers for the little pot pies.
So, grab the cooked turkey and pull the leftover mashed potatoes out of the refrigerator. And if you have any leftover vegetables, they can be stirred into the creamy filling, too.
Bake individual Turkey Pot Pies or make one large pie in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
You won't believe how good those leftovers can taste when they wind up hiding under a golden crust. It makes having too much food rather than not enough a Thanksgiving tradition to appreciate.
Turkey Pot Pie
Pastry dough for 2 (9-inch) crusts
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 medium carrots, thickly sliced, about 2 cups
3 ribs of celery, sliced
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped
2½ cups chicken broth
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas
1 pound cooked turkey, cut into ½- to 1-inch chunks
Leftover mashed potatoes
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried herbs of choice for seasoning
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out pastry as for pie. Cut circles from the dough, sized to fit right on top of the bowls you will be using. Place the pastry rounds on prepared baking sheets. Use a small cookie cutter to make an opening in each round of dough. Place the dough cutouts on the same baking sheet. Brush pastry dough with beaten egg yolk and water mixture. Bake the pastry in preheated 425-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer baked pastry to a wire rack to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepot. Sauté onions, carrots and celery for 3 to 5 minutes. Add bay leaves, parsley, chicken broth and wine. Bring to a boil. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove vegetables from broth and place in a bowl. Set broth and vegetables aside.
Melt ¼ cup of butter in a medium sauté pan. Stir in flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat. Gradually stir in 2 cups of the reserved broth. Cook and stir until thickened.
In a small bowl, beat 2 egg yolks. Gradually beat in a ladle-full of the thickened sauce. Blend well. Stir the yolk mixture into the thickened sauce in sauté pan, blending well. Add cream and stir over heat to thicken. Do not allow the sauce to boil. Add nutmeg, black pepper, seasonings and salt to taste.
Butter the bottom of each bowl or ramekin. Use a spoon to push some mashed potatoes into the bottom of each bowl. Layer cooked vegetables, peas and turkey on top of the potatoes. Ladle sauce over all. Place filled bowls on a baking pan with sides. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until sauce is bubbling around the edges of each bowl. Remove foil, top each with a round of pastry and bake a few more minutes to heat the crust. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Tips from the cook
--If you'd rather not use wine, just leave it out and add an extra ½ cup of chicken broth.
--My herbs of choice were dried thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, marjoram and basil all mixed together to equal 1 teaspoon.
--To make these pot pies in advance, refrigerate the turkey filling and keep baked crusts in a tightly sealed container at room temperature. Bake the cold pot pies for 35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling, then place crusts on top of each and bake another 5 minutes. Unbaked pot pies can be covered tightly and kept frozen for two or three weeks. Just defrost them before baking. It's a perfect option after a day of holiday shopping.