Date Night: Spring Vegetable Pot Pie with Thyme Pastry Crust

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pot Pie has become a sort of Friday Night tradition for us this year: kids to bed, bottle of wine, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena followed by Ghost Adventures, and...pot pie. Admittedly even I was getting sick of my chicken pot pies (both regular and curried), so I made a different and even better version if that's even possible, using spring vegetables!

With March's decided step outside of winter, I excitedly wait for fresh asparagus, artichokes, french green beans, scallions, mushrooms, and other gorgeous green veggies to being to "spring" up in the aisles of my local grocery store and local farms. So last Thursday when we returned from our 10 day trip down through the western states and finished a full day's worth of an absurd amount of laundry and unpacking, all I wanted was to snuggle up with my big comfy blanket in front of the fire, pull up the DVR-ed Spartacus finale, and warm up to a piping hot bowl of chicken pot pie. Yes, Friday came a day early! For this, I did use chicken but it can very easily be taken out for an all-veggie option (which I plan to make starting this week for Lent!), and added meaty asparagus and cremini mushrooms. The asparagus and mushrooms added the most wonderful earthy flavor, together with the fresh thyme and woodsy rosemary that the chicken almost seemed to intrude into the party so I'm writing it as "optional" in this recipe. I also made a thyme pastry crust that was both simple and divine, adding flavor and aroma to the whole dish. And the verdict? The Hubsters: "This is the best one you've done yet."

And I couldn't agree more.

Spring Vegetable Pot Pie with Thyme Pastry Crust
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 small white onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped small
1 large celery stalk, ends trimmed and chopped small
6 asparagus, tough end trimmed and cut into 1-inch long pieces

6 cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with damp cloth and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 roasted chicken breast, meat shredded or cut into chunks (optional)
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp water = "slurry" to thicken the gravy
1 recipe thyme pastry crust (recipe follows) or other prepared pastry dough
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp water = egg wash for top of pastry
fleur de sel or other course sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan until butter is melted. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute on medium heat until vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the asparagus, garlic, fresh thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf and cook another minute until garlic is fragrant. Add the broth and chicken if using, and use the liquid to scrape up any "brown bits" that formed at the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low to simmer for 10 minutes to let flavors combine and herbs to infuse. Then add the cornstarch slurry on low heat and mix in to thicken, cooking 30 seconds - 1 minute. Remove promptly from heat and set aside. Transfer mixture to oven-proof casserole dish or individual ramekins and prepare pastry dough.

Roll out your pastry dough to 1/8" thick. If making 1 pot pie, then roll the entire piece out, making sure it's large enough to cover and go over by 1 inch the sides of whatever dish you're using in the oven. If making two individual pies, then cut the dough in half and roll out each piece 1/8" thick. Use extra flour for dusing as needed on your surface and rolling pin.

Gently place the rolled out dough on top of the ramekin or pie dish and crimp overhanging dough in a decorative pattern if desired, or simply crimp to the sides of the dish for a more "rustic" look. Brush the top and sides with the eggwash and sprinkle with sea salt on top if desired. Place pie on baking sheet (to catch any extra dough or gravy oozing out).

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot.

Thyme Pastry Crust
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt
4 tsp ice water
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, picked of the stem

Place the butter, and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until course and butter is size of peas. Add the salt, dried and fresh thyme and pulse a couple of times to combine. Then add the water and mix until the dough forms and comes together into a ball. Remove and transfer dough to a floured surface. Cut the dough in half if making two individual portions; leave whole if making 1 pie. Form into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. The dough is ready to use when you are.

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