January is finally rearing it’s ugly head with sub-zero wind chills – although sadly there is nary a snowflake to be found around here, which means I’m just staying bundled inside instead of getting my ski on. With all that time spent inside, Will’s weekend nap times have turned into make-ahead-meal sessions for me. I’ve been knocking out hearty and warm comfort foods left and right, like these pot pies full of classic wintery flavors.
I have the good fortune to have a freezer full of elk at my disposal, which helps seriously cut the fat and pump up the protein for this dish, but a roast-style cut of beef would work just as well. If you happen to have wild game at the ready, this is a great way to keep the lean meat nice and juicy. On the same kind of note, pre-fab pie crust would be a good time saver but if you have the time, the homemade crust is really worth the little bit of extra effort.
1 1/2 lb beef, elk, or venison, trimmed and cut into small chunks
2 C low sodium beef stock
1 C red wine
1/4 C flour
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 C hashbrown potatoes, shredded
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1+ tsp pepper
Combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Cut meat into bite-sized chunks and pat dry with a paper towel. Add to bowl and toss with flour mixture until meat is lightly coated. Meanwhile in a stock pot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, add coated meat to the pan. Cook until meat is just browned, approximately 3-4 minutes. Transfer meat back into your bowl and set aside. This will prevent the lean game meat from overcooking and becoming tough while you cook the vegetables.
Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pot. If needed, add another pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil to prevent scorching. Once vegetables begin to soften, add garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Let vegetables continue to cook for another 5 minutes, then add the red wine and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another 5 minutes, allowing wine to reduce slightly and be absorbed by vegetables.
Next, return the meat to the pot. Add the hashbrowns and the beef stock. Bring the temperature to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Vegetables and meat should be cooked through and sauce should be thickened. Remove from heat and allow filling to cool slightly while you prepare the pie crust.
2 C flour
3/4 – 1 C shortening
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar
1 C ice water (you may not use it all)
mini aluminum loaf tins
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Separately, combine vinegar and ice water. Cut the shortening into the dry mixture in small chunks using a pastry cutter or fork. Begin adding water to the dry mixture, 1-2 Tbsp at a time as you use the pastry cutter or your hands to work the shortening into the flour. Continue adding water until all the flour is worked in and dough just holds together.
Divide dough into 2 balls and place each ball between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Roll out with a rolling pin until dough is flat and thin. Press the bottom and top of a loaf tin into the dough like a cookie cutter to shape the crusts. Use a small knife to cut out the pieces, placing the small one in the bottom of each loaf tin.
Preheat oven to 350. Gently press the bottom crust of dough into the tin. Scoop a heaping ladle of stew filling into each loaf tin. Place top crust on top and gently crimp edges onto the loaf pan.
Bake for 30 minutes if serving immediately. If you are freezing your pot pies, trim a layer of parchment paper to fit the top of the loaf pan. Place on top of crust and wrap twice with heavy duty freezer foil.