For some reason I am not a big fan of having turkey on Thanksgiving but I LOVE having turkey on Christmas Day. This year we had three guests for Christmas dinner and that precipitated making a whole turkey versus just a turkey breast. I had plenty of practice over this past year making bone-in turkey breasts but I never really had a lot of luck making a whole turkey, that is until this year…
I found two tricks that finally rendered me a perfectly cooked bird. One, making sure that the bird was completely defrosted (and I found it takes longer than what is written which is one day in the refrigerator for every four pounds – plus the importance of removing the guts as soon as possible so you don’t harbor an ice ball in the cavity) and second to roast it at 350 when conventional wisdom says to roast the bird at 325. Needless to say, my bird turned out perfectly this year – the very first time I’ve ever done a whole turkey the right way. So if you are struggling with making a whole turkey, have faith. It only took me several years to finally get it right!
But, this blog is not about roasting a turkey. It’s about what you can do with the leftovers. And for me, one of the best comfort food recipes you can make with leftover turkey is turkey pot pie. And believe me, you will have greater success making this than learning how to roast the perfect turkey.
I like this recipe because you can use just about anything you have leftover in it. I had some mushrooms that I cut up and sautéed and had a bag of frozen vegetables that had green beans, corn, peas, carrots and celery. But you can use frozen peas and carrots, or a broccoli cauliflower medley – really any bag of frozen veggies you have will do the trick. It really takes no time to put together the filling and within 25 minutes after that you have a delicious meat pie that no one will ever consider a leftover. Here are some lessons I learned while making this recipe:
Lesson Learned 1 – Don’t take the easy way out and use canned soup for the filling: Have you ever read the labels of many canned soups? The amount of sodium in them is unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a proponent of no salt, but when you use processed foods sodium is used as a preservative as well as a seasoning. It is so easy to make the filling from scratch and you can use unsalted chicken stock which has only 5% sodium in it versus the 36% sodium you get in a canned soup! That’s a big difference.
One thing I learned as I became more adept in the kitchen is how easy certain things are to make that I had been, out of habit and lack of knowledge, using previously as pre-prepared or processed. True sometimes they can be very convenient, but when you look at what you may be putting into your system on a regular basis it makes you take pause. Making a simple roux and using unsalted chicken stock creates the same creaminess and flavor as a canned soup, and I would venture to say it gives even greater flavor. I also know that time is a factor for most people and therefore convenience is important. But believe me, in this case, making a simple roux and using unsalted chicken stock takes no time and in the end is much better for you.
Lesson Learned 2 – If you really want convenience, use prepackaged pie crusts: I am still in the process of mastering the homemade pie crust but must admit that part of my reluctance to do so is based on the fact that the ones you can by pre-made are so darn good. If you are a purist, then make your own pie crust. There are tons of recipes out there to choose from. But for me, I like the convenience of the pre-made dough. The trick is to let the dough come to room temperature before using it. Don’t just let it sit in the fridge and then pull it out and use it. Let it sit on the counter for about an hour and the dough will not only be easier to work with but also will give you the best results.
Lesson Learned 3 – Working with pie crust dough: I unrolled the pie crust dough and put my pie dish on top of it. I used small individual pie plates six inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches deep (I had to use both pieces of dough), and cut out a piece of dough that was one inch longer than each dish all the way around. Don’t be fooled into thinking your pie crust needs to look pretty. Once you have the filling in the dish, put the pie crust on top, fold the edges under and crimp them. Cut a couple of slits in the center to let out the steam. Be prepared, you will probably have some mixture dripping out of the sides while it cooks. That is the beauty of the pot pie. What I did to mitigate the mess was to put both dishes on a foil lined baking sheet that was sprayed with cooking spray. That way any dripping during the cooking process did not stick to the baking sheet or prevent me from removing the dishes from the baking sheet.
This is a pretty basic recipe and one most cooks, even the novice ones, can master the first time around. And it is so darn good. I like the idea of making individual pot pies, but you can also adapt this recipe by putting it all into a 10 inch cast iron skillet and topping the skillet with the pie crust. Then you’ll have one big pie that you can proportion out.
Turkey Pot Pie…
3 cups diced cooked turkey
1/2 tsp. dried sage or poultry seasoning
1 tsp. sweet paprika
3 – 4 Tbs. butter
3 – 4 Tbs. flour
I 16 ounce bag of frozen vegetables, a vegetable medley preferred
1 cup pearl onions, frozen or jarred
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
I package store bought pie crusts
1 egg, slightly beaten with a dash of water
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large deep pan melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the pearl onions and frozen vegetables and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika and sage. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. (At this point look at the amount of butter you have in the pan. If there is hardly any, add another tablespoon and melt it. Just make sure you use equal parts of butter and flour). Sprinkle the flour all throughout the pan and whisk it with the vegetable mixture for about a minute. Add the chicken stock and stir until it starts to thicken. (You will notice it thickening once it begins to get hot and bubbly. If it does not thicken, you can always add an additional amount of a little flour and water whisked together to get it to thicken). Once it has thickened, add the heavy cream and turkey and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Take the mixture off of the heat.
Lightly flour your counter and unfold one pie crust disc. Place a 6 x 1 1/2 inch individual glass pie pan on the crust. Cut the crust so that the edges are 1 inch longer than the outer edges of the pan. Repeat this process with the second piece of dough and pie pan.
Spoon the prepared filling into each pie pan. Place the dough over the top of each pan, tucking the excess edges under themselves. Crimp the edges with your fingers. Whisk together the egg and water and brush the crusts evenly with the egg wash. Using a sharp knife cut two vents in the center of the crust.
Place the pie plates on a baking sheet that is lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the inside mixture is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.