Dec 232012

Turkey pot-pie, fresh out of the oven!

The day after Thanksgiving is such a culinary conundrum. You, having just spent three days prepping and cooking food for your Thursday table, are exhausted come Friday. The last thing you want to do is slave over a stove some more. You’re covered for lunch, since you can nosh on turkey sandwiches or, perhaps, a salad composed of your favorite leftovers (which I did again this year), but what do you do when it comes time for dinner? You could indulge your inner child and just have pumpkin pie (topped with your very own bourbon whipped cream, natch), but if you’re sick of sweet stuff, may I suggest a more savory pie?

Rolling out crust for pot pie

Now, you may be rolling your eyes at me since I just acknowledged that the last thing you want to do is slave over a stove, but stick with me because I promise it’s worth it. This dish is in the classic tradition of re-inventing your leftovers into something completely different, and if you’ve already taken certain steps during your Thanksgiving prep, you’ll have shockingly little to do. For example: make two pie crusts instead of just the one that’s required for your pumpkin confection and save it in your fridge and you have a ready-made crust for your pot-pie. Use leftover turkey instead of poaching something anew. Make a couple of extra cups of stock during your Thanksgiving prep, or borrow a couple cups from the turkey stock that’s simmering away on the stove (because you are going to make soup, right?). Cheat and reach for a couple of freezer-veggies, saving you some prep. Yes, there’s a roux. Don’t let that scare you off though, as it’s the easiest roux ever. Banish from your mind the memory of stirring that roux for étouffée for a half-hour straight.

Crust cut-out

So this recipe is an example of a post-Thanksgiving success. In fact, it was so successful, that we’ve decided that it’s a new tradition for us. After all, it’s a home-made gravy chock full of deliciousness nestled under a home-made blanket of pastry goodness, and it’s a way to use your turkey without having to resort to sandwiches. What’s not to love?

And for good measure, here’s the cell-phone-photo I took of the original pot pies (as the other photos were taken from pies made later from left-over components). My Mom cut a “p”-shaped vent-hole for my Dad’s initial and was quite put out that I did boring traditional slits instead of using letters for the rest of them!

Turkey pot-pies!!!

Poultry Pot-Pie
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipe
Serves 6-8

This recipe was updated on June 23, 2013 to reflect changes in the way I make it. I’ve added some veg and made the filling dairy-free because the dairy-free version is actually superior to the original. It was updated againon December 4, 2013 to reflect further improvements. Enjoy!


  • Everything in this recipe can be prepared ahead of time. You can make the pie crusts several days in advance and the chicken-veg-sauce mixture can be made ahead of time as well. Just be sure to reheat the mixture before topping with the crust and baking.
  • Before I eliminated dairy, I made this recipe with a butter/duck-fat crust and it was hands-down the best crust I have ever made. It was super-flaky and just shattered when you bit into it. If you can get your hands on duck fat, the crust is a must-try!
  • If you need a dairy-free crust, see the variations section for instructions.

You will need:

  • For the crust:
    • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces), divided
    • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
    • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 1/4-inch slices
    • 1/4 cup chilled lard, duck fat, or, less preferably, solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
    • 2 tablespoons vodka, cold
    • 2 tablespoons cold water
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour for rolling out the dough
    • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme and rosemary, minced
  • For the filling:
    • 1 1/2 pounds left-over turkey, chicken, or duck (white, dark, or a mix of both), shredded or chopped into bite-sized pieces
    • 3 1/2 cups chicken turkey, chicken, or duck stock
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
    • 1 1/2-2 cups chopped leeks (best choice), frozen pearl onions, thawed or 1 large onion, chopped fine
    • About 1 cup dry white wine, divided
    • 3 medium carrots, halved or quartered length-wise and cut cross-wise 1/4-inch thick
    • 2 small ribs celery, cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
    • About three medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed into small bite-sized pieces OR 1 1/2 cup of leftover smashie ‘tatoes
    • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
    • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
    • 4 tablespoons turkey, chicken, or duck fat; unsalted butter; or olive oil;
    • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • Several sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

To prepare:

  1. Make the pie dough: process 3/4-cup flour and salt in a food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and lard and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no un-coated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/2-cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days, or freeze for up to six months.
  3. Make the filling: pre-heat the oven to 400F. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks (or onions) and sauté for few minutes, until they are beginning to turn transparent. Add a good glug of wine (enough to put 1/4-1/2 inch of wine at the bottom of pan) and braise the onions in wine until it is evaporated. Add the celery and carrots and sauté until they are deeply browned. When done, combine the veg, potatoes, peas, and poultry meat in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Make the roux: reduce the heat in the pan to medium low and add the butter, oil, or fat. Heat until the butter’s foaming has subsided (or the fats have melted and become fragrant) and add the flour. Cook, stirring with a whisk, about 1 minute. Whisk in the stock and the thyme. Bring to a simmer and keep at a simmer until the sauce has thickened, about a minute. Season to taste and stir in the wine a few tablespoons at a time, tasting between additions until it tastes right to you.
  5. Assemble the pie: pour the sauce over the poultry-veg mixture and stir until well-combined. Transfer the mixture to a 13×9-inch baking dish or divide it into 6-8 individual oven-safe bowls.
  6. Generously flour a counter-top with most of the 1/4-cup flour. Sprinkle the flour with half the herbs, place the dough on top, and sprinkle with the rest of the flour and herbs. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8-inch, approximately 15×11 inches if making one large pie. If you are making individual pies, cut out circles of crust about 1/4-inch larger than the bowls’ circumference. Lay the dough over the containers. You can flute the edge if you like, but it’s not necessary. Cut at least four vent holes. If making small pies, line a baking sheet with parchment-paper or foil and place the pies on it. Transfer pies to oven and bake, 30 minutes for large pies and 20-25 minutes for individual pies, until the pastry is browned and the filling is bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.


  • You can make this with uncooked poultry too: poach 1 1/2-2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts in the stock for 8-10 minutes (or until done). Remove the poultry, reserve the broth, and shred the meat with two forks into bite-sized pieces. Proceed as directed above.
  • Make the crust dairy-free:
    • Lard, duck fat, and the like are very soft. You can certainly replace all of the butter with one of those fats, but your dough will be very soft and difficult to work with (and will need to chill in a colder environment than the fridge, though you should not let it freeze solid), so I don’t recommend it for pie-crust newbies. Instead, use the following method:
    • Use 5 tablespoons refined coconut oil plus 1 tablespoon cold water in place of the butter. This oil doesn’t taste like coconut so you don’t have to worry about it affecting flavor but is hard enough that your dough will be workable (unlike an all-lard crust). You use the extra water to mimic the fact that butter is approximately 80% butterfat and 20% water, which will help your crust form layers.
    • To make: combine the coconut oil and 1 tablespoon water in a food processor. Process until the two are emulsified together, leaving behind a very soft coconut oil. Transfer the mixture to a small plate and chill for a few minutes until it is hard. Then proceed with the recipe — there’s no need to clean out the food-processor work-bowl.
    • This crust lacks the proteins that butter has that contribute to the golden-brown color, so if you want those golden tones, before baking, lightly brush the crust with an egg wash to give the crust some color.

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