Individual Beef Pot Pies!

Hello again! A very interesting thing happened recently that changed one of my long held ideas about cooking meat forever! I sent my husband to the grocery store with a short list… and he came back with the wrong things!

Any woman would say, “What is so unusual about that? My husband buys the wrong stuff all the time!” Of course, you would be right about that. But this turned out in ways I never expected.

I needed a 3-4 lb chicken for soup, and some beef chuck to make stew. I had a long held belief… my entire life basically… that any recipe that was going to cook slowly over several hours could be made with an inexpensive cut of meat, because by the time it finished cooking after all those hours it would be very tender and very good. But here is what happened:

First, the chicken. I asked for a certain size, and the only one he could find was an organic chicken. That soup went from tender and very good to melt in your mouth and out of this world delicious, all for a few cents more per pound. I was impressed.

Then came the beef. He couldn’t find any chuck roast, so he came home with a top sirloin. I protested I couldn’t use that for stew! I thought it was too good a piece of meat to use for “just stew.” Absolutely the best pot of stew I have ever tasted. The chunks of meat fell apart with a fork, barely required chewing, and not only did the meat itself taste incredible but so did the broth and vegetables. It was a recipe I had made many times, yet it had never tasted so good. You must understand, in both dishes just a better quality of meat transformed the finished products. I now buy only organic chicken for my soup and good quality roast or steak to cut up for my stew.

This is not to say you can’t use regular fryer chicken, or beef chuck, in things that are going to cook long enough to be tender, because of course you can. But if the extra price per pound is something you can afford, by all means do so! Better meat = better results. Who knew? Needless to say, the husband takes the credit for improving my cooking!

I have made chicken pot pie for my family many times, but I had never tried beef pot pie. I also decided I wanted to make individual pies, just for fun. I must have read twenty different recipes, and nothing really grabbed me, so I put the idea on hold. Well this afternoon my son Joe announced he was coming for dinner. I always love it when he comes over and we all sit and talk over a leisurely dinner. I had been planning on leftovers of some sort, but wanted to make him something special. I thought of the beef pies. I had one box of Omaha steaks left in the freezer from Christmas, a package of 4 sirloins, so I set that out to thaw along with a package of prepared pie crusts. I love to make things from scratch, but I didn’t have much time, and I also didn’t have all the ingredients for any of the recipes I had been looking at. I broke my own rule about always following a recipe exactly the first time I make it. I used certain things from 4 or 5 of the different ones, and then added some things just because I wanted to! I also made his favorite berry cobbler. The pot pies (and the cobbler) were incredibly good. The use of good sirloin (if you’ve never had them, Omaha steaks are the best of the best) and the ease of ready made pie crust made for a terrific dinner. I had the carrots and celery, but no onions. I did find 2 shallots though. I didn’t have fresh mushrooms but I did have canned… I didn’t have any bottles of Guiness but I did have red cooking wine…. well, you get the idea. By the time I was done I had a totally unique recipe, and it was delicious!

So, here it is: cut one pound of sirloin into small cubes. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 1 stick of butter in 2T of olive oil over medium high heat. When hot and foaming, add the beef and brown well on all sides. Scoop out and set aside. With heat on medium, add 3 diced carrots, 2 diced celery stalks, 2 finely diced shallots, and 4 minced garlic cloves. Cook 4-5 minutes until starting to soften. Add 1 4oz can mushroom stems and pieces, well drained. Sprinkle 1T flour over the contents of the pot, and stir well to coat. Pour in 1/2 C red cooking wine, and stir well to deglaze pan, and scrape up the yummy bits from the bottom. Add 1C beef stock and 1C water. Stir well. Generously salt and pepper the beef cubes to taste, and add them back to the pot. Add 1t dried thyme and 1 bay leaf to the pot. Add 1 pinch cayenne pepper (for flavor, not heat) and stir well. Bring to a boil. Mix 2T flour with a splash of water and add to the pot. Stir well, put on lid, and simmer for 45 minutes. Using (depending on size) 4 to 6 individual pie plates or large ramekins, lightly spray them with cooking spray. Roll prepared crusts out on a lightly floured surface to about 12 inches across. Cut circles slightly larger than the size of the dishes. When the meat mixture is done cooking, remove the lid and let cool a bit. Remove the bay leaf. Divide the mixture among the dishes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Fit a circle of crust over each dish, and press to seal. Cut a small slit in the top of each to vent. Make an egg wash by beating one egg with a splash of water. Brush over crusts. Bake in a 425 oven for 30 minutes, til hot and nicely browned. Serve immediately.

These were so incredibly good! It also sort of goes back to what I said in an earlier post about seeing what you have in the fridge and pantry, and making a meal out of it. It can be done! I will share my mixed berry cobbler recipe with you soon. Happy cooking! And eating!

Love, Grammy

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