Monday, December 12, 2011

Steak and Mushroom Pot Pies

This is the time of year that I start using “cozy” to describe almost everything.  The Boston brownstones with Christmas trees in their bay windows are cozy.  The Christmas lights hanging in my apartment are cozy.  Rainy Seattle days are cozy.  Earmuffs are cozy.  Decaf soy lattes are cozy.  There are also many dinners that are cozy.  Pot pies are the epitome of a cozy meal- especially when they are filled with steak and mushrooms.  This is the type of dinner you should eat when snow is swirling outside your door and you are bundled up in a scarf. 

The filling smells delicious while it is simmering- and the longer it simmers, the better it will taste.  It is an easy recipe to make ahead of time for a dinner party.  All that needs to be done at the last minute is adding the puff pastry on top. For a yummy veggie pot pie recipe, I will refer you to my friend Nellie's blog- Banana Gulch (warning- the post contains mouthwatering pictures of "lardy cakes" that you will want to eat). 

Addison talked me into adding a dash of bitters to the filling so I’ve included it in the recipe.  He uses bitters in a lot of his cocktails, and apparently you can use them in food too.  Bitters are an “aromatic flavoring agent made from infusing roots, barks, fruit peels, seeds, spices, herbs, flowers, and botanicals in high-proof alcohol.”  They add depth of flavor and complexity to drinks and food.  If you want to learn more about bitters and mixing cocktails, read Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons.  In addition to drinks, he devotes a whole section to using bitters in the kitchen and has some interesting looking recipes. 

serves 6
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 lbs steak, cut into bite sized pieces
Kosher salt
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced and halved
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon thyme, minced
¼ cup sherry
2 bay leaves
1 cup stout beer, (like Guinness)
2 cups beef stock
Dash of angostura bitters, optional
1 tablespoon corn flour mixed with ½ cup milk
Puff pastry, thawed and rolled out slightly
1 egg, beaten

Heat  a tablespoon of canola oil in a large pot.  Add the steak, season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat until browned.  Remove from heat, place on a plate.  Return the pan to heat and add the onion and carrots to the drippings from the steak.  Cook until the vegetables soften.  Remove from heat.  Return the pan to high heat and add another tablespoon of canola oil.  Once the oil is very hot, add the mushrooms to the pot.  Sauté until they begin to release their liquids.  Add the garlic, sherry, and thyme.  Stir until most of the sherry evaporates.  Add the beer to deglaze the bottom of the pan.

Add the steak, carrots, onions, the bay leaves, and beef stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer gently for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours (or longer if you want).  Taste the soup and adjust seasoning.  You can also add a dash of bitters for extra complexity.

When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and distribute the soup amongst 6 bowls.  Cut the pastry into squares big enough to cover the bowls.  Brush the edges of the bowls with the egg, then top with the pastry and pinch edges to seal.  Cut 2 slits in into each pie to allow steam to escape and brush with the remaining egg.  Put the bowls on a baking sheet (in case the soup overflows), and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.

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