Cold weather and busy days. There’s so much I’d like to get done before the new year, but the short days run by so quickly, and I’m left wondering to myself how it’s so easy to stay up so late knitting by the fire when the nights are so long.
There are lettuce and collard starts to nestle into the garden between cold fronts, trash and debris and the unwanted clutter to clear out after Christmas, and the summer garden to dream of. Not to mention more culling of turkeys, hogs and cattle. There is always blood on my hands in this season.
This wonderful savory pie, made with a leftover roasted turkey frame, a pumpkin off the storage shelves, and fresh greens from the garden, spent a good time baking in the warm kitchen while our day whirled with busyness and bustle, and then graced our table with rich pastry and gravy when night had fallen and we gathered round the table as the French say, “Back to the fire, belly to the table.”
Step one is to make broth. It’s easier than pie, you just put as much of the leftover turkey, bones and all, as you can fit in the largest pot you own, and fill it with water. Then you set it over a reasonable fire, where it bubbles gently and smells tempting like holidays, until you have a good broth. If you have the head and feet or neck, provided it wasn’t added to the Christmas gravy, they will improve the broth even more.
When you have a good, caramel- colored and flavorful broth simmered up, take the pot off the stove to cool a bit while you make the pastry. These are my instructions, copied from my old-fashioned pumpkin pie recipe, to save time ( I’m sure you will understand), of how I make pastry, which is one of the things even my picky children will admit i am good at:
I start with a good-sized mixing bowl. I dump what looks like about 4 cups of flour into it. I add a generous pinch of salt, the kind of pinch you use the flats of three of your fingers for instead of the tips of thumb and forefinger.
Next I add a hunk of butter about the size of a good-sized egg, the size of a mature laying hen, not a pullet egg. I work the butter into the flour with my fingers, crumbling it into the flour.
I know it has enough butter worked it when it looks like bread crumbs but when I squeeze it in my fist it clings together in a dry, crumbly clod. I leave large crumbs for flaky texture, and small crumbs for tenderness.
Now I add a splash of cream cold from the fridge, or maybe milk if we are short on cream. Sometimes water of there is no milk, but that’s like starvation rations. You won’t get as good of a pie crust with water. I add it very careful, so the dough won’t get too wet, kneading gently with my hands as I add it just a little splash at a time. Maybe I’ll add a little flour again if I accidentally put to big a splash in and the dough is too wet. It should be a rich, buttery dough that won’t stick to your hands and works easily.
Make a double recipe of this for a large turkey pie. I made mine in an oblong baking pan with high sides so there would be plenty of leftovers for quick meals. Next you divide the dough in half, and roll out the first half to be the bottom crust:
By now the turkey frame will likely be cool enough to pull out of the pot and have all the remaining meat picked off of it. The meat goes at the bottom of the pie in a layer. Season it gently with salt and pepper.
Now put the broth back on to boil. While it is heating, chop up the greens and peel and chop the pumpkin into appealingly small pieces. I didn’t say wash because I never have to wash my greens I pick straight from the garden. But of course the same rule applies here as to small children, if they are sandy and need washing, wash them.
Now the broth is boiling lightly, and it’s time to add the vegetables for just a few minutes to cook. It helps to have all the ingredients cooked in the filling first before baking, to be sure of even cooking. No good crunching on a piece of raw pumpkin in your pie!
When the vegetables are soft, spoon them out of the broth on top of the chicken, and season with salt and pepper.
Now, the gravy.
I start with a roux, French- style. Melt a big chunk of butter (like the size of an egg) in a pan with a couple of spoonfuls of flour. Stir then together once the butter has started to melt, and let it bubble and cook gently until it starts to smell of hot buttered toast and has a slight golden color.
Now add the broth in ladelfuls as you stir it while it thickens. It will still be hot from cooking the vegetables. Add ladelfuls until you get a good gravy, not too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remembering that the other ingredients have already been seasoned. Pour into the pie shell.
Now all that remains is rolling out the top crust. You can crimp the edges decoratively if you are so inclined. I left my edges plain, because in some places it wasn’t rolled out enough to crimp (shhhh….).
Bake at 300 F for 45 minutes. Turn up to 350 for 10-15 minutes to brown the crust.
Enjoy the fruits of thriftiness, crusted in toasty pastry and dripping with gravy!