An Ode to the Pot Pie

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chicken pot pieOne of the best ways to use up uninteresting leftovers is to make a potpie. Chances are you have everything already in your fridge to do this. Making a pot pie, from leftover veggies, chicken, or other meats is a great and delicious way to not only use up those odd bits in your fridge, but gives you the opportunity to treat yourself and your family to one of the all-time favourite comfort foods. And because the pot pie is made up of leftovers which have already been cooked, it is as quick as it is easy, eliminating the need to buy another round of groceries by stretching what you already have on hand, and cutting down on the time needed to use the oven.

Think ahead when planning dinner, throw an extra chicken breast in the pan to use for potpie later in the week. You can also use fish, pork or sausage in the filling. Salmon and potatoes with a cream gravy or pork and peas and carrots in a brown gravy, both make great variations on the traditional.

Shepherd’s pie –or a variation thereof-is a classic dish that everyone likes, and is one of  the smartest and most economical methods to solve the riddle of the leftover. Shepherd’s pie is traditionally topped with mashed potatoes, differentiating itself from the pastry-topped pot pie. Drop biscuits or dumplings can serve as great tops as well.

You can make a pot pie with any of last night’s dinner; chicken, beef, turkey, and any veggies, gravies or even soup that you have on hand.  Originally Shepherd’s pie was made with lamb or mutton, and is often referred to as Cottage pie as well. No matter what you name it, or whether your meat is ground beef or chunks of chicken, this meal is a one-dish wonder.

If you have mashed potatoes, use them as your topping. If they were boiled or roasted, you can use them in the “body” of your pie, cut into chunks, or smash up half of them with cauliflower or yams or sweet potatoes. I like to mix leftover stuffing that is seasoned with sage or savory into leftover mashed potatoes and use it as a topping for a chicken or turkey pot pie. So simple, no pastry required. A stroke of delicious genius.

Note that not all veggies, because of their distinctive or strong flavour, will work well in a potpie. Broccoli and asparagus are not recommended as they tend to “take over.”  These are best used for an eponymous soup, or just heated up as is. Root veggies such as parsnip, celeriac, sunchokes, carrots, rutabagas or turnips, cut into small chunks work well.

Served with a side salad, a potpie is a complete meal. If you are a stickler for details, come up with your own clever name for it, maybe “Huntsman’s Pie” if you are using game or a combination of proteins, or how about “Farmer’s pie”?  Or name it after the kid that helps you make it: “Calvin’s Meat Pie.” Just leave the word “Leftovers” out of the title and you should be good to go.

Calvin’s Pot Pie

This is just a rough outline for this dinner as your ingredients and amount will of course vary, but Calvin says you can use it as a guide.

-Cut up (if they are not already so) leftover veggies into bite-sized pieces

-Cut meat into bite sized pieces

-Add small veggies like peas or corn

-Mix in bowl with enough leftover gravy or soup to make a sauce

-Put in baking dish, or small oven-proof serving dishes

-Top with mashed potatoes; dot with butter

Place in warm oven for twenty minutes, then place under broiler

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