Is there anything better in the winter than a bowl of steaming stew? Soft cubes of meat, melting into silky smooth gravy, studded with bright carrots and peas, mixed with earthy mushrooms, and occasional clove of sweet soft garlic. How about all this, but covered in flakey cheddar pastry with a hint of fresh dill?
I first made this stew a year ago in December after hosting my annual family Holiday Dinner for 12 and having lots of roast beef leftovers. Since then I made this pot pie with different beef leftovers and lamb as well. I am almost positive that it can be made with leftover turkey, but I haven’t made it myself.
What I love about this recipe is that once you have your roast meat leftovers, it comes together easy - you only need to chop some carrots, onions, and mushrooms, cook for a few minutes, then add already cooked cubed beef, cover with beer, and stew for an hour or so until all the flavours are melded together. Before you start cooking the stew, make the Cheddar Dill crust which comes together easily in a food processor. Here’s a tip: you can use ready-made puff pastry too if you’d like, but this cheddar dill crust is really flavourful and I highly recommend trying it at least once.
When the stew is cooked, it’s thickened with a quick roux - paste made out of flour, fat, and stew liquid. At this point, stew is ready and can be eaten just like that in a big bowl with a hunk of crusty bread, but making it into a Pot Pie makes this humble leftover meal more special.
What I like about this pot pie is that it helps stretch leftovers quite a lot. Meat that would normally be enough for two people, now can feed easily six; and this pie looks so impressive that no-one would even think that it’s made with leftovers.
My husband kept asking me to make this Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar Crust the whole year, until I finally made it without any leftovers. I actually cooked a pot roast on purpose just to make this Pot Pie. I used Canadian Angus ABF Beef Roast from M&M Meat Shops. It was perfect for this stew as it was already seasoned really well with a delicious blend of garlic and savoury spices. I also used my favourite time-saver Frozen Diced Onions.
Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar Crust
Butter, salted, cold - 1 stick
Dill, chopped - 4 tablespoons
Cheddar, grated - 1 cup packed
Dry mustard - 1/2 teaspoon
Sugar - 1 tablespoon
Flour - 1 1/4 cup
Ice water - 1/4 cup
Vermouth (or water) - 1 tablespoon (optional)
Oil - 1 tablespoon
Diced onion - 1 1/2 cup
Carrot, diced into pea-size pieces - 1 large (about 3/4 cup)
Thyme - 4 sprigs
Garlic - 1 head (whole head of garlic!)
Mushrooms, chopped - 2 cups (~1/2 pound)
Cooked leftover roast beef, cubed into 1 inch pieces - 4 cups
Beer - 1 bottle (330 ml)
Frozen peas - 2/3 cup
Spices as needed
Fat, either leftover fat from beef cooking or butter - 2 tablespoons
Flour - 2 tablespoons
Liquid from the stew, about 1 cup
- Make the crust.
- Cut cold butter into a few pieces.
- Add all the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse for a few seconds until butter is incorporated into the flour in pea-size pieces.
- Add ice water and pulse a few times until mixture starts to come together into a ball.
- If more liquid is needed, add Vermouth (or water).
- To test if the dough is done, take a small amount and squeeze, it should stick together, if not add more liquid a drop at a time.
- Once the dough is done, pat it into a disk, wrap in a plastic wrap and place in the fridge for an hour or so
- I always have trouble with pie pastry. There’s never enough liquid and it never comes together as it should. I love adding alcohol into pastry as it provides moisture for the flour while I mix the dough, but evaporates quickly when cooked. Also Vermouth has a lovely earthy flavour and I just love cooking with it.
- When you pat the dough into a circle, it may still be crumbly even if it sticks together when squeezed. It is fine to leave it crumbly like this in a plastic wrap. It will get more cohesive in the fridge.
- Make the stew.
- In a large pot heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add diced onions, cook for 3-4 minutes on medium until they start to soften.
- Add leaves and stems of thyme, 1 pressed clove of garlic, diced carrots, and mushrooms. Cook for another 4-5 minutes to soften.
- Add cubed beef and all the juices from it. Save the fat if there’s some.
- Add the rest of whole, peeled garlic cloves.
- Add beer, bring to boil, reduce heat so that mixture just simmers, close the lid and cook for about 45-60 minutes until everything is soft and cooked well. It may be even just half an hour, depending on your stove.
- Taste for seasoning while the stew is cooking and add more spices as needed. I added a tablespoon of organic chicken stock powder when I made this stew.
- If there’s not enough liquid, add some water.
- Once the stew is cooked, add frozen peas.
- Make the roux.
- In a small pot melt either 2 tablespoons of butter or leftover fat from roast beef.
- Add flour and whisk together, mixture will become really dry.
- Slowly ladle some of the stew liquid into the pot about 1/4 cup at a time constantly whisking.
- Mixture should become thick and smooth. Consistency of a fondue or a very thick yogurt.
- Once it’s proper consistency, add it back to the pot of stew and mix well.
- Assemble the pot pie.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Pour the stew into a deep 9-inch pie plate.
- Lightly dust working surface with flour and place cold unwrapped pastry dough on it.
- Roll it into a 1/4 inch thick and a bit wider than 9-inch circle.
- If it’s too difficult to roll because it’s cold, hit it with a rolling pin a few times. If the pastry is too crumbly and breaks on occasion, just take another piece of dough and patch it.
- Cover the pie plate with the stew with the rolled dough, pinching the sides and cutting off extra dough.
- Cut a few slits in the pie shell to let the air escape.
- Place the pie plate onto a baking sheet to catch the stew if it bubbles out.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and fully baked. The time may be less for some people as my oven always takes a lot longer to bake everything.
- Don’t throw out the extra pieces of dough, bake them alongside the pie - the dough will become the most delicious flakey savoury cheese cookies.
I know it looks like a very involved and complicated recipe, but I promise you it's not. There are only a few key steps: make the crust, make the stew, make the roux, assemble the pot pie.
Crust comes together in about five minutes or even less in a food processor.
Stew is also really quick, especially if you use frozen diced onions. I also used washed and pre-sliced mushrooms from Costco, I only roughly ran my knife through them to make them a bit smaller. So, in the end, the only thing you need to do for the stew is dice the carrots, peel garlic, and dice the beef. Also, you can buy ready made peeled garlic, so it's even easier.
Roux isn't scary either - cook flour and fat together, it will look dry and crumbly and not liquid at all, which is the point. Add some of the liquid from the stew to make a thick paste and add back to the stew. Easy!
Now just roll the dough, which to me is the most difficult part usually, but if it breaks or splits, it's ok, just patch it with another piece - it'll all come together in the oven. And then bake.
Disclaimer: this post is NOT sponsored by M&M Meat Shops. I only discovered their ingredients last month and I can't imagine cooking without them now.