In the last month or so of winter I start feeling a bit stagnant in my food creativity. Personally, I’m content to eat the same thing over and over until I get sick of it and move on to the next meal. But to ensure my family eats well, I like to mix it up and keep their interest high. After all, one common reason we tend to fall off the healthy food train is through sheer boredom. Variety isn’t just the spice of life—it’s also the little extra encouragement that some of us need to stay on the path.
I consider pot pie one of those less boring meals that even the pickiest of eaters can enjoy, and I’m not exactly sure why I don’t make it more often. Perhaps because I enjoy eating well in and of itself, so I’m perfectly content with so-called “boring food” as long as it’s nourishing.
Essentially, a pot pie is little more than a stew—individually portioned and encased in some sort of dough. So why not just eat a bowl of stew, instead, right?!? Wrong. Individual servings of stew inside crispy, buttery, golden-brown vessels makes pot pie appealing in a way that stew alone just can’t equal. At least for my family.
The filling in this pot pie originally started out as a stew I served for dinner one night. A couple of days later, I repackaged the leftovers into pot pies, and the reception to each was unique! Though the stew was well-received, the pot pies were a bit more extraordinary. Rather than coming across like leftovers, they gave the impression of a “new” meal. Even better, I barely lifted a finger for any of it, since I made most of the filling in the slow cooker. (Bonus! I already had a small disk of leftover pastry in my freezer.)
Consider this two recipes for the price of one. You can double the recipe to make a stew on one night and pot pies on another—a time-saving task I highly suggest taking advantage of, especially if you’re in the midst of a busy week. The pies work best with chilled filling anyways, so serving this as two separate meals means two times the deliciousness, and it’s super practical to boot. A win-win all around! And while we’re on the subject of time saving, make some extra pastry and keep the discs in your freezer for more yummy pot pies and desserts down the road.
Loaded with tender meat and hearty vegetables, fragrant with fresh herbs, and enveloped with a rich and hearty gravy, the stew itself is delicious and comforting. If you plan to make this into two meals, slightly increase the liquid for the stew, then scoop the chilled leftovers into your serving dishes, leaving behind some of the sauce. This ensures your pot pies will be studded with meat and veggies but not too juicy.
I used my favorite basic pie dough with einkorn flour, lard, and butter, though your own favorite pastry will also work. Sub an alternative flour to make it more friendly for those sensitive to gluten or grains, or even top with biscuit dough for a unique twist.
Serve alone, alongside a simple, crisp salad, or with additional steamed vegetables. No matter how you serve it, you can be sure it will be enjoyed—and it won’t be boring.
Slow Cooker Steak and Vegetable Pot Pie
Makes 6 individual pot pies (if you like, double the recipe to maximize your meals)
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time
Cook time: 8 hours for the filling, plus 45 minutes for the pot pies
For the pastry:
7 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons cold lard (alternately, use all butter)
2 cups whole grain einkorn flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3–5 tablespoons ice water
For the filling:
2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
Beef tallow, bacon fat, or other high-heat stable fat of choice
1 small onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4–6 mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1¼ cups beef broth (add an additional ½ cup for more juiciness if serving as stew)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 4 sprigs fresh
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, or 1 sprig fresh
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons einkorn flour
2–3 medium potatoes, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
½ cup frozen baby peas
Special equipment: 6 ramekins or similar-sized oven-safe dishes (alternately, make 1 family-size pie).
- Prepare pastry: Cut butter and lard into cubes and freeze for 20 minutes. Place chilled butter, lard, flour, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until fat resembles small peas in size. Add a couple tablespoons ice water. Pulse to combine, adding more water if necessary, until dough comes together. Dump out onto counter and press pastry into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate (or freeze to chill faster) until cold, at least 30 minutes.
- Make filling: Season beef cubes with salt and pepper. Heat a little fat in a heavy sauté pan and sear beef cubes, being careful not to crowd in the pan, until browned. Transfer to slow cooker and continue with any remaining beef cubes.
- Melt a little more fat in the pan and add onion and celery. Cook for a couple minutes, then add garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 2 more minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and beef broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add contents of pan to slow cooker, then add herbs and Worcestershire. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.
- Combine flour and a little water together to make a smooth paste. Whisk through the stew. Add potatoes and carrots to slow cooker. Cook on high for 30 minutes, then reduce to low and cook until meat and veggies are very tender, about 4–5 hours longer. Add peas in the final 30 minutes. Add additional broth if you like, for a less thick stew. Serve stew immediately, or chill filling in an ice bath, then proceed with pot pies.
- Prepare pot pies: Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide chilled filling equally among ramekins and set aside while you roll out your dough. Dust a clean workspace with flour and roll dough about ⅛–¼ inch thick. Cut rounds slightly larger than your ramekins. Transfer each piece to the top of your filled dishes. Press dough around edges to seal. Score the top with a knife or cut out a small disk of pastry (I used the larger end of a pastry tube) to release steam. Transfer ramekins to a baking sheet and bake in the center of preheated oven until bubbly and golden-brown, about 35–45 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Image from Briana Goodall.