This was the main course for the lunch I served when I had neighborhood friends over for a Jane Austen party (see my post, A Taste of Britain Menu ). I've taken some liberties with the way pot pies are more commonly made in England--from what I've read those are more often topped with biscuits or mashed potatoes (Shepherd's Pie).
This recipe is basically a thickened beef stew with puff pastry crust on top. I used the convenience of frozen puff pastry, peas, carrots, and pearl onions in my recipe. The result is a relatively easy pot pie recipe. I used elements of recipes from Cuisine at Home online and the Cook's Illustrated's The Best Make-Ahead Recipe Cookbook in coming up with this recipe. This also can be made as one big giant pot pie (in a 9x13 dish); but I thought it would be more fun to make small, individual pies for my friends.
You can make these pot pies and cook them right away; or make them ahead, refrigerate or freeze them, and cook them later. I made mine the day before, so it was easy to pop them in the oven the next day. After all, I was watching Pride and Prejudice with friends and didn't want to be in the kitchen cooking!
Step-by-step photos for making Individual Beef Pot Pies.
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients: frozen puff pastry, olive oil, beef sirloin or chuck roast, salt, pepper, mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), tomato paste, garlic, thyme, rosemary, dry sherry, beef broth, red potatoes, frozen pearl onions, frozen peas/carrots, cornstarch, parsley, egg.
Step 2. Prepare the top crust. I didn't use a bottom crust, making the recipe easier and healthier. I used frozen Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry for a light, crispy, flaky crust. It needs to defrost in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before using it. I needed 2 boxes to cover 7 individual pot pies. (You can use a prepared pie crust; or make your own crust, if you prefer.) More information about thawing and working with puff pastry here.
Step 3. Gently unfold a sheet of thawed puff pastry. The 2 sheets each measure approx. 9-1/2 inches square. On a lightly floured surface, I rolled them out to a 10" square so that I could cut two crusts to a sheet. I recommend you do the same. Before you cut, invert your individual bowls or ramekins on top of the pastry to determine how to use the pastry sheet most efficiently. If you're using smaller bowls, you may be able to get 3 or 4 pastry tops per sheet.
Step 4. I used Corning Wear 16 oz. covered baking dishes (purchased mine at Bed Bath and Beyond). This recipe makes enough to fill 7 of these. Invert the bowl on top of the pastry sheet, and cut around it with a knife.
Step 5. (optional) Use a small cookie cutter to cut shapes from the leftover pastry. These are used to decorate the top of the pie--it really makes the pies look special. I chose heart shapes, since this was a Jane Austen party and the story is all about love. (Also would be perfect for a Royal Wedding party meal!) 3 small hearts per top crust. Repeat until you have the needed number of pie crusts and shapes.
Step 6. After cutting the pie crusts and shapes, move them to a parchment or wax paper covered tray. Put plastic wrap or more parchment/wax paper between layers. Cover the top layer with plastic wrap and put into the fridge until you're ready to assemble the pies. They can keep this way until the next day, if you're making these ahead.
Now it's time to cut the veggies, herbs, and meat.
Step 7. Slice or chop the mushrooms. I like my mushrooms chopped up pretty small so they distribute well throughout to flavor the beef stew.
Step 8. Chop the potatoes into approx. 1 inch pieces. No need to peel them.
Step 9. Mince the rosemary. (Or, use dried)
Step 10. Strip the thyme leaves off of the stems. (Or, use dried)
Step 11. Chop the parsley.
Step 12. Cut the beef into 3/4" cubes.
Now it's time to cook!
Step 13. Pat the meat dry with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a Dutch oven over med-high heat, add some olive oil, then half of the beef.
Cook it until the liquid is gone and meat is browned. Remove cooked meat to a plate and cook the 2nd batch of meat. Remove cooked meat to a plate.
Step 14. Add a little more olive oil to the pan, then add the mushrooms. Cook until the liquid is gone.
Step 15. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds.
Step 16. Add the dry sherry, stir and scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan.
Step 17. Add the beef broth and potatoes.
Step 18. Add the beef. Bring to boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook until potatoes are cooked and beef is tender--approx. 30-45 min.
Step 19. Add onions. (These need to be thawed before adding them.)
Step 20. Make a slurry with corn starch and water; add it to the stew.
Step 21. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened; approx. 2 minutes.
Step 22. Remove pan from heat; stir in frozen peas/carrots and parsley. These don't need to cook now; they will cook enough when the pies are baked in the oven. This way they don't overcook.
Stir everything together, and you have a thick, delicious beef stew.
Step 23. Fill the individual bowls. Each of my bowls held 2 cups of stew. If you're making these ahead, cover them and put them in the fridge. 6 of the 7 filled bowls are pictured here.
When you're ready to bake the pot pies, remove the bowls and cut pastry tops from the fridge (if you've made them ahead). Or, proceed with this step right away if, if you're making them to eat now.
Step 24. Place a cut pastry on top of each bowl. Stretch it gently and pinch it around the lip of the bowl to prevent shrinkage during cooking.
Step 25. Whisk 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash.
Step 26. Brush each pastry with the egg wash.
(If you prefer, you can put the pastry tops on in advance, cover the bowls with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge. However, don't add the egg wash until right before baking.)
Step 27. Add the cookie-cutter pastry shapes, if using. The egg wash will "glue" them to the pastry top. Then brush the top of the shapes with the egg wash.
Step 28. You can see that these pies all have a shiny coat of egg wash. This gives them a glossy, nicely browned finish as they bake.
These pies are ready for the oven. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easier clean up), and place the bowls on the sheet. Having them all on one baking sheet makes it easier to get them in and out of the oven, and it keeps messy drips off the oven floor.
Step 29. If the pies are at room temperature, bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. If they've come straight from the fridge, they need to cook 10-15 minutes longer. If they're frozen, it will take an hour or more for them to cook.
Keep an eye on these as they bake. If they brown too quickly, loosely cover them with aluminum foil. I covered my for the final 10 minutes of baking.
You know they're hot inside with they're bubbling and starting to leak over the edge of the bowl. (That's when you're thankful for the foil on the baking sheet.)
After removing them from the oven, let them rest for 15-20 minutes before eating. This allows the stew to cool and thicken. They are way too hot to eat straight from the oven.
Break off a piece of the flaky puff pastry with each bite of stew. So yummy!
I saved the last bite for you. I put my heart into it, because I love you. :-)
Make one giant pot pie instead of individual pies.
You can pour the entire beef stew mixture into a 9x13 baking dish. You only need one box of puff pastry--slightly overlap the edges of two side-by-side pastry sheets and press the seam with your fingers to seal them together. Place the pastry sheet on top of the baking dish, trim the edges, brush with egg wash, and bake as described above. Easy!
My other Taste of Britain recipes:
Make it a yummy day!