Maybe it’s my age…or perhaps it’s the fact that I have less in common than I once did with 300-pound human projectiles launching themselves at one another for the sport of it…but I’m content, these days, to fix my attention on the real challenge of Super Bowl Sunday: a winning menu that can compete with the action onscreen.
That’s the task I found myself facing this week, arriving at one delectable highlight, fellow pie lover, that’s right up your alley – Taco Pot Pie.
Talk about match ups! This hearty dish brings together three elements that understand about teamwork: a crunchy cornmeal crust in place of the taco shell. A spicy, chili-like filling. And a cream cheese-ranch-and-Cheddar topping to smother it all in a soft cheesy blanket. Good, you ask? A shoe-in for the Pot Pie Hall of Fame!
So let’s begin with the pastry, our Cornmeal Pie Dough, a recipe I’ve written around the food processor since it’s such an excellent tool for the job. (Directions by hand are also included.) Feel free to use another pastry, but I think you’ll appreciate how the cornmeal both tenderizes the dough and adds a slight but noticeable bit of crunch. As I recommend for nearly all pie dough recipes, it should be made ahead and refrigerated – as detailed – before rolling.
This recipe will serve four as a main dish, or up to eight if you make muffin-size appetizers as you see below. For the main dish servings, use individual 5” to 5 1/2” pie pans with a 1- to 1 1/4 cup capacity. If you’re taking these on the road, consider using disposable aluminum pans. Guys will like the authentic, TV dinner touch. These are 5 1/2” wide and 1 1/2” deep; the manufacturer calls them “pot pie pans” and they make for a generous serving.
After you line the pans with the pastry, you’ll shape the edge and either flute it by hand or use a fork to make a simple crimped edge. Then refrigerate or freeze the shells until needed. It’s not necessary to cover or bag them if you’ll be using them within a few hours.
You can make the beef and pork filling earlier in the day or the day before. A spoonful or two of flour in the filling helps to thicken the juices, which should resemble the football players you’re watching: full-bodied, not thin. Be sure to pull the filling off the heat before too much of the sauce evaporates. Allow the filling to cool before you add it to the pie shells or your crust won’t be as crisp as it should. (If you make the filling the day ahead, refrigerate it, then bring it to room temperature before adding it to the shells.)
Banish the thought of cutting a corner and simply using plain grated cheese on top. Plain grated cheese is no sin, but compared to our special topping – a sort of hot ranch dip number – there’s little of the excitement, like watching James Taylor at halftime instead of The Rolling Stones. You get it.
I bake my pot pies on a heavy aluminum baking sheet. First I adjust my oven rack so it is in the second-to-lowest position. Then I put my baking sheet on the shelf, turn on the oven, and let the sheet preheat along with the oven. The hot sheet helps to brown the crust quickly and thoroughly. And it catches any spills if the pies bubble over. Line the sheet with parchment – if you like – when you put the pot pies in the oven. I’ll typically move the pot pies up to the center rack position about two-thirds of the way into the baking, to help brown the topping.
I mentioned muffin-size pot pies earlier. These are roughly half-size versions and they make a good size appetizer. A couple of things: rather than roll the dough, I suggest you cut it into 8 equal-size pieces…flatten them into fat disks…and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Then evenly PRESS each portion of dough into the bottom and up the sides of a single muffin pan cup. (Standard size pan; not jumbo cups.)
You CAN roll each one separately into an approximate 6-inch circle, if you prefer. But getting the rolled out dough into the cups is tricky: it tends to pleat, double over on itself, and then it’s a challenge to make something attractive out of the edge. Try pressing one and rolling one and see which approach works better for you.
Either way, you’ll find it handy to first line the cups with a thin (1/2″ to 3/4″ wide) strip of wax paper, about 7″ long, so you have tabs to help lift the pot pies out of the cups after they’re baked. Otherwise, it can be tricky extricating them.
Now have at it, and enjoy the game.
(RECIPES APPEARS BELOW)
A FEW PHOTOS FROM NATIONAL PIE DAY
As you’ll recall from my previous email, we celebrated National Pie Day this past week on January 23rd. So I thought it would be fitting to pack up some homemade slices, head out into our community, and let some of our neighbors know how much we appreciate them – with a piece of pie, of course.
First stop was the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, where my wife Bev and I unloaded a tray of apple crumb pie slices for some of the officers on duty. Apparently, regulations prohibit active duty officers from having their photos taken by sketchy food bloggers who wander in off the streets – even those bearing gifts of pie – but the gentleman at the reception desk was more than happy to give us a friendly smile.
Next stop, the fire department. On our way, we passed this pod of tree trimmers working nearby – Damian, Gonzalo, and David. It was hard to tell if they were more exited about the pie, or relieved that we weren’t from Corporate and doing an unannounced audit of their work habits. They all said it was the first time they could remember when someone had jumped out of a passing vehicle and offered them a slice of apple pie wrapped in a gift box. Imagine that.
The fellows at the local firehouse over in Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head were less bound by regulations than our new friends at the sheriff’s department. Not only did Peter and CJ allow us take their photo. They wondered if we had any extra pieces in the car and suggested that a good time to drop off any future pies would be every third day, during their particular shift. Great guys, and you can bet we’ll be dropping off more pie.
As you can probably tell, we really enjoyed National Pie Day and the new friends we made. It was way too much fun to wait another year for, so we’ll be out on the road again soon, pie boxes at the ready.
REALLY FINALLY, AN UPDATED SUPER BOWL WEATHER FORECAST FROM MY FRIENDS AT THE OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC
Because I’ve mentioned it a few times before, you probably know that The Old Farmer’s Almanac is the publisher of my most recent cookbook, Everyday Baking, as well as my upcoming cookbook all about comfort foods.
While this activity keeps them busy, they still have time left to make longterm weather predictions for all parts of the country – predictions that are the stock-in-trade of their esteemed annual Almanac.
This being Super Bowl weekend, all eyes have been upon their forecast for the New York area, where the game will be played outside at the MetLife Stadium, home to the Giants and Jets. Here’s the Almanac’s entertaining update of the Sunday forecast, starring my editor, Janice Stillman.