Beer Pot Pies

Cooking with Beer by | Mar 2012 | Issue #62

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

When March approaches, my Irish blood kicks in, and I start craving some old-school savory pies. These English- and Irish-inspired pot pies evoke nostalgia with every bite. Each recipe can be made in advance, ready to put in the oven at a moment’s notice. The flaky crust gives way to a rich, beer-infused filling, studded with vegetables, meat or fish—take your pick. You and your guests will love these timeless treats.

Pot Pie Crust
This pie crust is a little different than the norm, using barley and oat flour alongside the all-purpose. Barley flour is very similar to pastry flour, very low in gluten and soft. The oat flour gives the crust a tiny bit of chew to make up for the lower-gluten flour. Both flours add extra flavor and complexity to the standard all-purpose. This dough can be made a day in advance, and leftovers can be frozen.

Makes: enough crust for a 9-by-13 casserole pan or 12–14 individual 4-inch ramekins

1 cup flour, barley
3/4 cup flour, all-purpose
1/4 cup flour, oat
1 tsp salt, kosher
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, unsalted, cold and cubed
6–7 tbsp Irish Red Ale, ice cold

In the bowl of a food processor, add the barley, all-purpose and oat flour, along with the salt and baking powder. Pulse several times to mix the ingredients together. Add the cold butter to the bowl, and pulse a few times to cut the fat into the flour. Keep pulsing until the mixture has small, grain-size chunks of butter evenly distributed throughout the mixture. With the motor on pulse, slowly pour the ice-cold beer into the feed tube, mixing the ingredients into a dough. Be careful not to over-process the crust. Form the dough into two balls, seal in plastic wrap, and press down on each to create a disk. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to re-chill the fat, preventing the crust from shrinking as it cooks.

Take one dough ball and roll it out to a 1/4-inch-thick sheet on a lightly floured surface. If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a 22-ounce bottle (filled with cold brew), and dust it with flour. If making a large pot pie, roll out to a 9-by-13-inch rectangle. Lightly dust the surface of the dough with flour, and roll the dough onto the rolling pin, using the pin to transfer the dough to the filled casserole pan and un-roll onto the surface. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, cut a series of holes in the crust in a decorative pattern. This will allow the steam to escape. If making individual pot pies, use a ramekin to press out circles of the rolled out dough to cover each ramekin. Again, cut some holes into the surface.

Smoked Fish Pot Pie
This seafood pot pie has a smoky essence that will please any fish lover. Mashed potatoes infused with chives is an excellent topping for this classic Irish version of a pot pie.

Serves: 8 guests

Irish Red Ale Sauce Ingredients:
3 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 cup onion, yellow, peeled and diced
1 each garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 each bay leaf
1 tsp salt, kosher
3 tsp flour, all-purpose
1 1/4 cups Irish Red Ale or English Mild, or other malty brew
1/2 cup cream, heavy, preferably organic salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Irish Red Ale Sauce Directions:
In a medium-size pot over medium heat, add the butter. Once it melts and starts to bubble, add the onions and sauté for 5–6 minutes, letting them turn a translucent white color. Add in the garlic clove, bay leaf and salt. Continue to cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the flour, whisking it into the butter to make a paste (roux). Cook the roux for 2–3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Add the beer, then the cream, whisking to prevent lumps, while also scraping the sides, bottom and corners of the pan, mixing all the flour into the sauce. Turn the heat to low, and let the sauce cook for 15–20 minutes, cooking out the flour taste and thickening the sauce. Run the sauce through a strainer, leaving behind the bay leaf and onions. Reserve the sauce for the filling.

Smoked Fish Filling Ingredients:
3 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 cups leeks, washed and sliced or chopped
2 tsp salt, kosher
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced, blanched till tender
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 lb. white fish, such as cod, haddock, halibut or pollock, cubed into 1-inch pieces
1/2 lb. fish, smoked, such as salmon
1 recipe Pot Pie Crust

Smoked Fish Filling Directions:
Preheat an oven to 375˚F. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and let melt. Add the leeks, and season with the salt. Stir the leeks for about 7–8 minutes, or until they are tender and wilted. While the leeks are cooking, blanch the carrots in salted water for 5–6 minutes, or just until they are fork tender. Drain and add to the leeks. Remove the sauté pan from the heat. Stir in the peas (if using frozen, do not thaw first), and then add the prepared fish, fresh and smoked. Then transfer the ingredients from the sauté pan into the Red Ale Sauce, carefully folding with a spatula until the sauce is evenly incorporated. Season the mixture lightly with salt and pepper.

Transfer the filling into a buttered 9-by-13 casserole pan or 8-inch ramekins. Top with the prepared Pot Pie Crust, or use thawed puff pastry that has been rolled out. Brush the crust or pastry with an egg wash, dusting the surface with a touch of flaked salt and some cracked pepper, and place onto a sheet tray (to prevent spilling into the oven). Place the sheet tray into a 375˚F oven for 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. Serve warm, and pair with an Irish Stout or a Red Ale.

Mushroom, Stout, and Potato Pot Pie
This vegetarian pot pie is rich in both texture and flavor. The earthy mushrooms mixed with the roasty Stout create a hearty sauce. For the meat lover, throwing in some roasted cubed lamb or beef would be a complementary addition to this recipe.

Serves: 6 guests

Irish Stout Cream Sauce Ingredients:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 each yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 each bay leaf
3 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp thyme leaves, fresh
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
16 oz Irish Stout, such as Murphy’s or Beamish
1/2 cup heavy cream, preferably organic
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Irish Stout Cream Sauce Directions:
Follow the directions for making an Irish Red Ale Sauce, except use the Irish Stout instead of the Red Ale, and add the soy sauce or tamari. Adjust the salt if needed. Remove the bay leaf, and do not strain this sauce, but pour it into the Mushroom Pot Pie Filling.

Mushroom Pot Pie Filling Ingredients:
3 each potatoes, Russet, peeled and cubed
3 each carrots, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 each onion, yellow, large, peeled and chopped
1 each leek, washed, sliced
8 oz mushrooms, crimini, portobello, oyster or a mix
1 tsp thyme, fresh, leaves only
1 tsp sage, fresh, minced
6 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 recipe Pot Pie Crust

Mushroom Pot Pie Directions:
Preheat an oven to 375˚F. Add the cubed potatoes to a large pot filled with cold water and enough kosher salt to taste of sea water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they are al dente, about 20 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking time for the potatoes, add the carrots. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, place a sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter, onion and leeks, seasoning lightly with kosher salt. Sauté for 10–12 minutes, then add the mushrooms, thyme, sage and garlic, cooking for another 10 minutes. Add the soy sauce or tamari, turn off the heat, and stir to combine and glaze the vegetables. Pour this mixture over the cooked potatoes, carrots and peas, stirring in the Irish Stout Cream Sauce and folding together the ingredients until well combined.

Transfer the filling into a buttered 9-by-13 casserole pan or 8-inch ramekins. Top with the prepared Pot Pie Crust, or use thawed puff pastry that has been rolled out. Brush the crust or pastry with an egg wash, dusting the surface with a touch of flaked salt and some cracked pepper, and place onto a sheet tray (to prevent spilling in the oven). Place the sheet tray into a preheated 375˚F oven for 30 minutes or until the filling bubbles. Serve hot.