Ingredients: tofu, onion, carrot, celery, green pea, flour, butter, cream, vegetable stock, dry sherry, thyme, parsley, egg, black pepper, salt.
Chicken or turkey pot pie, from the freezer of course, was one of my favorite meals growing up. This dish is a true celebration of starch. First you get the flaky, crispy upper crust, then the chewy shell soaked with floury gravy, followed by a procession of tender diced potato chunks. Like pizza, pot pie is pretty good even when it’s not that good, which bodes well for the home chef!
I recall that Mom worked up quite a mystique around pot pies. She purchased them on what seemed like a quarterly schedule, regardless of whether or not I asked for them. When one appeared and I requested it for dinner, she’d frown and cock her head to one side, lecturing me that it “has more calories than you need in an entire day.” So why did she keep buying them? [Answer: they went on sale four times a year.] Either way, I regarded the humble North American pot pie as the height of decadence. In hindsight, it’s just sorta white-trashy and fattening.
I have been craving a nice pot pie, though. It seemed like something I could reproduce faithfully without chicken. Almost everything I’ve cooked recently has included seafood, so I decided to go with tofu this time. I used pressed (aka dried) tofu, which is essentially firm tofu with even less moisture. It’s a bit more difficult to find than firm or silken tofu, but well worth the hunt. Pressed tofu has the texture of Indian paneer, which is to say, it’s dense and chewy and meaty.
In the spirit of challenge, I decided to make my own pie crust. This was a first for me, as I don’t bake very often, being practically allergic to measuring. I did my best. Fortunately, the pot pie shell and crust came out fine, and the procedure wasn’t too difficult. It was, however, quite messy and not particularly rewarding. Therefore, I will probably just use ready-made pie shells in the future, or more creative options like biscuit dough or mashed potatoes.
For the filling, I prepared a basic cream sauce, flavored it with sherry and vegetable stock, then mixed in the tofu and some blanched vegetables (potato, carrot, celery, green peas). I poured the filling into my pre-baked shell, then draped an uncooked sheet of pie dough over the top. I brushed the dough with an egg wash, then baked the pie until the crust got nice and brown.
I enjoyed the pot pie, but it didn’t really hit the spot. The flavor was just too flat. I’m not going to be using chicken or turkey any time soon, so perhaps I will try again with some kind of seafood. Most likely I will turn to less-caloric endeavors.