Land of Leftovers

Pot pies are a perfect way to use leftovers. More often than not, they call for pre-cooked meats and vegetables. Add some wonderful seasonings and some form of crust -- whether it be pastry, crumb, or even potato -- and you've got dinner!

The recipes I'm offering this month include a variety of meats, vegetables, and crusts. Feel free to experiment and mix and match different fillings with different crusts. One of the most encouraging aspects of making a pot pie is that there really are no rules!

The basic recipe for a pot pie calls for a combination of meat and vegetables (or mixed vegetables in a vegetarian version) to be placed in a pie plate or shallow casserole dish. Depending on your recipe, you may or may not have a crust beneath the filling. Then, a crust of some sort is placed over the filling. This crust serves two major purposes. First, it allows the filling to cook in a manner similar to what would happen if you covered it with a lid or foil. The crust acts as the pie's lid. Second, it adds an additional texture to your finished meal. Unlike a hearty stew, pot pies can offer you an additional crispy texture that is a welcome treat.

The recipes in this article include such tempting fillings as fresh fish, chicken, ham, beef, corn, beans, peas, carrots, and much more. Crusts range from the traditional pie pastry to bread crumbs to potatoes. So, despite having the basics in common, they aren't likely to cause any fears about monotony. All it takes is a little creativity.

While pot pies have been traditionally comfort food that often stars on chilly days, you needn't limit yourself with such traditions. Since they are a complete meal in themselves, you can pop one in the oven and have a simple meal any day of the week and any time of the year. I've even been known to serve a vegetable-based pot pie with iced tea on my porch in the middle of summer. With pot pies featuring last night's leftovers, the sky's the limit!

Now, here's our line-up of pot pies:

So, next time you look in your refrigerator and see too many leftovers, envision a wonderfully prepared pot pie. Enjoy!

Simple Fish Pie

A healthy, colorful dish that's simple to make. What more could you ask for? Use leftover shrimp, corn, peas, and bread to make this meal.
  • 12 oz. cod fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 c. peeled, cooked shrimp
  • 1 c. cooked corn
  • 1 c. cooked peas
  • 3/4 c. skim milk
  • 3/4 c. yogurt
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c. cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss cod pieces into cornstarch and toss to coat evenly.

Place the fish, shrimp, corn and peas into a baking dish. Beat together milk, yogurt and seasonings and pour into dish.

Mix together the bread crumbs and grated cheese. Spoon evenly over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

This rich pie makes perfect picnic fare. Use leftover chicken breasts or strips to make your meal turn out right.
  • Enough dough for 2 pie crusts
  • 2 T. margarine
  • 2 leeks, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 c. grated cheese
  • 3 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into strips
  • 2 T. whole-grain mustard
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 c. skim milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • beaten egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using about half of pastry crust, line a 7 x 11 inch baking pan. Prick the bottom and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, fry the leeks in the margarine until soft. Stir in cheese and parsley. Spread half the leek mixture over the pastry bottom, cover with chicken strips, then top with remaining leek mixture.

Mix the mustard, cornstarch and milk. Season and pour into the pie.

Moisten the pastry bottom edges. Use the remaining pastry crust to cover the pie. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and crisp.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Farmhouse Pie

Enjoy this simple and satisfying meal on a cold day. Use leftover beef and mushrooms from a previous meal. If you have mashed potatoes on hand, it will be even easier.
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 slices turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb. minced beef
  • 4 oz. cooked mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1 3/4 c. beef stock
  • 2/3 c. port
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T. apple jelly
  • 2 lb. mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. margarine
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 T. parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fry the onion, garlic and bacon in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the beef and mushrooms and cook 2 minutes more.

Stir the flour, stock, port, herbs, mustard, jelly, and seasoning. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Spoon into a large pie pan.

In a large bowl, combine mashed potatoes, egg, margarine, nutmeg, parsley and seasoning. Beat until well mixed.

Spread the potato mixture over the meat and bake for 30-40 minutes until piping hot and golden brown.

  • Yields:4- 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Corn and Bean Tamale Pie

Since this recipe calls for one cup of polenta, you can enjoy the rest of it on an earlier occasion. You can also use leftover corn. For this meal, it helps bring you south of the border!
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • 2 T. ground cumin
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 c. corn
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 c. polenta
  • 1 T. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 c. skim milk
  • 1 T. margarine, melted
  • 1/2 c. grated smoked cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Fry the onion, garlic and pepper in the oil for 5 minutes until softened. Add the chilies and cumin; fry for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, corn and oregano. Season to taste. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

To make the topping, mix the polenta, flour, salt, baking powder, egg, milk and margarine to form a thick batter.

Transfer the bean mixture to a baking dish, spoon the polenta mixture over and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour