December 03, 2020
During my latchkey kid years, I had a brief dalliance with Marie Callender's, and for a long time afterward, the gloopy gravy and doughy crust were the model for what I knew as "pot pie." I suspect this is the same for most of America. In fact, order a pot pie at a roadside diner or chain restaurant, and what you’ll get won’t be far off from what comes out of the freezer case at the grocery store.
This isn’t a condemnation of those single-serving pies. Made at home, from scratch with wild ingredients and a hand-rolled pie crust, they can be as comforting as grandma’s quilt. However, it’s also okay to upgrade things and step lightly away from the beefy sauce and thick crust. This particular take gets its inspiration from a classic beef bourguignon recipe, mixing a bold red wine with a bright splash of vinegar that adds an almost sweet flavor. It all comes together as a perfect complement to any venison, although I think the mild taste of elk works best. (Caribou might actually be the most ideal wild game for this recipe.)
Instead of pie dough or a pastry crust, I layered on several sheets of phyllo, each heavily brushed with butter. As the pot pie cooks, the butter steams, puffing the dough into light, flaky layers that shatter when pierced with the fork. Although the phyllo doesn’t quite soak up the sauce like a traditional crust, it is quite a bit lighter. This does away with the lump that hits like a brick when it lands in the stomach and leaves a lot more room for the real star of a good meat pie – the warm, rich filling.
Elk Venison Pot Pie Recipe
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 40-45 minutes
- 1 pound elk round roast, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 strips bacon, diced
- Canola oil
- 2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 medium white onion, grated
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- ½ pound mushrooms, chopped
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cups game or beef stock
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Preheat the oven to 350˚ degrees.
- Brown the bacon in a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Once crisp, remove the diced bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate. While the bacon cooks, whisk the kosher salt and black pepper into the flour and dredge the elk meat in the seasoned flour. Brown the floured elk chunks in the bacon grease in batches, adding canola oil as necessary. Transfer browned meat to the plate with the bacon.
- Add more canola oil to the skillet if necessary and lower the heat to medium. Slowly sauté the garlic, onion, celery and mushrooms until the aromatics are soft and mushrooms have given up their moisture.
- Pour the red wine vinegar into the hot skillet and stir, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and stock, along with the bacon and browned elk meat. Stir everything together and season with thyme, parsley, salt and black pepper. Let simmer 15 minutes.
- Make a slurry by whisking together one tablespoon of melted butter and one tablespoon of cornstarch. Stir this into the skillet until the liquid just starts to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat to cool slightly. Pour cooled filling into a pie tin or individual ramekins.
- Prepare the crust by placing a sheet of waxed paper on your work surface, then layer with six sheets of phyllo dough. Cover with a second sheet of waxed paper and fold the stack in half. Unfold the top sheet and brush with exposed half with melted butter. Repeat with remaining sheets. Flip the stack over and brush the remaining half-sheets with melted butter until all the sheets are coated.
- Carefully transfer the phyllo dough to cover the pot pie filling in the pie tins or ramekins. Cut around the pan, leaving about one inch of excess dough wider than the rim of the plate or bowl. Fold the edge of the dough into the pan, crimping to seal the crust.
- Place the pie tin or ramekin onto a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.