Walking by the newsstand yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but stop and stare at the gorgeous pot pie on the cover of Bon Appétit. From the flaky, salted crust to the glistening pearl onions, it looked simply delectable. The problem? The overall cooking time for the recipe is at least 3 hours, and I’m lucky if I have an hour and a half to get dinner on the table.
Still, the flavors in the recipe seemed like they could be replicated in a quicker, cheaper, and lower-fat way. The most obvious thing that needed to change was the meat. While I love short ribs, they take a very long time to cook. A chuck roast has the same sort of meaty flavor, and, while it still needs to braise, it reaches a nice consistency after about an hour—it will definitely still be chewy but not tough. Chuck is also a lower fat cut than short ribs, especially if you trim the meat of any visible lines of gristle.
On the down side, chuck also is less flavorful than short ribs, so I had to make a few substitutions. First, I added mushrooms. Mushrooms can be very expensive—the trick is to use them wisely. Even a few special mushrooms mixed into a dish can add a ton of flavor. For this, I bought one portobello, five shiitakes, and eight ounces of button (white) mushrooms. The button mushrooms gave the dish substance, umami (a sort of rich, savory flavor), and protein, allowing me to cut down on the meat (and thus the fat) in the dish, while the other mushrooms provided interesting aromas. Second, I opted for a Oregon Pinot noir instead of a drier red. The spicy notes in the Pinot amped up the flavor, and I didn’t miss the richness a Cab Sav might have added.
The last thing I switched was the crust. I love a buttery, flaky pastry as much as the next girl, but pastry dough needs time to chill—about two hours. A drop biscuit, however, can be ready in moments. I used Cooking Light’s Fluffy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits, halving the recipe and adding thyme and rosemary to echo the flavors in the filling. Much lower fat, but not at all less decadent feeling.The best part? We still had a half a bottle of Pinot noir to drink with our dinner!
Steak Pot Pie with Herbed Biscuit Crust
1 2-lb chuck loin, trimmed of visible fat and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
1/4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bag frozen pearl onions (thawed)*
8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
1 portobello mushroom, chopped
4-5 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 c. spicy red wine (Pinot noir or carmenere recommended)
2.8 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour
1.8 oz. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sugar
Heaping 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1/2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Mix together 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and flour. Toss beef in flour until coated. Shake off excess. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add beef to pan and cook until browned on all sides, approximately 8 minutes. Remove beef from pan and put on a plate to catch juices.
Add mushrooms and onions to pan. Cook until mushrooms begin to release their juices (becoming mushy, bendable, and slightly brown), about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add rosemary, thyme, wine, meat, and any juices. Bring to a boil, scraping the pan to scrape up any brown bits, then reduce to a simmer. Keep uncovered, so the sauce can thicken. Let simmer for about 60 minutes until meat is chewy but tender.
When the meat has about 15 minutes to go, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
When the meat is almost done cooking, mix together the dry ingredients for the crust. Cut the butter in either using a pastry blender or your fingers.** Add the buttermilk and oil and mix until just combined.
Grease an 8 x 12 rectangular baking dish. Pour the meat mixture into the dish, shaking slightly so that the mixture is even. Drop heaping spoonfuls of dough onto the meat mixture. The dough does not need to be touching. It will spread and puff up as it bakes.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Serve immediately (although it’s very good reheated for lunch the next day!)
*I didn’t let the onions thaw because I bought them from the store 15 minutes before. It was still fine. If you have time, thaw. If not, don’t sweat it.
**This is a great video from allrecipes on how to cut butter into flour, using either a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers. I prefer using my hands. Just make sure your hands aren’t too hot or you’ll start melting the butter!