Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rich Crab Pot Pies with Puff Pastry

Tired of chicken pot pie?  Here's a variation that you will enjoy.  I used crab but you could as easily use langostinos, crayfish tales or even small shrimp. A combination would even work.  Whatever you select, it will likely already be cooked and perhaps frozen.  If so, make sure it is thawed and well drained before using it.

Julian's "Double Puff" Crab Pot Pie
This dish is very rich and as such you'll want to serve it in smaller sizes.  I used an eight ounce oven-safe ramekin which was plenty for each adult.  As you can see I served them right along side a salad lightly dressed with a vinegar and oil dressing.  This was a great accompaniment and offsets the cream and shellfish that make up the main course.

Use a dish slightly larger than your ramekin as a cutting guide
and a double layer of puff pastry for a better rise.

Egg-washed pastry, topping the ramekins.
Here I show the recipe with a puff pastry, but you could as easily use a standard pie crust pastry.  I felt the puff pastry was lighter and fit better with the dish, but certainly either type would be fine.  If you've never used puff pastry, don't give it a second thought.  You can purchase it easily in your grocer's freezer case.  Let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you use it.  It's much like prepared pie crust pastry; simply lay it out on a floured surface, press together any cracks with a drop of wet water, and it's ready to use.  I like a double layer of puff pastry to give it more of a rise.  When cutting out the pastry, I prefer to find a bowl that's just a bit larger than my ramekins to use as a guide, as you want some overlap to seal the edge.  If you can't find anything close enough use the ramekin as you guide but cut it a little larger.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
12 ounces (about 1.5 cups) fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 cup fresh carrots, diced or cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup clam juice or chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 pound lump crab meat, well drained (or other shellfish)
2 cups frozen peas, fully thawed
4 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water (the egg wash)

In a large saute skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and carrots and cook until softened somewhat, 5-7 minutes. The carrots will still be a bit crunchy.  (Note: if using previously frozen cooked carrots instead of fresh, add them along with the peas, and not at this stage.) Add the wine and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.   Add the milk and clam juice (or chicken broth). Cook until bubbling, continuously stirring until thickened, about 2-4 minutes. Stir in the thawed peas.  Remove from heat and let sit until room temperature or speed up cooling by moving it into a bowl and into your refrigerator.  You may prepare up to this step a couple hours in advance of your meal.  About 45 minutes before the meal is served, proceed as noted below.

This crab is not 'lump' enough.  Larger crab pieces
are better if you can find them.
Gently turn in the crab meat to the prepared room-temperature mixture, doing your best to simply fold it into the ingredients without breaking up the crab.  Remember your shellfish has been precooked so you want to only heat it through during the baking phase, not before.

Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle position.

Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface. Lay down the first sheet of puff pastry and brush with the egg wash.  Top with the second sheet and lightly press together.  Repeat for additional sheets.  Cut out pastry circles just larger than the ramekins, which should be 8-ounces each.  While each pastry circle can be cut from a single layer of puff pastry, a taller puff pastry requires a second sheet.  Cut out a small hole or cross-hatch to vent.  Brush the circles with the egg wash, as shown in photos above.

Serve fresh from the oven when you have the maximum 'puff'.
Fill the ramekins about 3/4 or a bit more of their capacity.  Do not overfill or you will have significant spillage as they cook.  Brush the rims of the bowls with the egg wash, lay a pastry circle over each ramekin, brushed side up, and seal the edges.

Place the bowls on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake on the middle rack until the pastry is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

A spoon full of Wonderful!

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