Colorado has been sitting under a trough (low pressure) of late that has delivered rain, fog, cold, and even snow in the higher elevations. I’ve been casually catching fall colors when I can, but mostly I made a point of enjoying them rather than trying to make photos. I mean, you can always take iPhone snaps, which is mostly what I do these days, but you can also dedicate time, energy, and effort in making some exceptional images. A pretty hectic summer left me burned out when the fall colors came around, such that I couldn’t see myself doing the fall shoot well and then diving into my first hunting season. So I gave myself some time off from the shoot to catch up on a lot of work, do some much-needed research, and take care of things at home.
flaming and gorgeous
i love to stand in the stands
jeremy and neva checking out the local aspens
Something Jeremy and I let slide this summer was Neva’s training. We spent a good bit of time training her to swim between our paddleboards or run alongside the bike, but we stopped working with the e-collar which our trainer had taught us to use back in March. There had been a bad episode in the spring that pretty much left me in tears (Neva seemed to be fine after 5 seconds). Neva had bolted out of sight on the soccer field and it was so windy we couldn’t hear anything as we ran after her. I used the collar, but couldn’t see or hear any feedback, so I boosted the stimulation and tapped it again until I was on the next field and saw her leaning up against Jeremy for comforting. Apparently, Jeremy saw her stop after one of the zaps and she turned to run back to him. As she ran to him, I was still coming around the other side of the field and couldn’t see her and did a boost and tap which made her cry out and jump. The whole thing made me want to throw the e-collar away forever. I silently wiped away tears the whole walk home because Jeremy said we should act as if everything is normal so as not to alarm her. I later consulted with Claire, got reassurances and advice for the future, and promptly stopped using the e-collar. I hated that I had hurt my baby dog.
But we decided to try it again this weekend with leash work and you know what? Neva was wonderful. We hardly needed to use the collar (and at very very low levels) and she was so responsive and happy on her hikes despite encountering lots of other hikers including children (little people are particularly exciting because they are at eye level), two moose, other dogs (who were not well-behaved at all), and runners. She trotted alongside Jeremy, looking up to him every few seconds, tail wagging, a slack leash, and slowing herself down when he said, “whoa” or “heel” or “no pull”. I don’t feel Neva ever needs to be off leash in our big wide wildernesses, but if she can be on leash and enjoy her time outside as a good girl, that’s all we ever really wanted. So that was huge progress.
another aspen stand with a good neva
look at that slack leash!
I’ve been in fall cleaning mode because somehow I am always six months late tackling spring cleaning. The chest freezer was in need of attention because it was packed to the gills with vodka infusions, freezer jams, meats, mushrooms, fruit, nuts, ice creams, butter, homemade broth, green chiles. Things get lost in there and don’t emerge until four years later when you are trying to find a place to store your 2017 huckleberries. It was time to start making room by eating stuff. One of my Crested Butte neighbors likes to hunt pheasant. I think he likes hunting them more than eating them, so when he learned that I LOVE pheasant, he pulled one out of their freezer this summer and gave it to me! I knew just the thing to make… a pot pie with some of my foraged wild mushrooms.
chanterelles from august
cleaned and sliced
sauté with some butter
ready to freeze or eat
There wasn’t time to make and shoot the recipe until last week when it coincidentally cooled off by a good 20 degrees. That’s why I butter sautéed my chanterelles in August and chucked them into the freezer for a month until I could get around to using them. My preference would have been to roast the pheasant and shred the meat for the pot pie filling, but 1) it didn’t have any skin and 2) there was buck shot scattered throughout. This is only my second pheasant I’ve prepared, but I feel more comfortable dicing the meat so I can remove any shot and feathers. I used all of the meat I could and then froze the carcass to make pheasant broth later because it’s delicious and because I hate wasting food. The pheasant broth in this pie is from the previous pheasant carcass.
the filling: potatoes, lima beans, salt, bay leaves, butter, pheasant, pepper, chanterelles, onion, flour, more butter, pheasant broth
diced and prepped
simmer the potatoes in the broth with the bay leaves
strain out the potatoes and reduce the broth
I realize not everyone has access to pheasant, in which case you can use any game bird or poultry in its place. It’s a pretty lean meat, so I sauté it in butter until the outside is cooked, but the inside is still pink. This helps to keep it tender when it finishes baking in the pie.
season the pheasant with salt and pepper
cook until pink inside
sauté the onions
When all of the ingredients are ready, make the gravy. I don’t cook the frozen lima beans because they come already cooked. The reduced broth should be warmed before you add it to the roux. It just keeps the temperature from dropping as you make the gravy sauce. When it’s all done, mix everything together. That’s your pot pie filling. I split up the process of making the pie over three days. This was day one. The filling will keep in the refrigerator for 3 or so days. It is also absolutely delicious to spoon straight into your mouth.
stir flour into hot butter to make a roux
whisk the reduced broth into the roux a little at a time (on the stove) until thickened
season the gravy
add the other filling ingredients to the pan
stir it all together
On the second day, I made the pie dough. I have not had great experiences with pie dough until recently. A few readers had pointed me to Kenji’s pie crust dough recipe over at The Food Lab and I finally gave it a try. It works for me and I freaking love it. Thank you, readers. I love you guys. I reduced the amount of sugar in the pie dough for this savory pie, but some sugar is still good for browning in the crust.
butter, flour, cold water, salt, sugar
pulse the butter, some of the flour, sugar, and salt together until it clumps
cut in the rest of the flour
place the dough in a bowl and sprinkle water over it
fold the water into the dough
make two discs and refrigerate
If you can only spend a little time here and there on a recipe, I get it. The dough takes about ten minutes tops to put together and then you can wrap it and pop it into the refrigerator for up to three days or the freezer for up to 3 months. Nice. Now on to assembly.
roll out the dough discs
line a pie dish with dough, then fill with the filling
place the top crust over the filling and seal, trim, and crimp
I had about a cup of leftover filling which Jeremy took for lunch one day (he said it was delicious). You could also make a smaller pie with the leftovers or try to stuff it all into the pie. I got a little nervous as my pie was quite full and I didn’t want to risk anything since I only had the one pheasant. On this pie, I made the mistake of putting foil around the edges at the beginning to prevent burning. I didn’t realize that the pie dough would stick to the foil and come off when I removed the foil. Sorry, I’m not an experienced pie baker. Except I kinda am, now. I’ve baked four pies in the last two weeks and I find it best to bake the pie for about 40 minutes and when the edges are just right, cover them with foil and let the center continue to brown. That works much better, you only need to take care not to burn yourself or crush the pie crust when you place the foil guard. I find it helps tremendously to pleat the top edge of each foil strip so it curves naturally.
egg wash: egg and cream
whisk the egg and cream together
brush the pie crust with egg wash
cut some steam vents
bake until golden
This pie is so damn good. I have rather mixed feelings about chicken – I think the flavor is pretty neutral, which might explain why I love game birds. Pheasant is sweet and flavorful and delicious. I don’t find it gamey at all. The pieces remained tender in the pie and complemented the chanterelles nicely. I like the idea of pairing wild foods that have similar seasons. I worried that the pheasant broth would be too weak in flavor, but once it was reduced, it held up well with all of the vegetables and mushrooms and pheasant. Wrap that in a flaky, buttery pie crust and you have yourself a winner.
a loving slice
loaded with good and wild things
pie crust dough
adjusted from The Food Lab
2 1/2 cups (350g or 12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (12g) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5g) kosher salt
10 oz. (20 tbsps) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
6 tbsps ice cold water
Place 1 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 times to combine. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture in the food processor. Pulse until the dough clumps (I pulsed about 25 times and then ran it 15 seconds at a time until it clumped). Sprinkle the rest of the flour over the dough and cut it into the dough by pulsing about 5-10 times until the dough has broken into small chunks. Empty the dough into a large bowl and sprinkle the cold water over the dough. Fold the water into the dough with a soft spatula (don’t use your hands, the heat will melt the butter). All of the loose crumbs will come together into a ball. Cut the dough into two halves and shape them into 4-inch diameter discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to three days. If not using within three days, freeze the dough for up to 3 months.
4 cups pheasant broth* or chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 yukon gold potatoes, large dice (about 2 cups)
8 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) fresh chanterelles, cut in half or quarters if they are large
5 tbsps unsalted butter
1 lb. pheasant meat, 1-inch dice
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 tbsps all-purpose flour
1 cup baby lima beans
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
1 tbsp cream
*I made pheasant stock from another pheasant carcass I had in the freezer. I basically covered it with water in a pressure cooker and set it on high for 15 minutes then natural release.
Cook the potatoes and reduce the broth: Bring the broth and the bay leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low heat and add the potatoes. Cook the potatoes until tender (about 10 minutes). Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Simmer the broth until it has reduced to about 2 cups. Discard the bay leaves and set the broth aside.
Sauté the mushrooms, pheasant, and onions: Melt a tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chanterelles to the pan when the butter begins to bubble. Sauté until the mushrooms wilt. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the mushrooms. When they are cooked, remove them from the pan to the bowl with the potatoes.
Season the pheasant with salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp each) and mix to distribute. Using the same sauté pan, melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan over medium high heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, add the pheasant and sauté until the outsides are cooked (leave it pink in the center). Remove from heat and add the pheasant to the large bowl.
Using the same sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions until translucent. Add the onions to the large bowl.
Make the roux and combine the filling: If the broth has cooled, reheat it while you prepare the roux. Using the same sauté pan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Stir the flour into the butter and keep stirring until the roux turns brown. Ladle a little bit of the hot broth into the roux at a time while whisking to incorporate it. Keep adding more broth while whisking until you get a thickened gravy (about 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, mushrooms, pheasant, onions, and lima beans into the gravy and stir to combine. At this point you can let the filling cool and refrigerate it for up to 3 days before using.
Assemble and bake the pie: Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in the center of the oven. Roll the two dough discs out to 1/4-inch thickness. Line a 9-inch pie dish with the larger of the two pie crusts, pressing the dough into the corners. Pour the filling into the pie dish (you may have leftover filling – that’s okay, it’s great to eat on its own). Cover the pie with the other pie crust dough and seal, trim, and crimp the edges together. Whisk the egg and cream together. Brush egg wash over the pie crust and cut steam vents in the top to allow steam to escape during baking. Bake for an hour. If the edges of the pie crust brown faster than the center, you can cover the edges with foil after about 40 minutes. I tried doing it before the pie went into the oven, but the dough winds up sticking to the foil – so covering it after it has browned works better, you just have to be careful about not burning yourself. Remove the pie from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.
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