Winter appetites call for hearty fare, and there’s nothing better than a rustic pot pie. Nearly every family has their own recipe, but for those of you who don’t, I’ll put mine out there and include a few adaptations for cooking over a campfire and substituting wild game.
Cut 2 pounds of beef steak or roast into 1 inch cubes and sear them over high heat in an almost dry, cast iron skillet. As the meat finishes, add a little butter to the skillet and roughly the same amount (by volume) of cubed potatoes. Let these brown but don’t cook them through. Toward the end, Chop a few carrots into the skillet then add the beef back into the mix.
Reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle the whole thing with flour, coating the meat, potatoes, and carrots a couple times then add in your spices—coarse salt, black pepper, basil, thyme, and rosemary. Use fresh herbs if you can; it makes a difference.
Add enough water to cover halfway up your filling and let it cook down for a few minutes, stirring regularly. When the water’s nearly gone, refill the pan with water to the same level. Add milk or cream to the top of the filling and reduce the temperature to low. Stir in about a pound of grated, sharp cheddar cheese and let it cook, stirring occasionally, while you make the crust.
Start with 3 cups of flour. I like a 2:1 mix of white and wheat but that’s up to you. Add in ¾ of a cup of vegetable oil, melted shortening, or melted butter. Mix it with a fork, then add ½ of a cup of water and mix again. When the dough’s ready, press it into a large, greased baking dish without rolling it out. Shoot for ¼ inch thick across the bottom and around the sides. You’ll use the remaining dough for a top crust.
Pour the filling, which is really a solid beef stew in its own right, into the crust. Roll out the remaining dough and lay it on top. Cut or tear a few holes in the top crust and stick it in the oven at about 400º until the crust browns and the filling bubbles through the holes and around the edges.
Cooking Over a Fire
Before cutting your meat or vegetables, roast them over the fire. That tastes better than searing them in a skillet anyway. Make your filling as normal from there but press the crust into a well-seasoned and lightly greased dutch oven.
Most game is considerably leaner than a good piece of beef. To compensate, add a little butter along with the second round of water.
When substituting deer, elk, moose, or bear, I keep the seasonings the same except I like to add a little more pepper. If you’re using poultry, I’d swap the basil for sage or just add a little into the mix then leave out the cheese.