One does not simply make a turkey pie.
Wait, no. That’s Mordor. One does not simply walk into Mordor. A turkey pie is entirely different.
Before we get too deep into the creation of this sumptuous savory meat pie, let me make one thing as clear as humanly possible: this is not going to be a recipe. If anything, this is probably a cautionary tale more than a set of instructions. There will be no measurements, no explanation of delicate techniques, and certainly no secret tips divulged in low tones with suspicious eyes for fear that Candace from across the street will finally, finally find out that secret ingredient that makes my pie so much better than her own.
(It’s love, Candace. Love. And lard. And also not giving a shit)
For real, though, my pie is probably not better than Candace’s pie. Not consistently anyway, since I don’t think I’ve ever made a turkey pie the same way twice. But wait, you cry! Do I even have enough pie-making prowess to be discussing the assembly of such a thing? Be assured that I do, my anxious autumn child. The Puddinette and I hosted Thanksgiving for both of our combined families (a crowd of 30+ on occasion) for 15+ years pre-COVID, which meant there were always leftovers, and always annual pie construction.
But anyway, I’m off track, as usual. One evening not long ago, the wife made a turkey breast. I was out of town and it was simple enough to chuck the thing into the crock pot with some butter and seasoning and let it mind itself for the day in the off chance there might some number of ungrateful children around for dinner.
Oh, as a quick side note, if you are a parent of smallish children and dare to dream of a moment where you could have some uninterrupted time to watch the latest episode of the new “Real” Love Boat without having to locate someone’s missing shoe or argue about screen time, I have good and bad news for you. One day your smallish child(ren) will become teens. They will somehow pick up opinions you didn’t give them, interests you likely don’t share (some you’d prefer the didn’t have at all), and schedules you can barely keep up with. Which begs the question, “how many kids will I have home for dinner tonight?”
Well, I have one that can’t drive yet, so most days that number is at least one. Generally, though, I’m putting the over/under at two, and taking the under.
Anyway, here we were with a full mound of leftover turkey breast (mound is the metric designation, mind you. In Imperial units it was a chunk-load), and it’s not leftover turkey sandwich season. What’s a family to do then?
Captain Obvious would like to suggest, perhaps make a turkey pie?
Aye, aye, Captain. Aye, aye.
Here’s how I do it. Well, here’s how I did it this time. As I said before, in my life no two pies have been the same. Making a turkey pie is a form of boundless expression.
First, there are some requirements. Potatoes. Don’t @ me about it, sourpuss. Banquet and Swanson both agree on this point and those two can’t agree on anything outside the premise that if it’s theoretically edible, they’ll fucking try and freeze it. And don’t come talking to me about Marie Callender not using potatoes in her pies. First of all, she’s not a real person. She’s the freaking pot pie equivalent of Santa Claus. Second, whoever stands behind the mighty gingham apron and pretends to be the Great and Powerful Callender is a pretentious snob who needs to understand the real value of a meat pie.
Also, I might have forgotten my meds today.
Anyway, so if you’re a fusspot about your potatoes — and I get it — dice and cook yourself up some taters. I, myself, am not a potato purist, though, so I’m content with any form of bagged, diced potatoes. Frozen, not frozen, 220, 221, whatever it takes.
Next you need veggies. I guess peas and carrots are probably traditional? Look, I’m making a weeknight dinner here, so the “rules” can generally see themselves out. You know what’s easier on a Monday evening that peeling, slicing, and par-cooking carrots so you don’t end up eating Bug’s Bunny’s Turkey Pie?
Okay, you’re also going to need butter, some diced onions, a tablespoon or two of flour, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and the leftover gravy from when you had the turkey.
Wait, what? You have no leftover gravy? I’m sorry, sir/madam/other, this is not the post for you. If you made any form of roast turkey and have no leftover gravy, you need to step back and reevaluate your life decisions. Go on, now. No, no, I’m not mad, just… disappointed.
Sorry, that was awkward there for a second. Now, with all that ready, I should also mention that some people like, yanno, herbs and whatever. I’m fine with all that. Parsley, sure. Thyme, whatever. If it’s fresh or dried and was once some part of a plant, go for it. Whatever makes you happy. I would suggest maybe you not share your “medicinal” dose of the devils’ lettuce with your family, but, hey, I can’t make all your decisions for you.
And, now, finally, let’s make a frakking pie. First, though, a quick word about measurements: I don’t care. Use as little or as much of whatever as you like. This isn’t Great Leftover Bake-off. Nobody is going to complain that your pie has too many green beans (they’re part of the veggie mix) or that you’ve achieved only the dread soggy bottom.
Well, you might complain about a soggy bottom, but that’s kind of a personal problem.
At any rate, I, emphasis on me, here, typically try to match the volume of potato/veggie mix combination to the amount of turkey on hand. In this case, as discussed above, I had a chunk-load. That means half a chunk-load of potatoes and half a c-l of veggies.
Now… we pie!
Butter goes in a big-ass skillet on medium-high heat. Obviously, in my case, I used my double chunk-load pan. After the butter melts, in go the onions. Sweat that little bastards until they’re almost as clear as Wonder Woman’s jet. Then, add the flour. Generally you want a little less flour than you had butter. I know, I know, most people say one-to-one. I’m not most people and I’m not making Nana’s gumbo here. I want a thin roux. Remember, we have gravy.
Cook the flour taste out of roux because, well, I’d hope this is pretty obvious. Have you ever tasted raw flour, you weirdo? Only flour weevils and psychopaths enjoy it. It ain’t good. Next, chuck in the potatoes and veggies plus enough broth to soothe the pain in your soul brought about by this dark, unjust world. Or, if that’s too much, a cup or so. Enough to make it remind you of half a dozen corgis in a kiddie pool in August.
I then continue to let it all simmer along until I’m happy the veggies are as cooked as I want and the potatoes are done. You’re mileage may vary at this step. I don’t prefer crunchy vegetables and I hate hard potatoes, but if you want to break your teeth on green beans, who am I to stop you?
When the veggies are good, kick the heat up a notch so you get some good bubbling going. We want that brothy steam bath to thicken, after all. When it gets to a good bubble, toss in your mound of leftover turkey (after taste testing to, uh, insure it’s continual freshness), and stir it all together a bit more. If you want to cook down some of the liquid here, more power to you. And assuming you’re not a heretic and did actually have gravy, add some while we’re at it. Also, salt, pepper, thyme, licorice, ghost pepper chili powder, and/or whatever flavors your family is into.
Okay, so now we get to the shitty part, the pie dough.
I am not making pie dough unless forced, and certainly not on a Monday night. They can pull my toenails out one at a time and I’d thank them for saving me from having to knead and laminate that shit just right. Hard pass. Armed, then, with a box of pre-made pie dough that you took out of the fridge when we started this whole endeavor, you shall proceed to unroll one of your long, doughy sticks right into a pie pan. You’ll worry that it’s not quite right, as if it’s somewhat off-center. That there’s too much edge on one side and not enough on the other. The compulsion to fret and adjust, nit-picking over its not-quite-perfect position will push you to the edge of sanity, and then throw you over.
Do not give into temptation. The pie crust is made to be off center, but only just barely perceptibly. It’s how They control us, by making us worry about pie crimps. Fight the Man. Fight the madness.
With the bottom crust sort of in place, it’s time for filling. So here’s the real trick…
I lied. There’s no trick. Put the damned filling in the damned pie shell. Then, and this will take a steady hand and a cold heart, roll the other piece of dough over it.
Yes, it’s really that freaking simple, people. We’re not making nuclear weapons here or building an Iron-Man suit in a cave with a box of scraps.
Once it’s covered, use your fingers to go around the edge and squeeze the two dough pieces together like Wedding Day Ken and Disco Dance Barbie being mushed up together in the Dream House for the first time by a nine year-old. To be honest, I can’t explain this crimping thing. It’s some form of wizardry that you either saw Ina Garten do once and immediately understood, or you’ll probably never master. For the latter group, you can always press a fork into the edge and hope for the best.
Now? Now we bake, duh. Cut a couple of slits into the top of that puppy and slide it into a 350 degrees–or, I don’t know, 170 some-odd Celsius for you alt types–oven.
Oh, what’s that? Egg wash?
Look, I know. I KNOW. Lots of people live and die by this egg wash business, and I know the amateur, at-home Iron Chef judges are looking at the image of the turkey pie I made above while clucking their tongues and sniffing in derision. “Looks underbaked,” they’ll mutter, “and probably means indigestion.”
This is America, son, home of the “Never Ending Pasta Bowl“, “Da Bomb – Beyond Insanity” hot sauce, and the 72oz Steak Challenge. Damn near everything ever made here is designed to induce indigestion.
That point aside, though, let’s be honest with each other. I just threw a bunch of stuff together into a pan, cooked it haphazardly, and then chucked it into a pie crust. Do I strike you as the kind of guy who gives a levitating rat’s ass whether or not any member of my frequently off-doing-something-else family notices a shiny, golden sheen covering this turkey pie? Friend, I do not. Odds are good by this point of the cooking process I’m three fingers of bourbon in and questioning whether dinner is really all that important or just another existential crisis I’m going to ignore before watching the next episode of whatever dragon show is on the DVR.
Also, egg wash feels like the most wasteful thing I’ve ever done in the kitchen, aside from a deep-fry breading station with two tins of flour, but don’t get me started on that. Really, though. You crack an egg, mix it with water and paint a coating of it across the top of the pie. Then you’re left with yet another dirty dish that’s now still somehow more than half-fall of egg/water mixture. Why waste a perfectly good egg that we’d all much prefer was hard cooked and deviled?
Hmmm… deviled eggs. Should have made those instead.
Where was I? Right. Baking. Bake the thing until it’s done, which generally means some level of browning, whatever shade of golden you’re willing to wait for, and, in the best case, a little bubbling up through the slits you cut in the top. You DID cut the slits, right? Don’t forget that part. Bad things will happen. Baaaaad things.
The last thing I’m going to suggest, and this is really the only honest tip I will give you is, when the pie comes out of the oven do no–DO. NOT!–cut that bastard. Let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes to firm up lest insides they come leaking out like warm Jello the second you slice that first piece.
And that, fair reader, is how I made a turkey pie earlier this week. The point of all this? Oh, I don’t really have much of a point, except to see how many words I could rattle out about a meat pie while hopefully providing a tiny chuckle or two along the way. And, well, I suppose if you happen to have some leftover turkey on hand, it wouldn’t upset me if this inspires you to get up to some turkey pie shenanigans of your own.
Have a great weekend, friends. And try not to set the place on fire.