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Above: Patchwork Puff Pastry Turkey Pot Pie. Article, recipe, and photos by Ashley Strickland Freeman
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Happy holidays everybody! I don’t know about you, but year after year, even with lots of planning and lists, I tend to cook WAY too much, leaving my family stuck with the same leftovers to eat for days upon end. Thankfully, my Patchwork Puff Pastry Turkey Pot Pie takes care of two Thanksgiving leftovers: turkey and green beans, reinvented into a delicious and (if I may say so), beautiful comfort food meal.
The recipe also uses one of my favorite ingredients: frozen puff pastry for the pie crust. This dough is magical, baking up into flaky, buttery layers of goodness that take dishes from ho-hum to hip-hip-hooray. The best news is that it’s easy to work with if you know a couple of key tricks.
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Tips for working with puff pastry dough
If puff pastry intimidates you, not to worry. Here are my tips for baking with puff pastry dough.
1. Thaw, thaw, thaw
Since store-bought puff pastry comes frozen, you need to defrost it before baking. I prefer the defrost-in-the-fridge-overnight method. This lets the dough become workable without allowing the fat to melt. If, however, you forget to thaw overnight, just remove the pastry from the outer and inner package and thaw at room temperature for about 40 minutes, or until it’s pliable.
Science lesson side-note: Puff pastry is a laminated dough, meaning there are layers upon layers of dough separated by butter (or shortening, in the case of some brands). As the dough bakes, the water in the layers turns into steam, making large air bubbles form. We know that water and fat don’t mix, so when the heat from the steam gets trapped between the layers of dough and butter, it causes the pastry to puff up. Ensuring that the butter is nice and cold prevents it from “melting” into the dough.
2. Flour the surface
Prevent sticky situations by lightly coating your work surface and rolling pin with all-purpose flour.
3. Use a sharp knife or pastry cutter
When cutting puff pastry, you’ll want to be sure to make smooth, clean cuts. Otherwise, the edges can get smashed and compress, preventing them from rising.
4. Don’t overdo it
Rolling the dough too much or re-rolling multiple times causes a build-up of gluten, which could cause the dough to bake up flat.
5. Keep it cold
After I’ve worked with the dough, I refrigerate it until just before baking. Dough that is colder will rise more because it takes longer for the cold butter to melt.
6. Turn up the heat
High heat is crucial to creating that steam in between the layers of puff pastry, so here’s an important tip: preheat oven to 400°F (or higher, for some recipes) before you bake for crispy, flaky pastry.
How to make the best leftover turkey pot pie
Now that you know the basics for how to work with puff pastry to create a beautiful topping, let’s turn to how to make a really delicious Thanksgiving leftover pot pie.
In a classic pot pie recipe, the cooked turkey and vegetables are held together with a white sauce, which can be as simple as seasoned milk with a flour-and-butter roux to thicken it. For maximum flavor I opted for a combination of dry sherry, chicken broth, and milk for the liquid, with sauteed shallot, garlic, black pepper, and fresh thyme and fresh rosemary for complexity.
As for the veggies, I went with leftover green beans and then added sauteed mushrooms because they’re so terrific with the flavor of sherry. But you could use cooked carrots, cooked or even frozen peas, diced sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables, or another leftover Thanksgiving vegetable if you like.
And then there’s the turkey. Whether you roasted or grilled the bird this year, cooked it sous vide or in an Instant Pot, the leftover Thanksgiving turkey will be outstanding tucked into the pot pie. Out of turkey meat? You can make the recipe anytime of year with rotisserie chicken for a chicken pot pie!
To make your savory pie, melt butter and then saute the vegetables over medium heat. Add the liquid, including 2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or turkey broth, if you have some on hand) and some flour, and cook briefly until thickened. Stir in the turkey and green beans, then transfer the turkey mixture to a baking dish.
Now add squares of puff pastry for a top crust. Brush them with egg wash for a beautiful shine, and bake until golden brown. Total time here is 2 hours, but a good chunk of that is the cook time. And what’s a little prep time, after all, when you’re creating a leftovers work of art?
More creative cooking with leftovers
Now that you’ve got a turkey recipe in hand, you might be wondering what to do with the cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, mashed potatoes, and leftover stuffing from Thanksgiving dinner. Make the most of those Thanksgiving leftovers with recipes from these next articles.