The Gamer's Guide to Grub - Thanksgiving Pot Pie
November 25, 2009
The Gamer's Guide to Grub
by Greg Spyridis
A how-to and recipe column written by a gamer for gamers.
I know what you're thinking. You're wondering what the hell I'm doing writing a cooking column on a Web site for games. Well, it's because the two are, essentially, inseparable - and I figured it was time for you to start enjoying the food as much as you love the gaming.
Don't believe they're inextricably linked? Try to imagine pwning n00bs online without getting crumbs on your controller. Try picturing having a LAN party without caffeine and finger foods. Try to envision grinding your way through quests without having something rich, greasy, and preferably cheesy sticking to your chin and dribbling onto your shirt.
Can't be done, can it?
Still, that doesn't explain the cooking part, does it? I mean, let's face it, you've managed to get by this long on nothing but cheesy poofs, drive thru, and frozen pizza … so why bother to start cooking now?
Well, there are a lot of reasons I could give you. I could tell you that it's actually quite a bit cheaper in the long run. Or I could go on some kind of pointless rant about how much healthier it is. Hell, I could even try and convince you of the very real fact that everything we're going to cook will be a helluva lot better than what you'd get out of a wrapper or cardboard box. But instead all I'm going to do is tell you the two little words that will probably mean more to you than any of that.
Bragging Rights. Yeah, you heard me. Bragging Rights.
You think going on a 10-man kill streak, or hitting level 50, or scoring a flawless fatality is good for your ego? Try bringing a room full of geeks to a screeching halt because you've just rolled out the best steak sandwiches, babyback ribs, or buffalo wings they've ever had.
And, even better, nobody but you and me is going to know that you had an easier time doing it than updating your video drivers and that it took less time than downloading a new map pack.
Makes a little more sense now, don't it?
But that still leaves the question about why I should be the one to write it. Well, the short answer is because gaming and food are pretty much the two driving forces behind my entire sad, pointless little existence.
I've spent the past 15 years working in the games industry - writing well over a thousand reviews and editorials, and even doing scripts and motion capture on several titles over the years. Before that I was a cook and pit-master, and have won ribbons in several regional barbeque championships. So, needless to say, when the gamers I work with now find out about the foodie I've been since then, it's only a matter of time before they start asking, then demanding, and finally begging for me to cook for them.
But after years of dealing with guys who seem to think that cooking is the equivalent of some kind of terrifying medieval voodoo magic - yet, paradoxically, demand that I whip up something for every movie night, party, and LAN game - I finally decided to start a column to show the uninitiated exactly how easy awesome cooking can be. A column that would feature recipes that my friends and I love to eat, that are as quick as they are tasty, and that never require a laundry list of ingredients or a bunch of unnecessarily complicated techniques.
A column written by a gamer, for gamers, with all of our tastes and interests in mind.
A column L33T enough that it would mean, for once in my geeky life, that I would no longer be the only guy willing to make dinner on Friday nights.
Welcome to The Gamer's Guide to Grub.
Thanksgiving Pot Pie
Tomorrow is a very special day for us gamers. Not only do we give thanks for all the goodness we have in our lives, but we also launch into the single biggest eating and gaming weekend of the year. From late Thursday all the way through Sunday afternoon gamers will split their time somewhere close to evenly between grotesque levels of gorging and insane amounts of gaming.
Still, if you're anything like me, sometime over the weekend - probably around Saturday night - you just won't be able to so much as look at another turkey sandwich, bowl of cream of turkey soup, or plate of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.
But the problem is that just because you're onto your 15th roast-turkey-on-rye doesn't mean you'll necessarily be out of leftover bird. Or, really, that you'll be sick of leftovers. You'll just need something new. Something different. Something like: Thanksgiving Leftovers Pot Pie.
Now, there's an awful lot of things I love about this recipe: it's quick, it's ridiculously easy, and it tastes fantastic. But what's probably my favorite part is that you can throw absolutely anything into it you still have lying around from the big meal. That strange back-meat from the bottom of the turkey that tastes great but looks a little weird? Absolutely. The end pieces of the roast beef that got a little too dried out in the oven? Definitely. Buttered corn that's gotten a bit mushy from too many trips to the microwave? For sure. The braised carrots that you've got way too much of because you forgot to serve them with Thanksgiving dinner? Yup, those too.
No matter what it is, if you've got it lying around, and you can conceivably imagine that it will taste good in a pot pie, cut it into bite sized chunks, toss it in, and a half-hour later you'll have some seriously kick-ass chow suitable for either serving to your cronies or enjoying all by your lonesome.
2-3 pounds of cooked and seasoned turkey, chicken, ham, beef, or other meat (though you can make in smaller batches with less)*
1 cup carrots
1 cup buttered and salted corn
1 cup roasted potatoes
2 cups gravy (simple recipe follows if you don't have any leftover)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (be sure and buy the stuff that's already cut and rolled into sheets. You'll find it in your grocery store's freezer section)
Of course, with the sole exception
of the puff pastry, this recipe is about leftovers...so if you don't have some
ingredients, but have lots of others, feel free to mix and match to get a pie
that'll make you happy.
1) Bring everything to room temperature, then cut up the meat and potatoes into bite-sized chunks.
2) Mix meat, potatoes, carrots, corn, and gravy [See 'Simple Gravy Recipe below] in large bowl until everything is thoroughly combined and the gravy coats all your solid bits. This is now your pie filling.
3) Taste the filling for seasoning. If needed, add granulated garlic, salt, pepper, powdered cayenne pepper, or a couple dashes of your favorite Worcestershire or hot sauce.
4) Pour filling into a 9x9" casserole dish or 4 oven-safe bowls.
5) Cover the dish with the thawed sheet of puff pastry. If using bowls, cut the pastry into quarters and cover each bowl individually. Once the dish is covered, use your fingers to crimp (squeeze) the edges of the pastry to the rim of the dish.
6) Take a knife or fork and poke 4
or 5 holes through the puff pastry (this lets steam out while it's cooking),
then toss the pie into a 400o oven for 25 to 30 minutes - until the pastry is
golden brown and delicious and the filling is nice and hot.
Let your pie stand for 5 to 10 minutes to let the filling set before serving. I like to bring it to the table in shallow bowls or on wide-lipped plates along side an ice-cold lager.
Because you tried the filling before you cooked it, you probably don't need any extras, but if your crew's tastes vary you can always toss out a bottles of Worcestershire, hot, or steak sauce so they can doctor it up themselves.
If you end up with leftovers of your leftovers (Would that be leftovers2?), they're best if they're reheated in the oven at 350o for 10-to-15 minutes because the microwave will make the crust soggy.
* Oh and, don't think that because this is called a "Leftovers Pot Pie" you have to have leftovers to make it. If you're craving the pie but it's not the week after Thanksgiving, just liberally season some chicken or turkey pieces (drumsticks, breasts, or thighs) with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic, put them on a baking sheet, and toss them into a 375o oven for 45 to 60 minutes - until the pieces reach an internal temperature of 180 and the juices run clear. Then add them to a package of frozen vegetables that's been thawed, buttered, and salted, and you're good to go.
Simple Gravy Recipe:
Don't have any gravy left from Thanksgiving? No problem.
Just take a 14oz. can of chicken or turkey broth and pour it into a pan (but don't put the pan on the stove yet!). While the broth is still room temperature, add 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of granulated garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. If you like your gravy spicy, you can also add a couple dashes of hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Stir or whisk the wet and the dry together until the flour is completely dissolved with absolutely no lumps left. Then cook it over medium heat on the stove, stirring constantly, until it has the thickness and texture you like your gravy to be.
Give it a taste to make sure the seasoning is right, and feel free to add salt, pepper, or a couple more hits of hot sauce.
Just be aware as you taste it, though, that because this quick and easy gravy doesn't contain any butter or pan drippings it will never be quite as good as the real thing (which takes a whole lot longer to make and is way more complicated).
But, given that the whole point of this leftovers pot pie is to be as simple as possible, I'll take a good gravy that's done in five minutes over a laborious one that takes an hour and is ten-times harder to make any day.