Following on from my previous Pie projects that included my Cheeseburger pies (whole cheeseburgers in a pie), and gourmet Fast-food pies (dicing up various fast food items and cooking them into a pie - I should redo them one day and post up the result), this one is a festive themed pie - A Christmas Pie.
I had the idea last Christmas, but didn't think about doing it until after Christmas, and then wasn't inspired enough to do it once the day had passed. And I had totally forgotten all about the concept until just last week, so I went ahead with the cooking/construction strategy.
First I had to list the main things that most people have in a traditional Christmas meal, and see which ones would work together, as anything in a personal pie would be mixed into each bite.
The main one was the Turkey, so ended up in the name (which also prevents people from thinking it is a sweet desert pie, as "Christmas" pies are usually the fruit mince variety).
Another main feature of Christmas meals is Ham, and Roast Veges, and stuffing. The first two I could easily do, the Stuffing I was interested in including, but didn't have the time to prepare. Maybe next year I'll include it in the upgraded version.
Now, pies are usually drowned in sauce, or have a heap of gravy inside, to help it all go down (in case the pastry is a bit dry). So I had to prevent the desire to sauce up the pie, by having as much fluid inside the pie as possible. That included using Christmasy things like gravy and Cranberry sauce, plus some cheese sauce as well to be sure. I didn't want it too runny, making eating it a mess (for my friends who would be eating them), but I preferred that over it being too dry.
I did up a diagram of the layers in the pie, shuffling them around until it was the best order for flavours and separating the sauce layers, to make sure it was more evenly distributed throughout the pie (something that wouldn't be a concern if it wasn't being constructed in layers). From that I did up my shopping list, and had to get up early on Friday to go shopping (to have enough time before work to construct and cook the pies).
Back home, I set out all the ingredients.
Turkey (the store didn't have any cooked turkey at the deli, so ended up buying a frozen portion), 300gm of Ham slices, puff pastry & shortcrust pastry (to test both, to see which one worked better), Cranberry sauce (both smooth type and one with berries), potatoes, chedder cheese spread, and pre-made gravy.
First thing was to get the Turkey cooking, as that was adding 90 minutes to the preparation time, and I only had a little over 3 hours before leaving for work.
It was one big solid block of fowl... I even tried to cut it into smaller portions to speed up the cooking, but couldn't cut through it, so put it into the oven, to cut it up after 45 minutes and put it back in (which I was hoping would save me about 20 minutes).
While it was cooking, I prepared everything else - cutting up the potatoes, mixing up three of the different gravy packets, and mixing the two Cranberry sauces together.
Putting some of those items in the fridge, I started cutting out circles from the pastry sheets, and filling the pie moulds. Even though it came in sheets, I still had to re-roll the offcuts, to cut more circles out. Without a rolling pin, I ended up improvising by using the roll of plastic wrap.
With the turkey taking up so much time in the oven, I didn't get to roast the potatoes as I had planned - so I dry-fried the slices instead, so that they had a semi-roasted look, without absorbing any oil from normal frying (to keep the pies as oil-free as possible).
After the turkey had been in the oven for about 45 minutes, I took it out and cut it up into 8 smaller pieces, and found that the smaller end of the breast was already cooked through, so cut some off and put the rest back in the oven. I used the time the turkey was cooking the rest of the way by doing up a "prototype" test pie, to see how this idea will work out, and if any modifications need to be done to the regular ones.
I filled up one of the pie shells added a lid of pastry, and threw it in the oven with the turkey for about 10 minutes. It came out looking like this:
And when it was cut open, I could see that it didn't have a problem with the sauces, while the layers held together well. When tasting it, I found that one thing that needed improving was the cranberry sauce, in that I couldn't taste it, so needed more in the pie (I was conservative because I thought it might overpower the flavour of the pie).
By now, the turkey segments were cooked all the way through, so I got it out of the oven, diced them, and mixed them into the gravy mix.
Just as a note - I prefer the diced, chunky texture of pies, over the more common minced texture that you get in mass-produced pies in supermarkets and convenience stores. A pie shop on the south side of Brisbane (called Piefection) has the best pies I have ever tasted, and dice their meats, instead of mincing them, so much nicer to chew into. Regular minced pies are just absent of anything chewable... it's often like baby food. A man needs a pie he can chomp into. :p
So, now all the components were ready to put together, and the production line commenced.
I only had 3 pie moulds, so was limited to just doing 3 at a time.
First, I lined the mould with pastry (I ended up doing most with the shortcrust pastry, as it seemed to taste better in the final product), and added in a couple spoonfuls of the turkey-gravy mix.
Note - the empty pie shells on this set of three were given a couple minutes in the oven first to harden them up, but ended up working against me as they shrunk, and also made it difficult to seal them up when applying the pastry lid.
The next thing to add was a spoon of the chedder cheese spread (I chose the spread instead of actual cheese, because I wanted the more runny version without it just becoming an oily solid lump in the pie (that normal cheese would have become). I then pushed it all down to fill the gaps, and make it level for the two slices of folded-over ham to sit on next.
Then I spread on a spoon of the Cranberry sauce, followed by a few slices of the "roasted" potato.
The last thing now was the lid. Each lid was placed onto the top, and pressed down to remove as much air as possible. The edges were then pressed together and rolled inward to seal the pie and create a nicer looking edge. The two at the front were from the second batch, so looked a lot neater on top than the one at the back which was from the first batch (in the previous photos above).
They should have been in the oven for at least 20 minutes to cook the pastry enough to hold its shape when removed from the moulds, but I was running out of time, so had to only give them about 10 minutes, and then another 5 minutes out of the mould (which meant they squished abit as the pastry was still soft out of the mould).
But the pies were still cooked enough for those at work to enjoy them enough to say that they were now theb best thing I've cooked so far.
Now, before I post up the photo of a couple of the finished products, first I need to mention that I had a number of left-over components after running out of turkey, and wanted to make use of them in the most creative way possible.
So with the two remaining sheets of puff pastry laid out as one large rectangle, I laid out the remaining ham slices onto one of the two sheets, and spread out the rest of the cranberry sauce and cheddar cheese spread onto the ham (as well as the remaining three potato slices chopped up). I then rolled up the pastry rectangle like a giant cigarette, into something that resembled a giant sausage-roll.
Into the oven with the last two pies for about 20 minutes, and out came the most delicious dinner for me (when I got home).
Next year I might do an updated version, as mentioned above, but for now, Merry Christmas everyone.