Ugly Upper Crust

Pastry crusts are a work in progress for me. I’m still learning how to gauge the correct texture between too wet and too dry all the time it seems. My recent foray into a blue cheese pastry for a brisket pot pie was no exception. For some reason, there’s just a learning curve there for me to conquer. One day I’ll make a perfect one and stop using ready-made ones…

I recently found this amazing-sounding recipe from Saveur Magazine for Beef Cheek and Stout Pie with Stilton Pastry and had a strong desire to find out exactly what a Stilton pastry tasted like. I’ve baked cheddar into biscuits and had it in crusts, but never Stilton. The idea of lacing a pastry crust with its strong, funky flavor and aroma intrigued me. I personally love nearly all cheese (cottage still gets me with the texture, but I’m working on it), so I wasn’t put off by the blue in my pot pie.

A few notes to consider when cooking with these ingredients: 1) If you’re unable to find plain Stilton (all I could find was Stilton with blueberry – which is great for a charcuterie/cheese board, but not for this recipe), you can opt for another good blue (Amish or Maytag is good here). 2) If you’re hesitant about beef cheeks, or can’t find them, you can opt for brisket (as in my case). 3) If you’re hesitant about cooking with stout beer, you can just use more beef broth (we like Better Than Bouillon), it’ll work nearly the same and it won’t change your recipe like baking substitutions typically would. 4) Fresh herbs. There’s nothing like them. I recently had some leftover sprigs of rosemary and thyme from recipes. I dried the rosemary by hanging and froze the thyme. Both were so much for vibrant and flavorful than your standard dried herbs. I can’t recommend enough giving fresh herbs a try!

In the middle of cooking, when I was just about to set the crust to roll out, I knew it didn’t look right. I ended up having to text my grandma a picture and ask her, “What’s wrong with my crust?” Hoping she could diagnose my problem by sight. Too dry this time. She was able to walk me through in rehabing my crust and though I thought it was still quite ugly, it tasted good and served its purpose. It perfectly encapsulated its earthy, rich beef filling with fresh herbs and baked beautifully.

I liked the crust myself, but I know blue cheese isn’t for everyone. I loved the aromatic beef and herbs in this recipe, but also think any good, sharp English cheddar in the crust might do just as well. Overall though, this is by far one of my favorite spins on a pot pie! Even just half the recipe would feed far more than 4 people. It’s so hearty, it needed a fresh, bright side salad with an herbaceous, vinegary dressing.

What is in your favorite pot pie?

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