As the calendar creeps into February I’m more motivated to make sure that I put some food-related, Christmas gifts to good use. I haven’t yet called the Emile Henry terrine pan into service (note the masculine fig colour in the picture below) and I have only cooked one recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home. After some careful pondering I decided that I’d kill three birds with one (delicious) stone and use Chef Keller’s Lentil and Sweet Potato soup (slightly adapted) as the filling in a potpie with his recipe for the crust. All baked in the terrine-loaf pan, of course.
I wrote a post back in December about the usefulness of smoked turkey legs and how they can add flavour to less assertive ingredients like beans. I happened to find one chilling in the meat drawer of the refrigerator so subbed it in for the bacon in the original recipe. Don’t think for a moment that my love for bacon has faded but the smoked turkey leg is a nice change and while it doesn’t provide as much (well, any) glorious pork fat it keeps its shape better to provide more substantial, meaty pieces.
The lentil soup recipe calls for cooking the mirepoix vegetables under a parchment lid. The idea is that the parchment, custom-fitted to the pot and with a central hole, will allow some steam to escape but will keep the vegetables from drying out entirely. I’d be able to handle this a lot more calmly if the cookbook authors hadn’t made a critical error in the directions (as detailed here) that results in a semi-circular and therefore useless waste of parchment paper. Apparently more than a couple recipes in the book refer back to these erroneous directions. A minor quibble, especially when they hopefully fix it for future printings but from here in I’m just going to use a slightly ajar lid. Sorry, Chef.
I correctly estimated that it would take about half a regular pie dough recipe–enough for a bottom and top crust–to cover my loaf pan. To keep things a little healthy and so that I wouldn’t have to worry about blind-baking I decided to omit a bottom crust.
The Ad Hoc pie dough recipe is just alright. My first complaint is that the flour is measured only by volume. I feel like this horse has been beaten to death already but flour compacts and different methods of scooping and measuring can cause results to differ widely. Chef Keller even provides a weight measure for the flour in the pasta dough recipe right beside the pie dough but it’s for a different type of flour so the mathematical acrobatics would only get you in the ballpark.
Some redemption is to be had for the call to cooks to mix the dough by hand. Especially at this time of year when it’s cooler and less humid I really don’t see the point of dragging out the food processor just for pie dough. Last winter I made bread entirely by hand almost every week. I appreciate how much easier it is to work with sticky pizza dough in a Kitchenaid but I don’t think I would enjoy baking as much if I didn’t know exactly what dough feels like when it hits that perfectly-kneaded sweet spot. Maybe some jedi bakers can do this entirely by sight or I guess–if I am going to be true to the analogy–by the force. I can’t.
When sliced and served chicken potpie doesn’t really stay together in one piece like lemon meringue or a dense cherry pie. I for one, like it that way. To the other extreme lentil soup is quite a bit thinner than bechamel-enriched chicken potpie filling so I decided on a couple measure to thicken it. First, I reserved two large ladles of lentils and a ladle of the soup broth, separately from each other. The trusty immersion blender goes into the soup and a minute later we have a much thicker puree. I returned the reserved lentils, with their intact texture to the pot and added the sweet potato.
As I poured the soup into the loaf pan I was careful to strategically place the turkey in evenly-spaced layers. I’m pretty sure this didn’t matter because at service time everything just falls apart into a sort of lentil avalanche topped with delicious pie crust. The crust goes on top of the pan has steam vents cut in the top and gets trimmed to size. I know it’s easiest to run a paring along the edges of the pan the crust may shrink a bit or collapse a bit so it’s better to err on the side of generous. A little extra crust never hurt anyone. I considered using the off-cuts to make a turkey leg shaped decoration for the top but my arts-and-crafts skills failed me so I just ate the raw dough.
Lentils completed their usual trick of absorbing and multiplying the flavours of meat, caramelised vegetables, and smoke; the sweet potatoes acted as little, healthy flavour chunks; and the pieces of turkey were kept suitably moist by the stock and vegetables. The filling would make a fine soup on its own but I appreciated the extra effort involved in adding the pie crust and baking it. This twist made lentil soup feel more luxurious and less like the staple diet for impoverished missionaries on Law & Order.