You might have guessed that I really like–no, scratch that–love butternut squash, evidenced by the many archived recipes featuring it as an ingredient. It’s true. This oddly-shaped, vitamin-rich vegetable with a cheerful orange interior is my favorite of them all. I say this despite the fact that I nearly dislocate a shoulder every time that I try to cut a butternut squash in half. The delicious reward is always so sweet that I figure it is well worth the risk.
During the fall and winter months, when butternut squash tastes the best (and costs the least!), it is rare that I return from the grocery store without the telltale pale orange round top and short stem peeking out of the shopping bag. I’ll often use it to make my signature Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, which is almost thick enough to qualify as a stew, and which I would be happy to eat every day for the remainder of my life. Sometimes, I’ll just split the squash in half lengthwise, seed it, and roast it until it is soft. After a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon, consider me a happy camper. Other times, I’ll peel and cube the squash, toss it with other vegetables, herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, and roast until caramelized. A big batch of this will feed you for days, and it is fantastic hot or cold. As far as I’m concerned, there are very few recipes in which butternut squash doesn’t belong. O.K., maybe not brownies…..
Last night, I was rummaging through the refrigerator, gathering potential contenders for pot-pie ingredients, when my eyes fell upon a foil-wrapped lonely half squash, leftover from Monday’s pasta recipe. Although I was going for a minestrone themed filling, I figured "why not?" Butternut squash will not only add color and heartiness to the recipe, but it also will contribute a nice sweet flavor to contrast the acidity of the tomatoes. The ultimate comfort food, pot-pies are always sure to please, but they are often overly rich. This recipe incorporates a lighter filling and a top-only lattice crust, which is much more figure friendly, but the combination of flavors leave you feeling like you haven’t sacrificed a thing! Here are a few extra tips for preparing these comforting parmesan-crusted pies:
- The unbaked pot pies can be refrigerated for up to one day. The pastry crust disks can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- This filling leaves room for creativity and interpretation. If you have some leftover turkey in the refrigerator (post-Thanksgiving, perhaps?), then substitute shredded turkey for the chicken. Prefer sweet potatoes over butternut squash? Use them instead. Pot pies are a great vehicle for using up leftovers!
- Instead of preparing a woven lattice crust, you can simply criss-cross the strips of pastry to achieve a similar look. The egg wash will help adhere them together. Another option is to make a solid round top layer. If you choose this method, be sure to cut a few slits in the pastry, so that the steam can escape while baking.
- You can substitute 1 teaspoon dried rosemary for the 1 tablespoon fresh. Fresh or dried thyme would also work nicely with this recipe.
- If you do not have individual oven-proof containers, you can always make one large pot-pie in a 3-4 quart casserole dish. The baking time will be 10-15 minutes longer, but you will know that the pot pie is done when the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling.
Chicken Minestrone Pot Pies with Parmesan Lattice Crusts
Makes 8 pot pies
For the pastry
3 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 pound cold butter, cubed
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of ice water
Egg wash, made with 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon cream
For the filling
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and thickly sliced
3 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise, 1/4-inch thick
2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise, 1/4-inch thick
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 1/2) ounce can cannellini beans
5 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 bay leaf
1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
Salt and pepper
Prepare the pastry: In the work bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour with the rosemary, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the butter and the cheese and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, gradually add the ice water and process just until the dough comes together (add a few tablespoons more water if necessary.) Divide the pastry into 8 pieces, flatten into disks, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the squash, kale, tomatoes, beans, broth, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Add the chicken, bay leaf, and cheese rind (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer the soup gently, stirring occasionally, until the chicken has cooked through and the squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool and remove the cheese rind.
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Ladle the soup into 8 ovenproof 2-cup bowls and set them on a baking sheet. Brush the outer rims of the bowls with the egg wash. On a floured work surface, roll out 1 piece of pastry to a circumference 1-inch wider than the bowls. Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut the pastry into 1/2-inch strips. Weave the strips into a lattice and place on top of one of the bowls, folding the overhang over the rim and pressing to adhere. Repeat with the remaining pastry disks and bowls. Brush the lattice tops with egg wash.
Bake the pot pies for 12 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake for 45 minutes longer, until the pastry is golden brown and the soup is bubbling.