In America, a Pot Pie is home-cooked fast-food. They cost less than a dollar from Safeway, rendered into reliably binary choices of Chicken or Beef, sold under comfortable Stouffer and Callender brands, we always had several in the freezer. When evenings were short and busy, they were a simple dinner solution. Just toss one onto a tray, bake at 400F for 45 minutes, and up-end onto a plate for the kids to attack.
Our British brothers have a long prior tradition of savoury pies, staple on home and pub tables. ‘Steak and Guinness’ is the classic variety, with a lighter, layered crust and slow-cooked meat and cheese. At home, Fish Pie and Shepherd’s Pie, with potatoes often standing in for pastry crust, is common. Simpler in concept, but I admit that I have never been able to master preparing either one.
I do somewhat better with Cornish Pasty: Cut a round of biscuit dough, add a spoonful of seasoned meat & veg filling , fold and bake.
Then there are the French cousins.
En croûte, ‘in a pastry crust’, is the more Continental form of savoury pies. Generally a shortcrust pastry wrapped around a filling, the most familiar variety is Boeuf en croûte, nephew to the grander Beef Wellington.
But other fillings can be used, and I took an interest in Salmon en croûte as a way to dress up some fresh seafood fillets.
I have gotten good at hand-mixing shortcrust pastry, sifting the butter and flour through my fingers to a cornmeal consistency, adding a touch of water to form a fragile dough, finally refrigerating without overworking.
The whole affair gets wrapped, turned, and sealed: plan for getting single-layer seams rather than overlapping doubles so that the crust isn’t thick and undercooked along the edges.
Brush with egg and bake at 400F for a half hour. The result, once its rested, is really nice: a light crust,, moist salmon, and a very attractive presentation.
It kept well for a couple of days in the ‘fridge and reheats in a slow oven (microwaving makes the crust soggy).