Potpies might be my favorite kind of pie: They're warm, filling, savory and endlessly adaptable. This time of year, one of the best is a chipotle-sweet-potato version. It's based on a potpie recipe in my new cookbook, "Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to Vegetarian Cooking."
With their bright orange flesh and rich flavor, sweet potatoes are great for the fall table. (They also come packed with alpha and beta carotene, iron, calcium, and fiber, making them all-stars in helping to ward off all sorts of illnesses.) Paired with a simple green salad and a glass of wine, pies stuffed with sweet potatoes make a tasty way to spend a chilly evening -- and are excellent incentive for friends to accept an invitation to your next dinner.
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One fun thing to do is to throw a potpie-making party. Plan to prepare your sweet-potato-based recipe, but then invite a handful of friends over and have everyone bring a different filling (favorite stews or chunky chowders make great insides). As host, you can provide the crusts. I usually use puff pastry, but if you don't have any on hand, you can substitute dollops of simple biscuit dough or mashed potatoes.
Hang out in the kitchen assembling the pies, then pop a few in the oven to eat immediately and throw the rest in the freezer. You can also freeze leftover filling. Later, just thaw it out in the fridge the day you want to make the pies and pull out the puff pastry a half-hour before baking time; assembling the potpies takes less than five minutes.
Of course, the big trick is remembering what fillings are in which pies. I like to top non-vegetarian pies with a pastry cutout of a chicken (or cow or whatever else fits); veggie ones get a cutout of a tomato or carrot. If people want a quick way to remember which pies are theirs, you can also use a cookie cutter to create the initials of each person from the leftover pastry scraps.
Bonus: When people are ready to leave, everyone can take home potpies in different flavors.
Story and recipe excerpted and adapted from "Cook 1.0: A Fresh Approach to Vegetarian Cooking," by Heidi Swanson (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, November 2004).
Sweet Potato Potpie
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 to 3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies (or more to taste)