Making Stuff Up

When our friends Yvonne and Allan deserted the desert this spring for the cooler climes of British Columbia, Canada (the same friends on Salt Spring Island mentioned last week), they were so kind as to leave us with some wonderful "toys" from their freezer.

These included organic chicken, two beautiful strip steaks, and a one-pound package of unidentified meat. When Yvonne gave me these, she said the meat was pork and that it was great for sandwiches. As the the outdoor temperature approached 100°F, I thought grilling the pork outdoors would be a great way to keep the heat out of the kitchen. When I opened the package, I found the pork was already cooked... Now what to do?

Mark loves a good pot pie, so I decided to make a pork pot pie. I had no official recipe in mind - time to get creative and make something up (and hope that it came out well). As I began, I assumed I’d end up with something with a British, Scottish or French accent. By the time it came out of the oven, bubbling at the edges, it was anything but!

I took stock of what I had on hand: shallots, carrots, celery, mushrooms, frozen peas, cream, chicken and beef broth concentrates, and an arsenal of herbs and spices.

My perusal of the spices took this dish in an unexpected direction. There was green chili powder in the cupboard we’d picked up in Hatch, New Mexico on our return from our last drive to Santa Fe. This chile powder is HOT, especially when a gust of wind blows some in your eye! But it isn't solely hot – it also packs a unique flavor that we love.

Perhaps I was inspired by the green chile in flour tortillas we occasionally buy from Tohono O'Odham vendors. With the green chili powder in hand, I decided to take my pot pie in a southwestern direction.

That decision made, the rest fell into place. The thawed pork turned out to be carnitas. If you aren't making it yourself, it can be purchased at Mexican markets and Costco. If you want to make it yourself, click here for the recipe. Make it in large batches and freeze it in one-pound portions for future use.

From another neighbor, Connie, we learned about beef and chicken broth concentrates from Minor's, with terrific flavor. They are a staple in our kitchen now, and I use them to add depth to simmering sauces and ragùs... and this pie.

With searing outdoor temperatures, baking a pot pie seemed a little crazy, but I pressed on, grateful for air-conditioning. It turned out so well I was immediately looking forward to autumn’s cooler weather as an excuse to make it again, a way of saying thank you to Yvonne and Allan for the foodie gifts.

Now Autumn is inching into the desert; although Allan and Yvonne won't be back until early December, I felt the urge to try this recipe again.

Friends from Massachusetts, Susan and Appy, were coming back to town and I decided to test the pot pie on them. This time, instead of carnitas, I used some leftover roast suckling pig from one of our local favorite restaurants, Contigo. We had dined there with Susan and Appy during the summer, and taken home abundant leftover roast suckling pig to freeze. For their return visit, I made the pot pie with this pork. It imparted the same deep, rich flavor as the carnitas.

Instead of one big pie, though, I opted for individual ones in some Block Island Blue Pottery meant for just this type of dish.

For readers in the Southern Hemisphere, my apologies for sending a recipe like this just when you are getting ready for summer. Maybe it will do for a rainy late spring day? For all my readers, here is a slice of our Southwestern fusion comfort food!

See? You really can make stuff up!

~ David

Green Chile Pork Potpie


1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, minced
3 carrots, slices in thin coins
2 large stalks celery, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced


Sauté the shallot for a few minutes till clear. Add remaining vegetables and stir to coat. Cover and lower heat; let simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until vegetables are al dente. Set aside.

Chile Cream

4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon green chile powder, or to taste
1/2 tablespoon chicken broth concentrate
1/2 tablespoon beef broth concentrate
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch cinnamon
2 cups water
1/2 cup cream
1 to 1 1/2 cups skim milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup slivered almonds

In a large, 12-inch cast iron skillet, heat 4 tablespoons butter and, when melted, whisk in the flour and cook for a minute. Whisk in the chile powder and then the chicken and beef broth concentrates, herbs, and spices. Sauté for 30 seconds, then add water one cup at a time and continue whisking, as it will thicken quickly. Add cream and 1 cup milk. Season gently with salt and pepper, then continue adding milk until the consistency is thick and creamy. Add less milk if you want a firmer filling, and more if you prefer a more stew-like texture. Add the frozen peas and almonds. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Single pie crust

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup ice water

Process the flour and salt with 3 pulses in the food processor. Add shortening in 16 pieces and pulse 10-12 times, or until mixture resembles tiny peas. Evenly distribute water over the flour mixture and then pulse until mixture clumps and begins to come together. Turn it out onto a floured board and pull it together into a ball. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 1 hour.


1 pound carnitas, cubed or shredded
vegetable mixture
chile cream
recipe for single pie crust

Preheat oven to 450°F.

To the chile cream, add the pork and previously cooked vegetables; mix well. Adjust seasoning.

Using the same skillet if it has an oven-proof handle (or a large baking dish or individual serving crocks), cover the mixture with pastry and press edges against the sides of the container. Poke a few steam holes in the pastry.

Place pot pie(s) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes longer, until golden on top and bubbly.

Serves 4-6.


  1. OH YUM! I'm salivating already! I can't make these until we get to Tucson as we are in our "eating our way through the freezer" stage but my Hatch chilies are always at the ready in our cupboard (and can we pick up more chilies for you when we pass through Hatch?). See you in three weeks.
    From the chilly, leaf-dropping climes of MN,

  2. This is a really really amazing pot pie! There is something wonderful about them coming out of the oven all bubbly, with juice seeping through the crust. Carnitas are so tasty, but then how could they not be with all that lard! Spring is coming and going, so right now there´s room for any kind of recipe!

  3. Lee - we can't wait till you and Bill are back and then we can make this for you! Thanks for the Hatch offer - we recently stocked up so we are set for a while! Have a safe drive back - can't wait to see you!

    Paula - I am glad your weather will still support a hearty pot pie! I am thinking of making one again tonight for a friend who commented on Facebook that she would love this for dinner!

  4. Thanks, Colette! I can't resist any pot pie!

  5. Wow I am so impressed with this! Actually, it is overcast and kinda chilly here in Sydney today. You have inspired me to be creative with my own pie tonight!

  6. Anna - you could do this in your sleep! (And maybe you did, depending on how crazy your week has been!) Hope you had a good pie last evening!


Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.