My friend Andrew Radzialowski, a chef from San Juan Island, developed this simple and fun potpie recipe a few years back when he and I did a couple of elaborate wild game dinners for folks who had only limited experiences with wild food. The pies were a huge hit, and left everyone asking for how-to information about squirrel hunting. While I like the mini versions, you could just as easily make a large pie if you wanted to.
• 4 squirrels or 2 rabbits, skinned and cut into 4 legs and 2 loins each (about 2 pounds total)
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 7 ounces shitake mushrooms or morels, cleaned and with stems removed, diced (about 2 cups)
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1⁄2 cup dry white wine (optional)
• 6 cups game stock (or chicken stock)
• 1 bay leaf
• 11⁄2 sticks unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
• 2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
• 3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons brandy (optional)
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
• 1⁄4 cup heavy cream
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1 package puff pastry, thawed
Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat on both sides. Remove the meat to a plate and set side.
Add the onion and squash to the pan and cook until just tender. Season with salt, remove from the pan, and set aside. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the wine (or a splash of stock or water), scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Remove the mushrooms and set aside.
Return the meat to the pot and add 5 cups of stock (the liquid should just barely cover the meat). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off and discard any scum. Add the bay leaf and cook at a low simmer for 11⁄2–2 hours, until the meat is very tender but not quite falling off the bone. (Squirrel and rabbit have different cooking times. Rabbit joints will become flexible at the point of doneness. Both meats are done when they no longer spring back when pressed with your finger or a fork.)
When the meat is tender, remove the pot from heat. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside to cool, reserving the cooking liquid. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones. Chop or tear the meat into bite-sized pieces. Cover and set aside.
Heat the remaining 1 cup of stock in a 4-quart pot. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the reserved cooking liquid into the pot with the stock and keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. Let cook for 2–3 minutes. Add the cooked vegetables and stir. Off the heat, add the brandy if using, then return to the heat and cook until it has mostly evaporated, stirring con- stantly so the mixture doesn’t burn. Whisk in the hot stock one ladleful at a time. Keep stirring until the sauce becomes thick. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream. Add the reserved meat. Adjust the seasonings if needed.
Divide the stew mixture among eight ramekins. Brush the outside rim of the vessels with the beaten egg. Lay out the puff pastry and cut out 8 rounds slightly larger than the diameter of the ramekins. Top the ramekins with the pastry and press the outer edge so it adheres. Brush the tops of the pot pies with the remaining beaten egg. With a paring knife, make three small slits in the pastry. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
This post was initially published as part of The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Small Game & Fowl by Steven Rinella