“It was a dark and stormy night…” is the perfect beginning to any spooky story by the fireside. So why not fill the spookiest season of the year with deep, dark, and cozy flavors like ground beef, and stout beer? These mushroom pot pies will compliment your Halloween night and your Autumn days. Curl up and enjoy bite after bite of this deliciously dark dish, rich with otherworldly flavors and festive pops of sweet potato.
What’s with the Baking Soda?
Anytime I cook ground meats, I mix in baking soda. Baking soda helps ground meat retain its juices and speeds up the browning process, which means less flavor loss, a nicer texture, and no draining or cooking down of excess liquid. And don’t worry, the amount used is so scant that the taste of baking soda won’t be detected.
Baking soda has been used by Chinese cooks and in Vietnamese cuisine’s bouncy meatballs long before westerners caught wind of it. These days you can also see baking soda used in many a chili recipe, like this one from Cook’s Illustrated.
I also use a small pinch of baking soda on my steaks and pork chops for the same browning benefits. Baking soda left on meats for longer than 15 minutes or so will also act as a tenderizer.
Browning Mushrooms for Optimum Flavor
To get a lovely brown on mushrooms there are a few elements at play: first, the pan should not be crowded. I’d say this recipe just slides by to cook the mushrooms all at once.
Second, the mushrooms should be patted out in an even layer and not stirred too often in order to receive enough heat exposure to brown.
Last, mushrooms should be salted AFTER they brown. Salt draws out moisture, which means that if mushrooms are salted at the start of browning there will be excess time spent cooking off the water they let off. My thanks to the smart and talented Chef Sophia Roe for this salting tip!
Breadcrumb Benefits + Bonus Recipe
Breadcrumbs offer a lovely crisp and crunchy texture, but their gifts to the pot pie world don’t end there. Breadcrumbs are the easy cheat way to make a stew into a pot pie without pastry, YAY!
Additionally, if you want to try your hand at making your own plain bread crumbs, save up your bread heels and stale bread in a bag in the freezer. (This is ANY kind of bread– hot dog buns, bagels, etc.) When you have a bag full, lie the bread pieces out on baking sheets and bake at 300F until the bread is completely dried out. Whizz in a food processor, and voila! Bonus: those old bread heels won’t go to waste. Store your breadcrumbs in an airtight container in the fridge and they will keep for months.
Mushroom + Ground Beef Pot Pies Recipe
Stormy Night Mushroom Pot Pies
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter divided
- 3 medium shallots diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- 16 oz cremini mushrooms stems removed and sliced
- 12 oz sweet potatoes peeled and diced into 1/4 “ pieces
- 1 tsp thyme leaves
- 1 tsp rosemary finely chopped
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cups stout beer I use Murphy’s Stout
- 1.25 cups chicken or beef stock
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2/3 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1.5 oz aged white cheddar crumbled into small pieces (about 1/3 cup)
- In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, melt 1 tbsp of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the ground beef, the baking soda, 1/2 tsp sea salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix with your hands, incorporating well. Once the shallots are translucent, add the beef mixture to the pot and increase the heat to medium. Cook, breaking the beef up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until browned.
- Transfer the beef and shallots to a fresh bowl and return the pot to the heat. Melt the remaining butter and add the mushrooms. Stir to coat, then pat out the mushrooms in as even of a layer as possible. Allow to sit 2-3 minutes without stirring, then stir and repeat until the mushrooms are cooked through and golden in spots. Once browned, season with a pinch of salt.
- Add the sweet potatoes, thyme, rosemary, and beef/shallot mixture to the pot and sprinkle with the flour. Cook while stirring, about 2 minutes. Pour in the stout beer and stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer until thickened, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom and incorporating, about 12 minutes. Last, stir in the balsamic vinegar and taste. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
- Heat the oven to 425F and transfer the pie filling to 4 croques or a small baking vessel. Toss the breadcrumbs with the cheese and spread on top of the pies. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.