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Classic comfort reinvented for Christmas dinner

| Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 9:00 p.m.

Chicken potpie is a fine, comforting dinner for most of the winter.

But at Christmas, you want comfort with a little more. You want a dinner that's as special as it is comforting.

So, we used the model of a basic puff pastry-topped chicken potpie, but substituted tender sirloin tips for the poultry.

Add a creamy beef gravy, and you end up with a savory potpie that is the perfect casual, comforting, yet special way, to cap a wonderful Christmas.

Alison Ladman is a recipe developer for the Associated Press.

Christmas Beef Potpie

Start to finish: 1 hour

1 14 pounds yellow potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks

Water, for boiling potatoes

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium-size yellow onion, sliced

2 medium-size shallots, sliced

1 medium-size clove garlic, minced

2 large carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1 14 pounds sirloin tips, cut into 1-inch pieces

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

14 cup red wine

34 cup unsalted or low-sodium beef stock

2 tablespoons flour

12 cup heavy cream

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the potatoes in a medium-size saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then cook until tender, for about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, shallots and garlic and saute until tender, for about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots and celery, and cook until beginning to brown and caramelize at the edges, for about 10 more minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and thyme. Cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Season the sirloin with salt and pepper. Return the skillet to the stovetop over high heat. Add the oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, sear the meat on all sides until well-browned, for about 3 minutes. The meat does not need to be cooked through. After the meat is seared, remove it from the pan. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the red wine. Scrape up any browned bits from the pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the beef stock and flour. Add to the pan, whisking until thick, for about 3 minutes. Stir in the cream. Return the beef, vegetables and potatoes to the pan and stir to combine and coat everything with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a medium-size casserole dish or baking pan.

Unfold the puff pastry sheet and set it over the pan. Use a paring knife to cut slits to vent.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown and the inside is bubbling.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 290 calories, 16 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 40 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams dietary fiber, 160 milligrams sodium

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