Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beef Potpie, 1941

 What could be more appropriate on Independence Day than a traditional American recipe, done up US Army style? This beef potpie recipe called for a biscuit topping, the recipe for which is below.
As shown in the photo, cast iron is my "weapon of choice" for many reproduction recipes. The biscuit recipe will yield enough biscuits to cover a potpie in a 10-inch diameter pot. The secret to good biscuits is to use a light hand and not overwork the dough once the liquid has been added to the dough mix. Mix only as much as necessary to incorporate the liquid. 

Beef Potpie, US Army, 1941

This US Army version of beef pot pie was a chunky beef stew topped with biscuit dough. A Dutch oven or heavy casserole with a lid is recommended.
Yield: 4-6 servings

US                               Metric                        Ingredients
24 oz                           680 g                           beef, fresh or leftover
12 oz                           340 g                           potatoes
3 fl oz                           90 ml                          canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes
4 oz (~1 small)             115 g                          onions
4 oz (~½ large)            115 g                          turnips 
4 oz (~1 large)             115 g                          carrrots
1 small clove                1 small clove               garlic
1 fl oz (2 tbsp)             35 ml                           flour
to taste                         to taste                       salt & pepper
1 batch biscuit dough (refer to the recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits, US Army, 1941)

1.      Cut the beef, potatoes, carrots and turnips into 1-inch cubes.
2.      Cut onions into 1-inch pieces.
3.      Mince the garlic.
4.      Place the beef in enough cold water to cover, and bring quickly to a simmer.
5.      Add the carrots and turnips and simmer until they are nearly done.
6.      Add the potatoes, onions, garlic and tomatoes and continue cooking until all ingredients are cooked.
7.      Meanwhile, prepare the biscuit dough and cut into biscuits.
8.      Thicken slightly with flour batter.
9.      Cover with the raw biscuits.
10.  Cover the pot and cook until the biscuits are done.

Beef potpie with biscuit topping
 Baking Powder Biscuits, US Army, 1941
     The 1941 biscuit again saw a doubling of the fat content. Milk (either canned evaporated milk or powdered skim milk) completely replaced the water referred to in previous recipes.   

Yield: 12 biscuits (6 servings)

U.S.                             Metric                        Ingredients
1 pound                       455 g                           flour
0.18 oz/1 tsp                5 g                              salt
0.66 oz/1.5 tbsp           20 ml/22 g                   baking powder
4 oz                             120 g                           fat (lard or lard substitute)
1.2 oz/4 fl oz               35 g/120 ml                  powdered skim milk
6 oz water                   135 ml                          water

1.      Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together 3 times.
2.      Work the fat into the mixture.
3.      Make a well in the middle and add all the milk at once. This should make a soft dough, if not, add more milk.
4.      Turn out onto a lightly floured board and do not over-mix.
5.      Roll out about one-half inch thick.
6.      Cut out with a biscuit cutter.

NOTE: if preparing biscuits for beef potpie, top the potpie with the biscuits at this point. If you wish instead  to make some World War 2 Army biscuits, please continue with the steps below.
7. Place in a baking pan, about ½ inch apart.
8.      Bake in a 400°F oven for about 10 minutes.


  1. Another good looking recipe. I also favor cast iron, and will give this a try.

  2. A helpful hint is to use homemade beef stock instead of water. Not only does it turn a good pot pie or stew into an outstanding dish, it's also historically correct. Especially in garrison, mess sergeants would have a stock pot going constantly to utilize bones and meat scraps. I make stock in large batches and then freeze it in Ziploc bags in 16 fluid ounce portions.
    If you do give this recipe a try, please let us know how it turns out.
    Thanks for stopping in!