Pie isn’t just for sweeties

Posted Nov. 13, 2012, at 4:27 p.m.
Historically pies were savory before sweet and there is no limit to what can be tucked inside a crust in a pot pie.
Phil Masturzo | MCT
Historically pies were savory before sweet and there is no limit to what can be tucked inside a crust in a pot pie.
Historically pies were savory before sweet and there is no limit to what can be tucked inside a crust in a pot pie.
Ed Suba Jr. | MCT
Historically pies were savory before sweet and there is no limit to what can be tucked inside a crust in a pot pie.
Historically pies were savory before sweet and there is no limit to what can be tucked inside a crust in a pot pie.
Ed Suba Jr. | MCT
Historically pies were savory before sweet and there is no limit to what can be tucked inside a crust in a pot pie.

Say the word “pie” and most folks will turn their thoughts to apple, cherry or coconut cream.

But long before pie was reserved for the dessert cart, pies were savory fare — crusts filled with meat, vegetables and gravy, eggs, cheese, seafood or other sauces.

Baking ingredients inside a crust was a good way to use up leftovers or to turn just a small amount of meat into heartier fare.

Classic pot pie is one of the best-loved savory pies, and can be made with or without a bottom crust. Ladle hot filling into bakers or ramekins, and all the dish needs is a topper of pie crust or puff pastry to give it a golden brown finish.

Turkey, chicken, beef or even ham, combined with gravy, potatoes and other vegetables, baked into a rich crust is one of the ultimate comfort foods.

While it looks time-consuming, a chicken pot pie can be quickly assembled using meat pulled from a grocery store rotisserie chicken, frozen vegetables and pre-made pie crust or thawed sheets of frozen puff-pastry dough.

To serve up a savory pie in traditional style, look to the British for inspiration.

“Tart It Up!” (Mitchell Beazley, $19.99), a new book from British food television chef Eric Lanlard, is devoted to sweet and savory pies and tarts.

Lanlard offers recipes for traditional European dishes: French quiche Lorraine, Brittany seafood tart and Iberian Chicken Pie laced with paprika and cayenne pepper.

Likewise, British chef Jamie Oliver, in his new book “Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain” (Hyperion, $35), explores British pub fare and comfort foods, from shepherd’s pie under a crown of mashed potatoes to Cornish pasties, which were the traditional lunch for tin miners in England’s Cornwall County.

When those miners immigrated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for work, they brought the tradition of pasties with them, where it remains to this day. Eating these savory hand pies is still a big attraction for visitors to the Upper Peninsula.

With colder weather upon us, consider baking up some comfort food in a crust with one of these recipes.

Cheesy chicken pot pies

Makes 6 servings

2 cups baby red potatoes

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ cups finely chopped white onion

1 cup finely chopped carrot

1 cup celery, chopped

1 tbsp. minced garlic

2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast

1 cup frozen peas

8 tbsp. butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray six 2-cup ramekins with nonstick cooking spray.

Add the baby potatoes to a large pot of water, bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. (If potatoes are large, halve or quarter before cooking.)

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the chicken and peas and cook, stirring for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour, salt and pepper and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add the chicken broth, whisking until thick and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables. Stir in the potatoes.

Divide the filling among the prepared ramekins. Cut the puff pastry into six 5-inch rounds and place over the filling. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until puff pastry is golden brown. Let the pies sit for 10 minutes and serve warm.

— Adapted from “The Picky Palate Cookbook,” Jenny Flake

Iberian chicken pie

Makes 6 servings

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. chicken, cut into cubes

7 oz. chorizo, sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

2 tsp. paprika

1 tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 recipe flaky pastry dough (recipe follows)

All-purpose flour, for dusting 1 egg, beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a skillet and saute the chicken over medium heat until it starts to brown. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Add the chorizo to the skillet and saute for a few minutes until it starts to release its oil, then add the garlic and cayenne and cook for a minute or so, stirring to make sure they don’t burn.

Add the tomatoes and paprika and return the chicken to the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Spoon the mixture into a large 3- to 3 ½-quart ovenproof dish, about 12 by 8 by 2 inches.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Brush the rim of the ovenproof dish with some of the beaten egg. Cover the pie with the pastry and trim off any excess. Use the trimmings to make leaf shapes to decorate the top of the pastry, if desired, using the beaten egg to hold them in place. Press the pastry edges against the rim of the dish to seal. Brush the pastry all over with more beaten egg.

Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top of the pie is crisp and golden.

Flaky pastry dough

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp. fine salt

1¼ sticks unsalted butter, chopped into pieces

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp. milk

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.

Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Again using your fingertips, mix together to make a smooth dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead two or three times. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

Makes enough for one 9-inch diameter, 1 ¼-inch deep tart pan.

— Adapted from “Tart It Up! Sweet & Savory Tarts & Pies,” Eric Lanlard

Mushroom, feta and cherry tomato tart

Makes 6 servings

1 cup cherry tomatoes, mixed colors

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

10 oz. mixed portobello mushrooms, sliced

4 eggs

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tbsp. snipped chives

1 flaky pastry shell for a 9-inch diameter, 1¼-inch deep tart pan (see recipe above)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prebake the pastry shell by rolling out the dough and fitting it into the tart pan. Prick bottom with a fork. Chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Cover the dough with a piece of parchment paper. Fill unbaked shell with pie weights or dried, uncooked beans. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the shell is set. Remove the paper and weight and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a roasting pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees, for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to soften slightly. Set aside and leave the oven on.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute over gentle heat for 10 minutes, turning them occasionally. Pat the mushrooms dry with paper towels, if necessary, and set aside.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, add the feta cheese, and mix well. Stir in the mushrooms and chives, then season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the baked pastry shell and arrange the roasted tomatoes on top. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden.

— Adapted from “Tart It Up! Sweet & Savory Tarts & Pies,” Eric Lanlard

©2012 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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