Good morning, friends and neighbors!
Given last weeks tell-all about pie, I thought it would appropriate to give savory pies their chance!
The Crusty Bits of History
Historically speaking, putting savory things in a crust predates sweet by a LONG way. Nearly every culture in the world has some variation of "a pastry shell or pouch filled with something else-"
Baked, fried, boiled, steamed- there's no end to the variations!
Here's an interesting fact for you:
The pies made in the Middle Ages were made in a crust that was generally inedible! The crust was ridiculously thick and was often set right on the coals or hearth of a fire to bake. The intent was for the crust to simply be a vessel for the filling- and sometimes it would get reused!
Eventually, advances in cookware led to possibility for edible crusts. You still might have to deal with ashes/soot/fire stuff in your filling though, since the common folks didn't always have materials to put a crust on top.
Those who WERE fortunate enough to be able to make a lid for their pies? They were:
"the upper crust."
Easy Handling, Easy Eating!
Even today, one of the big advantages to pie (especially turnovers and handpies!) is their convenience.
Think of it- put your favorite filling in a crust, bake it off, cool it, and then take it away! No utensils needed, no table, maybe the handkerchief you wrapped it up in, and it's a meal on the go.
If you read that and said, "Ok, Matt, that's nice and idyllic, but who REALLY cares about pie-on-the-go anymore?"... well, head on down to your grocery store or Mickey D's and see just how popular the idea still is, and how much you can pay for it.
Of course, you don't have to worry about all that anymore... because between this post and the last one, you know how to make your own crusts and fillings! Dietary woes, preservatives, the cost of a pretty box and a dancing pie on TV? Nope!
See what a little culinary knowledge can afford you?
It may be a little more work, but to have food on the go, the way you want it, when you want it (because the pies you make at home can freeze for when you need them!) and for less money, it's worth it!
The BHB's Favorite Savory Pies!
All the recipes I'm giving here will make one 9" large pie, OR 10 or so hand pies!
One thing to bear in mind though- if you're going to go the hand pie route, make sure to cut your ingredients up smaller. You don't want to take a bite out of your pie and find half the filling was just one chunk.
Roasted Vegetable and Gorgonzola
This pie is a fall and winter staple for my wife and I. Originally a pot pie recipe from my mother-in-law, I figured it could be even tastier warm and wrapped in a handkerchief on a fall day, rather than out of a tupperware.
Preheat your oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, toss your chopped veggies in oil and season. Personally, I love smoked paprika, a little clove, and some sage. If you are using fresh herbs instead of dry, hold off on putting them in till after the roasting.
Spread the vegetables evenly on a foiled and greased sheet pan, and roast until they are nicely browned and the potatoes and carrots can be easily pierced with a fork. Use a wooden spoon to move them around the pan occasionally to ensure proper browning. This can take anything for 45 minutes to an hour and 20.
Smaller chunks cook quicker! If you cut your veggies small for hand pies, they WILL roast faster. Keep an eye on them!
While the veggies are roasting, roll out and line your pie tin with your crust. Pictures and how-to here!
Once the veggies are done, carefully mix in any fresh herbs you were going to use and the crumbled gorgonzola. Be careful when mixing- you want nice chunks, not mash!
Place in the crust, seal, vent, and bake until the crust is golden brown. This filling will NOT bubble to let you know it's done, obviously, so go by the color of the crust.
Tortierre (a.k.a. French Canadian Meat Pie)
I am a round-heeled pushover for a juicy, steaming meat pie. I'll eat it however you've got it- Jamaican is a favorite, but I'll do mincemeat, Cornish pasties, steak and kidney... just something about meat in a crust with its own gravy just wins me over- especially on a cold night, or fall days in the farmers market.
As much as it pains me, I CAN'T claim credit for this recipe, a favorite. I went looking for a good meat pie recipe years ago, and this was the best. The only things I change are the addition of veal to the meat mixture, upped some amounts for personal taste, and the use of my own pie crust rather than store-bought. If anyone knows "Lauralane" or if she's reading this, tell her to get in touch with me. My family and I need to thank her.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Place the potato in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, mash, and set aside.
Meanwhile, crumble the ground beef and pork into a large saucepan, and add the garlic, onion and water. Season with mustard powder, thyme, cloves and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring to crumble the meat and mix in the spices, until the meat is evenly browned. Remove from the heat, and mix in the mashed potato.
Line your pie plate pie plate. Fill with the meat mixture, then top with the other pie crust. Vent, seal, and egg wash the top.
Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the crust has browned. Serve by itself, or with a beef gravy.
Sausage, Mushroom, and Onion "Pastie" with Asiago
Now THIS one was all me, and I'll be honest- I'm guessing a bit on some of the measurements. It was kind of a "use what you've got" scenario.
Back at the cafe I used to work at, I used to make weekly handpies. One week, we didn't have enough of really ANY kind of fruit to make them happen. Blueberries and apples had to go to recipes, and we didn't really have any other fruit except citrus in stock. Not wanting to try to talk my boss into a grocery run, I decided that a savory pie would be in order. Using some mild italian sausage we had around, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and spare cheese, I whipped up these bad boys. My boss was thrilled- "I usually hate mushrooms, but this is really good!-" but decided to have me hold off on baking them, and I tossed them in the freezer.
The next day, we got hit by a wave of customers and were running out of stuff to put on the counter.
"Hey boss, we've still got those handpies!"
"Oh s***... you know what? Yeah, bake them. Have 'em out there in an hour."
Every single one sold that afternoon. So there you go- emergency handpies can endear you to your boss!
In a large skillet, brown and season the sausage. Reserve the fat. Use the fat to caramelize the onions, and place in the same bowl as the sausage. Use any remaining fat, supplementing with oil as necessary, to saute the mushrooms. The mushrooms will brown, lose water, and then reabsorb it/ cook it off. Once the mushrooms have cooked off all their liquid, mix with the sausage and onions. Line the bottom of your crust with Asiago cheese, fill with the meat/onion/mushroom mixture, seal and bake!
There you go! Pies for picnics, pies for walks, pies for dinner... pies forever!
What do you think? What's your favorite savory pie?
About the Author
The Black Hat Baker, a.k.a. Matt Strenger, lives in SE Portland, Oregon as a professional baker. Here, Matt bakes, cooks, exercises, and explores, returning to his wife and their hobbit hole up Mt. Tabor to write about all of it.
Email the BHB at blackhatbakery(at)gmail(dot)com
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