Proud -- and satiated -- eating humble pie. (3 mouth-watering recipes)
By Kathy Hunt
Indigenous to Northern Europe, dinner pies have been a popular meal since at least the 14th century. They're a longstanding hit in my household, too, and no wonder. To make this easy dish, I simply plunk meat and vegetables -- or meat or vegetables -- into a pie shell or pan, cover them with sauce and seasonings, and top the concoction off with a layer of dough, pastry or mashed potatoes, and then slide it into a pre-heated oven. In less than an hour dinner is served.
The pie supposedly earned its name from its range of diverse ingredients. The late British historian Alan Davidson and others have suggested that "pie" came from "magpie." Just as the magpie collects various knick-knacks to stuff into its nest, cooks likewise gather together a wide assortment of meats, vegetables, fruits, herbs and sauces to load into their crusts.
A wealth of fillings has resulted in a multitude of savory offerings. The British, long reviled for their cuisine, nonetheless boast a long list of delicious, albeit sometimes quirky, pies.
Of all Great Britain's pies, the one featuring game intrigues me most. In Medieval times, what went into a game pie was anyone's guess.
Originating in the northern England and Scotland, where sheep and shepherds reigned supreme, this classic British entree was born out of the need, as most of these pies were, to utilize leftovers.
Shepherd's pie contains scant few ingredients. Cooked minced or ground mutton or lamb is mixed with gravy and/or vegetables, spooned into a pan and topped with mashed potatoes. Baked until golden brown on top, it tastes best if served piping hot. If you don't have lamb on hand, you can substitute minced or ground beef. You'll then have another quintessential English course, cottage pie (although most cooks today call this dish "shepherd's pie," too).
While I think of shepherd's pie as cold weather fare, at the New York restaurant and shop Tea and Sympathy it's a year-round hit. "I tried to take it off the menu in the summer and people went mental," says owner Nicky Perry of her restaurant's famed dish.
For Nicky, the key to a good shepherd's pie rests in the potatoes and cheese layered on top. "Don't make really sloppy mashed potatoes. They'll go all liquid in the oven. And sprinkle grated cheese ... on top," she counsels.
Another uniquely British pie to wash up on American shores is the pasty (pronounced "PAST-tee"). Half-moon in shape, the pasty resembles a hearty, durable turnover, and like the turnover it can be eaten with one hand. This aspect was particularly convenient for medieval field hands, miners, school children or anyone lacking a spare plate or cutlery.
The most famous of the genre, the Cornish pasty, fed Cornwall's tin miners throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Made from a short-crust pastry, the original Cornish pasties contained chopped meat, sliced potatoes, onions, salt, pepper and occasionally rutabaga or turnips.
Some Cornish pasties featured both sweet and savory fillings. In these cooks placed the meat and potato mixture at one end, an apple filling at the other, thus providing lunch and dessert in one handful.
As Cornwall's miners settled in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, they introduced their specialty to the region. Centuries later, the Upper Peninsula is renowned for its pasties and for playing host to the summertime Calumet Pasty Fest and to a surprising number of pasty restaurants.
In Traverse City, Mich., Jerilyn and Nick DeBoer serve eight types of pasties at their 30-year-old, British-themed Cousin Jenny's Cornish Pasties. "What people love about them is that they can pick them up and eat them on the road," says Jerilyn.
To make good, juicy pasties, Jerilyn advises baking them fresh or partially baking and freezing them to cook later. She also recommends serving them with ketchup, honey mustard, sour cream or Thousand Island dressing, which she does at the restaurant. This undoubtedly helps to keep the pasty moist and flavorful.
When I don't have time to make dough, lack leftover mashed potatoes and have run out of frozen piecrusts, I turn to the potpie. Although it customarily consists of top and bottom crusts, my version frequently goes bottomless. Instead of dough, I use drop biscuits or store-bought puff pastry to blanket the pie pan's contents.
Similar to the others, potpies can be entrees in themselves as well as the ultimate comfort food. Toss some poached, cubed chicken together with carrots, peas, onions and gravy, cover them with biscuits or pastry and pop it in the oven. In the end I have a complete, filling dinner in one dish. My kind of cooking!
SERVES 4 to 6To turn this into a shepherd's pie, replace the beef with ground lamb.
Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch pie pan or 8-inch square baking dish.
In a large frying pan heat the oil on medium. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until soft. Add the meat and cook until browned. Drain the fat from the mixture and then add the parsley, oregano, salt, pepper, stock and beer.
Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until liquid has been reduced. Pour the liquid into a small saucepan. While on medium heat, whisk the flour into the liquid. Allow the sauce to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes and then pour it over the meat mixture, stirring to combine.
In a stockpot boil the potatoes until tender. Using a potato ricer or masher, rice/mash the potatoes and then add the pareve milk, margarine and salt, adding more salt as needed.
Evenly spread the meat oven the bottom of the pie pan or baker. Top the meat with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the potatoes have browned slightly. Serve immediately. .
For the filling:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a large baking sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together the chopped onion, parsnip, sliced potato, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.
Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out six 6-inch rounds. (If you don't have an actual 6-inch cutter, use a small bowl, plate or saucer with a 6-inch circumference as your guide and cut around it with a sharp knife.)
Spoon the potato-onion-parsnip-cheddar filling onto one half of the round. Fold the dough over so that you have a half-circle and crimp the edges together. Paint the top of the pasty with the beaten egg and make a small cut on top to vent the filling. Place on the greased baking sheet and repeat for the remaining dough rounds.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Serve warm.
CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM PUFF PIE
If using frozen puff pastry, unfold and defrost one sheet of pastry.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, poach the chicken in 2 cups of stock. Strain the poaching liquid, add the pareve milk, extra 1/4 cup stock and flour. Whisk together and then set aside. Allow the chicken to cool before cutting it into small cubes or pieces.
In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, melt the margarine over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions and mushrooms and cook until softened. Pour in the liquid and the cubed chicken and stir the ingredients together. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper, stir and allow the filling to cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
Place the puff pastry on a cutting board. Using a pie pan as your guide, trim the pastry so that it fits over the pan. Once the pastry is trimmed, butter the bottom and sides of pan.
Spoon the heated chicken and mushroom filling into the pan. Lay the pastry over the top of the filling. Bake at 350 degrees for roughly 20 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and turned a golden brown. Serve immediately.
Comment by clicking here.
Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor for free? Let us know by clicking here.
Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
To comment, please click here. © 2013, Kathy Hunt Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc.
To comment, please click here.
© 2013, Kathy Hunt Distributed by Tribune Media Services Inc. .